Granby Ranch works with local schools to get students on the mountain |

Granby Ranch works with local schools to get students on the mountain

Brooke Dryden’s son, Huntington, carves up one of the runs at Granby Ranch. Dryden is extremely happy with the resort after Granby Ranch announced the renewal of free ski Fridays along with discounts for season passes for local students.
Courtesy Brooke Dryden

Working families are celebrating the return of a longstanding partnership between Granby Ranch Resort and the local school districts that just got better.

For at least two local families, the decision to continue free ski Fridays at Granby Ranch — along with offering steeply discounted student passes — will keep their children carving runs all winter long at a fraction of the cost.

The resort’s student-based programs were unveiled last week by the new management team at Granby Ranch, Ridgeline Executive Group. With the announcement, Granby Ranch is now selling specially priced season passes for the 2020-21 season to K-12 students enrolled in both East and West Grand schools.

The offer includes an $89 restricted season pass and a $199 unrestricted pass, which are also being made available to full and part-time teachers and staff working in the districts. The passes are nonrefundable and nontransferable, and must be purchased online via a special link set up for the program.

For moms Rachael Thackston and Brooke Dryden, the resort’s decision only served to reaffirm the strong sense of community they feel, especially considering everything that’s happened over the last year.

“Between COVID closures and cancellations, the fire evacuations and loss, our kiddos have lost so much tradition and ‘normal’ already,” Thackston said. “Keeping this (free skiing) program running is not only a familiar tradition for our kids, but right now, so very important for their physical and mental health.”

Beyond the free ski Fridays and discounted season passes, Granby Ranch is also offering students and staff from the East and West Grand School Districts lessons and rentals.

“Not only are we getting the free Friday program, which is huge, but I feel like they really upped it for our kids this year by working out details for free rentals and lessons,” Thackston said.

She added that the deals were so good this year that her family decided to buy season passes for her sixth-grader, fifth-grader and kindergartner when they normally wouldn’t make those purchases.

Another local family that’s loving the arrangement between Granby Ranch and local schools is Dryden’s. Her 7-year-old daughter, Berkeley, even has designs on growing up to become “a ski racer.”

“It means everything,” Dryden said of the student-based ski programs, further explaining that skiing was one of the biggest reasons her family moved up here.

Dryden’s family is rich in love, experience and four-legged friends, and they work hard for the money they have, which is why the partnership between the resort and local schools means so much to them.

“They really saved it,” Dryden said of Granby Ranch and the ski season. “It’s not exactly like it was in previous years, but who cares? (Our kids) can still ski free on Friday and get a discounted pass … It’s frickin’ awesome.”

In another heartwarming surprise that made her feel great about the place she lives, Dryden said a generous individual reached out to cover the cost of her family’s ski passes this year.

Granby Ranch was admittedly behind the rollout for the school program after opening on Dec. 11. Some parents and school administrators had reached out to the resort fearing the partnership wouldn’t be renewed.

Andy Wirth, president and founding partner at Ridgeline, apologized for the delay, as he said the new management team was always intent on working with the schools districts but got a little behind coming into the new season.

“While it came about a little late, the partnership is really going to benefit the kids a bunch,” said Frank Reeves, superintendent of East Grand schools. “We’ve also talked about the possibility of doing some downhill skiing as part of our PE program, which we’ve done in the past but hasn’t been consistent.”

The superintendent estimated that about 100 students typically take advantage of a free skiing Friday at Winter Park and Granby Ranch resorts. As much as people might equate skiing to Grand County, though, Reeves also said it’s surprising how many students don’t get to take advantage of Grand’s ski resorts.

“As we know, skiing is really expensive, and not every kid can afford it, so there are many who don’t (get to do it),” Reeves said. “This partnership is really their great opportunity to ski.”

He added that when the schools are recruiting teachers or families are considering moving into the district, the free skiing Fridays are always one of the first things that come up and it’s been “a nice tool” for the district.

The rollout might have been a little late, but both Dryden and Thackston said it’s far more important that the programs continue.

“I am really, really impressed at the way (Granby Ranch) responded not only with the existing program, but what I feel like are huge pluses to what was already in place,” Thackston said.

Rachael Thackston’s children are skiing on season passes at Granby Ranch Resort this year after the resort announced steep discounts for students enrolled in East and West Grand schools.
Courtesy Rachael Thackston

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