Photo Gallery | Mount Snow instructors helps young skiers
BRATTLEBORO — Winter activities can be expensive for some families, but Living Memorial Park Snow Sports and Mount Snow's Ski School feel money should not be a burden.
On Jan. 28 from 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. 12 instructors taught free ski and snowboard lessons to about 36 individuals at Living Memorial Park. This was the second free event they put on this winter season and they will host one more this Thursday, Feb. 4, during the same hours. These lessons do not exclude any ages or abilities, though Mount Snow suggests that skiers be at least 7 years old and snow boarders, 9 years of age.
"We do this for the love of the sport, and we get a big charge out of sharing," said Ron Lenker, who teaches 7- to 14-year-olds at Mount Snow Ski School. "It's about sharing our passion."
Since 2008, Mount Snow has sent its instructors to Park Hill to teach children — and now all ages — the proper skills to ski and snowboard. While the instructors have years of experience on the slopes, they teach levels ranging from first timers, beginners, some experience to proficient. This past Thursday, Lenker who was supervising the lessons, said he saw instructors demonstrate wedge turns and parallel skiing. Less experienced trainees hiked up to a point on the hill instead of riding the T-bar up, which Lenker notes can be tricky for some beginners.
"Winter sports keep people active and busy and they are less likely to get in trouble." said Ray Blow, president of Living Memorial Park Snow Sports. "It also keeps them healthy."
In keeping the community active, Dana Zelenakas, a Living Memorial Park Snow Sports board member, collects a sign-up sheet for the online lessons. Zelenakas creates a spreadsheet that consists of the participant's age and level of experience and then sends that information over to the team at Mount Snow so they know how many instructors to send for the lessons.
"We're an all-volunteer organization," said Zelenakas, who says he became involved with Living Memorial Park in the early 1980s. "Some of the work can be very time consuming."
Zelenakas is not the only one who feels the weight on his shoulders from the volunteer work. Blow also feels that maintaining the park can be a lot of work and that he is consistently in need of more volunteers.
"It's been rewarding, but exhausting," he said. "We're paying pretty much all the bills, and we can not pay our bills with our $5 lift tickets."
Blow added that though he believes there is extreme relevance in providing affordable winter activities to the community, there is a strain on the organization. Aside from his expressed high demand for volunteers, he also thinks the park should have a shed to store the snow groomer and equipment, some of which Blow says has been stolen in the past.
Blow also highlighted some reasons as to why people should take advantage of the park and the last ski and snowboard lesson on Thursday, Feb. 4.
"If you're having fun, it makes winter fly by," he said.
Some of the opinions over at the Mount Snow Ski School align with Blow and Zelenakas in that they feel the lessons provide a great opportunity for the community. Doug Kaufman, head at the Mount Snow Ski School, feels that "every Vermonter should learn to ski or snowboard."
"It's certainly better than sitting at home and watching TV," said Kaufman. "And there's not many winter activities for kids to do after school, let alone free ones."
Last Thursday, Lenker thought it was rather "touching" to watch a mother and daughter ski together even though they are at different skill levels. According to Lenker, the daughter did not want to leave her mother's side, so the mom stayed with her daughter during the beginner level lessons last Thursday night.
The Feb. 4 lessons are free and there is a cost for a $5 lift ticket for each participant. Lenker suggests that skiers get in some practice before the lessons if they can and Zelenakas asks that participants sign-up ASAP at http://www.vtsnowsports.org/free-lessons/
"That ski hills is one of the best kept secrets in Brattleboro. It really is a gem," said Lenker.