A skier’s first fall | VailDaily.com

A skier’s first fall

Matt Terrell
Vail, CO Colorado
Kira Horvath/Vail DailyEagle Valley Elementary school first and second graders ride the magic carpet up the beginners hill at Golden Peak.

VAIL ” As with many refined products, the little skiers begin on a conveyer belt.

It takes them up a tiny hill that’s not more than a bump on Golden Peak. These kindergartners from Eagle Valley Elementary liken it to a “magic carpet ride,” and for most of them, it’s their first time wearing a pair of skis.

The kids are here as part of Eagle County School District’s “Learn to Ski” program, which gives every student in kindergarten through sixth grade a couple days out of the year when they can learn to ski, hone their skills, or, for the more experienced kids, have a fun day away from their desks.

“Really, a lot of these kids wouldn’t get another chance,” ski instructor Pat Barrett said. “If you live here, you should get a chance to ski.”

The program has been around for at least 30 years, Vail spokeswoman Jen Brown said. Vail and Beaver Creek offer reduced lift ticket, lesson and rental costs, and many kids receive full scholarships for the two-day program. About 3,000 kids participate in the program every year.

“In addition to the outdoor exercise in their backyard, the hope is that the kids will stay active and become lifelong skiers and riders,” Brown said.

Here, on top of this mini summit, the kindergartners learn the special words that will define and shape them as skiers for the rest of their lives: French fries and pizza. Pizza means snowplow. French fries mean straighten up and let it rip.

So, on the way down, you hear ski instructors shouting, “Pizza, pizza!” like a Little Caesar’s commercial.

You also realize on their wobbly way down that there’s probably more than a 1,000 ways for these helmet-topped puffs to fall in the snow. But it doesn’t affect them much.

“Falling just gets me warmed up,” kindergartner Cooper Hawkins said.

“They have a little more cartilage in their knees, so it doesn’t hurt as much now,” instructor Alicia Hirsch said. “They’re resilient, but they’ll be exhausted by the end of the day.”

The ski instructors get a kick out of working with the little ones. They say the Learn to Ski program is a great thing for the schools and Vail resorts to be doing.

“Even if they don’t get to practice more, even if they get rusty on the skills, they’ll at least remember the fun they had,” Barrett said. “They’ll get to do it again next year.”

Staff writer Matt Terrell can be reached at 748-2955 or mterrell@vaildaily.com.

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