Students to hit the slopes with Winter Ride

Published on Wed, Dec 5, 2012 by Ian Ferguson

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Blaine students will be shredding the slopes of Mt. Baker this winter, thanks to the Winter Ride program. Forty-three students have signed up for the 2013 season, and two buses have been secured for the service which begins Saturday, January 5. 

The Winter Ride program picks up students and chaperones at designated locations and buses them to Heather Meadows base area for a day of skiing or snowboarding. The program runs for eight weeks.

Sponsored by Mt. Baker Ski Area and organized by volunteers from 18 school districts, the Winter Ride program is for 
students grade five through 12. The program costs $100, and an eight-week ski or snowboard rental package costs $162.

Professional instructors provide two-hour lessons for the first six weeks of the program to those who want to improve their skiing or riding, and those lessons are priced half off at $75. Season passes are offered at preseason rates: $210 for ages 7-12, $285 for ages 13-15 and $495 for ages 16-17. Alternatively, day passes are available for purchase.

Volunteer chaperones ski with small groups of students, and older students are encouraged to explore the mountain with friends. Blaine coordinator Julia Apeles said the program introduces students to a lifelong sport and promotes independence and responsibility.

“Kids have to keep track of their gear, manage their own meals and money, and clean up after those meals,” Apeles said. “Chaperones spend their whole day with them, in the lodge and on the slopes, but the expectation is for kids to learn to put their own boots on and automatically wear their helmets, which they all seem to catch on to.”

“The mountain staff really caters to us and watches out for the kids,” she added. “It feels like they take extra care of the participants.”

Affectionately called the “ski bus,” the Winter Ride program has created lasting memories for participants. Melissa Meaker, a skier who graduated from Blaine High School in 2012, attributed her love for the sport in part to fond memories of the Winter Ride Program.

“I joined ski bus in the 5th grade, did it all the way through senior year, and loved every minute of it,” she said. “It was definitely one of my favorite parts of my time in Blaine.”

Noting that the costs are prohibitive for some families, Apeles said that scholarships used to be offered when sufficient donations were received. “However, we haven’t received donations in about four years,” Apeles said. “I think it’s because of the economy. So far three people have put in requests for scholarships, so we’re hoping we can find some funding this year.” Apeles encourages anyone wishing to help with a donation to give her a call. 

Interested students must sign up by Friday, December 7. Sign-up forms can be found at both the high school and middle school offices or by calling Apeles at 360/332-0724. For more information, visit winterride.mtbaker.us.