Centennial Middle School teacher Angela Warner learned to ski in the school’s Ski and Snowboard Club when she was a student at the school.
Years later the program had withered away before children of her former classmates begged her to revive it. Now students spend Thursday evenings in January and February sliding down the ski slopes.
“This is really a shining star for them,” Warner said. “They enjoy doing it.”
The first year of the restarted program drew 22 students. The next year Warner prodded 30 students into signing up, just enough so they could travel on a bus. This year, she’s been swamped with between 81 and 83 students each week.
For this year’s fourth and final trip, students gathered in front of the building after school with their gear and warm clothes. Some students were so eager to hit the slopes they already had their ski boots on. They organized themselves into groups and boarded two buses after piling their gear high in the bed of a green pickup truck.
Seventh-grader Jon Bucknell, 13, had never been on skis before joining the club this year. He wanted to join last year, but had to convince his parents. “My parents finally let me,” he said. “Two honor rolls got them going.”
Bucknell took two lessons before feeling steady enough to tackle the slopes on his own. “I’ve fallen down once,” he said. “I have natural balance.”
Sixth-grader Michael Velardi, 12, prefers a snowboard but was also new to the slopes before joining the club. Like many students, he became part of the club at the urging of a friend who was already in it. “My first time, I fell down quite a few times,” he said. “I’ve always liked being in the snow.”
Wagner was able to negotiate a reduced lift ticket price for students at Mt. Spokane. This year’s price for four trips was $96 for lift tickets and transportation. Students who also need lessons and equipment rentals pay $196. The club has to pay the district for the two school buses they need each week. Parents in trucks and SUV’s haul equipment. “There are no funds for this program,” Wagner said.
The program has received other kinds of support from the West Valley school and the district, Wagner said. Other teachers often volunteer as chaperones.
Nearly every student will say that they joined the club so they can have fun with their friends. Sixth-grader Katerina Knorr, 12, confessed to having other reasons, too. “It kind of gives me a day off from my parents,” said. “I have lots of fun.”
Snowboarder Sarah Williams, 12, has three years of experience hitting the slopes. She loves the trips, though she is often tired and sore the next day. “The only thing I don’t like is you have to do your homework on the bus,” she said. “We get home at 10:30.”
Even though running the club is a lot of work, Wagner doesn’t regret fitting it in between fall and spring sports seasons. “This is how I learned to ski,” she said. “Creating all the paperwork and legal forms was the hardest.”
It’s also a great way for kids to be more involved in school and have fun. “I guess you just have some freedom up there,” she said. “You feel this is the first step in growing up.”