Aspen ski club enrollment soars to record high |

Aspen ski club enrollment soars to record high

Scott CondonThe Aspen TimesAspen, CO Colorado
Contributed photoYoungsters enrolled in the Aspen Valley Ski and Snowboard Club line up on opening day at Two Creeks, at the base of Snowmass.

ASPEN – A record number of kids enrolled in the Aspen Valley Ski and Snowboard Club’s recreational and competitive programs this winter, despite the recession.There were 1,908 kids enrolled last winter. That swelled to 1,979 this winter, said ski club Executive Director Mark Cole.The ski club staff and board of directors expected the competitive programs to get hit hardest by the recession because they cost more than recreational ski lessons. But the number of kids participating in competitive programs actually swelled 15 percent, Cole said. There are 398 kids in alpine, nordic, freestyle and snowboard competitive teams this winter compared to 345 last winter.Coaches and other staff members made a special point to contact parents last fall to urge them to get their children back in the programs and made sure they realized scholarships were available for families in need. The personal touch was pursued after one of the ski club’s directors hit the staff with a dose of reality last fall by noting his business would be down 40 percent this winter. The ski club staff responded by aggressively pursuing participants.”We can’t sit back and assume our program will remain intact,” Cole said.Many parents made sacrifices to keep their kids involved in the ski club. Some couples didn’t get full season passes to save money for their kids’ enrollment in the club, Cole said. More parents than ever proposed bartering services in return for the fee. Cole said the club couldn’t really take up many of the bartering offers.Fortunately, a scholarship was awarded to every family that demonstrated need, Cole said. Some form of scholarship was awarded to 615 ski club participants, compared to 575 a year ago. This winter’s scholarships totaled an all-time high of $225,000.The ski club is a nonprofit organization that relies on individual contributions as well as various fundraisers throughout the year. Additional families were assisted this season by Gorsuch, which provided 200 ski sets for kids, and D&E Snowboards, which provided 100 snowboards.”It’s a community effort that makes it all possible,” Cole said.The ski club’s philosophy is that every kid who wants to get on the slopes should have the opportunity, and that cost shouldn’t be a barrier. That should be a given in a mountain town culture.”It’d be like living next to the ocean without being able to swim,” Cole said.The recreational or introductory program places kids of similar ages and abilities into small classes with an instructor. Many kids start at age 3 and stick with it through sixth grade. The cost is $350 to $450 for those classes this winter.It’s a rite of passage for many valley youth to get together at Two Creeks at the base of Snowmass on Saturdays and bomb each other with snowballs or make snow angels while they wait for their class to begin.Other youngsters and older kids with the sharpest skills gravitate toward the competitive programs. The cost of the team level program is generally between $2,500 and $4,500 this winter.Cole said roughly 20 percent of all kids enrolled in the public schools from Aspen to Glenwood Springs participate in the ski club. “We have more participation from Carbondale than we do from Aspen,” he said of the recreational skiing program. That simply reflects the movement of working families downvalley over past decades, he said.The ski club staff has also directed specific efforts to include Latino kids. It’s paying dividends. There are 360 Latino skier and riders in the club this winter. That is 18 percent of the total, an all-time high.Cole said his staff and board of directors believes further growth is possible as the ski club prepares for its 75th anniversary next winter. The Roaring Fork Winter Sports Club, led by Andre Roch, cut the first trail on Aspen Mountain in 1936-37, then raised funds to build the first rope tow. The organization later evolved into the Aspen Ski Club.Cole said topping enrollment of 2,000 is a goal for the important anniversary next winter. “I’d love that,” he

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