Little by little, Granby Ranch’s partnership with local schools raises student opportunities |

Little by little, Granby Ranch’s partnership with local schools raises student opportunities

First-grade students from Granby Elementary work on the basics of downhill skiing during a Monday trip to Granby Ranch.
Eli Pace /

Little feet weighed down by heavy ski boots and tiny skis sidestepped uphill at Granby Ranch as Maggie Keller’s first-grade class went out for a refreshing midday field trip Monday.

The lesson plan for the afternoon session was simple but out of the ordinary, pairing the group of little ones from Granby Elementary with professional ski school instructors, tasked with teaching the children some of the basics, like how to keep their skis perpendicular against the slope to work their way back uphill.

Later, they got to try out skating, play a few games on skis and step on the magic carpet ride.

“It’s safer when they can do these things,” Keller said of the children’s progression.

First-grader Johnny Perea, left, and his classmates listen to Granby Ranch ski school instructors while teacher Maggie Keller helps Sofia Hernandez, back right.
Eli Pace /

She invited the Sky-Hi News in for the moment of skiing education because she believes more people should see how community partnerships like the one between Granby Ranch and Grand County school districts are playing out locally.

“These kids, they need to be doing this instead of being inside, on video games and in front of a TV,” Keller said. “(Granby Ranch) has been so generous, and the instructing, I’ve been totally blown away. They have top-notch instructors.”

Despite how many people equate living in Grand County to a lifestyle full of outdoor activities, many local educators say it’s sad how many students don’t get to enjoy activities like skiing.

“That’s why I made it a priority to really focus on teaching the things that are accessible and local to these kids,” Keller explained.

Granby Elementary student James Moffat throws his weight forward to build some momentum during a ski lesson Monday at Granby Ranch Resort.
Eli Pace /

For more than one student at Granby Ranch, Monday was their first introduction to Alpine skiing. It followed a three-week unit on cross-country skiing that was given earlier this season.

“Right now, we would probably be having lunch,” one girl hypothesized to a question about she would be doing if it were a regular school day.

The first-grader agreed that downhill skiing was hard but said she was still enjoying the lesson and fun games, and it was her first time at Granby Ranch.

Does she think she might come back more often now?

“Yep,” she said.

Detailing how the excursion came together, Keller recalled reaching out to Granby Ranch. The resort has given students and school staff free lift tickets, rentals and lessons on Fridays, and Keller hoped the program could be expanded to include a Monday outing.

Leading the program, professional ski instructor Ben “Benji” Liu seemed to be having a great time working with the youngsters.

“Skiing can be a lifetime sport,” said Liu, who started himself at age 13. “It’s really good to get into it when you’re young … It’s a blast helping them out. Honestly, I’m a little jealous because I wish I had started sooner.”

As the lesson would have it, some students were naturals and showed little problem mastering the tasks at hand. Others struggled a bit more, of course, as they slipped, fell and had to be helped back up.

A handful of more experienced youngsters broke off for a small-group session with their own set of instructors and the children riding a lift up the mountain before turning their way back down.

Now, the school has plans to take its third-graders to Granby Ranch later this month.

A couple more experienced skiers from Granby Elementary, Brady Acker, back left, and Castin Jensen carve down the mountain at Granby Ranch on Monday.
Eli Pace /
Brady Acker, left, and Castin Jensen get instruction from Granby Ranch pros before taking the lift up the mountain and skiing down.
First-grader Aylin Glass gets instruction Monday at Granby Ranch after the resort agreed to extend a students-ski-free program.
Eli Pace /
A first-grader from Granby Elementary learns that skiing can be hard at times and it’s nice to have a helpful hand to pick you back up.
Eli Pace /

Editor’s note: This story has been updated to correct the spelling of Benji Liu’s last name.

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