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Winter Park: Less privileged children get a chance to hit the slopes

Cyndi PalmerSky-Hi Daily News
Byron Hetzler/Sky-Hi Daily News
ALL | Sky-Hi Daily News

Several kids who wouldnt normally have the chance to hit the slopes have been given the opportunity to experience the joy of winter sports at Winter Park Resort.This past Saturday the Winter Park Ski Area hosted 50 youths from the Denver-area Ski For Kids program as part of the Slippers and Sliders, a chapter of the National Brotherhood of Skiers.The program, which began in 1973 at Keystone Resort and is in its second year at Winter Park, is designed for underprivileged minority children from the Front Range. Of those who come up, usually 75 percent return for a second year and by that second year they have become intermediate-level skiers.The organization gathers nominees through several groups such as Denver Kids and Girls Inc. and by word of mouth.We try to target low-income kids that wouldnt normally get the opportunity, said Melodie Brooks, chairperson and vice president of the Slippers and Sliders. Its very exciting.The program is funded solely by donations, mostly from people who have been following the program since its inception and continually support it.They total believe in the program, Brooks said of the patrons. Its extremely successful.She estimated about 20 percent of the kids are fulfilling their second year (maximum) opportunity this year and that about 90 percent of the 50 kids are completely new to the sport of skiing. She said some of those who have finished their second year then move on to a second (paid) program for skilled skiers.After that they may be on their way to helping out The National Brotherhood of Skiers, which has a goal to place an African American in the Winter Olympics.Kim Bailey, who worked for the Denver Parks and Recreation Department and is a big supporter of Winter Park Resort, talked the Ski for Kids group into trying out Winter Parks ski area after the Keystone resort fell under the umbrella of Vail Resorts.The Ski for Kids program helps the participants gear up for the adventure, fitting them with the outerwear, hats, goggles and other necessary clothing. Winter Park Resort provides the lift tickets, rentals lessons and lunch.On Nov. 7, the group came up for equipment fittings and got to meet the Resorts mascot, Winter Park Willie. Then, starting this past Saturday and for the next three Saturdays, the kids will be given lessons to learn how to alpine ski with some of the instructors at the resort.Theyll celebrate their accomplishments at an appreciation party on their last day, Dec. 15.Sarah Parks, marketing coordinator for the resorts Ski & Ride School, said the resort links the kids up with the same ski instructors and classes each time, so theyre also making friends.Plus, she said, the ski instructors really look forward to the kids because they are eager to learn.Brooks agreed, saying that the program is a whole experience for the kids.The partnership has been going really well, Parks said. Weve been really happy (with the program).Sorensen Park, the beginner zone at the base of Winter Park, was the first stop for most of the youths. While there, they learn the easiest and safest ways to ski, starting with learning to stay in control by learning how to turn and stop.So far this year Brooks said all the kids have been smiling and having fun with it. They cant wait to return.The park was extended in 2004 to five full acres and allows kids the opportunity to be in an area contained to first-time learners like themselves, said Darcy Morse, communications manager at Winter Park Resort. It lets them focus on technique … without feeling self-conscious.Those comfortable with their skills then head up the mountain to continue their progress. Next year Winter Park hopes to offer the Ski for Kids and Slippers and Sliders program extended opportunities to learn about mountain education, where they would find out about all the aspects of running a ski resort.For more information about the ski area or its programs, visit http://www.skiwinterpark.com or call (800) 979-0332.


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