Cool school for young Douglas County skiers
Almost 40 years ago, a group of Douglas County parents approached the folks at Heavenly Ski Resort hoping to let their children learn to ski without spending their inheritance.
The result of their efforts was the Douglas County Ski Club, which this year counts more than 600 kids among its participants and 40 adult volunteers. It comprises three divisions – the Saturday Zephyr Cove Ski Club, the Saturday Valley Ski Club and the Sunday Ski Club.
Saturday was a rather hectic first day of the season. The Boulder Lodge area of Heavenly Ski Resort was teeming with bundled-up children, parents, chaperones and yellow-black-and-purple-clad ski and snowboard instructors waiting to be paired up with students.
Despite an initial organizational scramble and chilly morning air, there were plenty of smiles and good cheer.
“This is just the greatest program,” said parent Kelly Ferris, whose child has been in the Zephyr Cove Club for two years. “I don’t think most people know that it’s such a good deal. The kids learn so much, so fast. It’s just amazing.”
The program, which costs $200, provides five 1 1/2 hour lessons and a minimum of 10 full-day lift tickets. Students, ages 5 to 18, are dropped off by bus at Heavenly at 8:30 a.m., get paired with instructors for lessons and then get to ski or snowboard for the rest of the day.
“I think the big advantage is the consistency, you ski and learn with the same people all season,” said Dean Seppa, father of Elisa, 12, a Kingsbury Middle School student. “Also, it’s local and it gives parents a chance to spend time with their children. It’s very family-oriented.”
Although parents aren’t required to attend, Saturday Valley Ski Club President Robert Pumphrey said they are always welcome but have to pay full lift-ticket prices.
“Most of the chaperones have, or had, kids in the program. I grew up in it,” Pumphrey said. “I do it now because it’s my passion. All my daughters are in the club, too.”
The program is made possible partly through county contributions toward transportation and a commitment to the community from Heavenly Ski Resort.
“This is by no means a moneymaking proposition,” said Dan Kruger, Perfect Turn Nevada Base Manager. “It’s about getting kids up here who wouldn’t normally have the opportunity to do so, and teaching them how to ski and snowboard. It’s a community service that Heavenly provides.”
Kruger said 13 of the approximately 70 Perfect Turn instructors teach the students, addressing ability levels ranging from beginner to black diamond expert skiers and riders.
The program has been so successful over the years and taught so many Douglas County children how to ski that it has become a potential model for other ski clubs.
“Heavenly has mentioned several times that they are trying to form other clubs based on ours,” said Bob Cook, President of the Zephyr Cove Ski Club. “There’s just nothing more rewarding than seeing a 5-year-old grow up learning how to ski and suddenly see them on the high school ski team or even competing on a professional level.”
The Ski Club is a nonprofit organization which operates with a 15-member board of trustees and a $15,000 yearly grant from Douglas County.
“The trustees are required to attend every week,” said Cook, who has been involved in the program 17 years and put both his children through it. “I participate because it’s such a good program and it’s really hard to find parents who are willing to spend the time to keep the organization going. I just want to help it grow and make it successful.”
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