After school program thriving at ski hill

Clarissa Kell | Daily Press The John and Melissa Besse Sports Park Ski Chalet is packed with kids participating in the after school program and enjoying skiing and snowboarding Monday afternoon. The Gladstone Ski Hill’s After School Program provides transportation for students to the ski hill, healthy snacks, tutoring and a way for students of all skill levels to enjoy the outdoors and be active. The program is held Monday, Thursday and Friday after school.

GLADSTONE — The Gladstone Ski Hill’s After School Program is in full swing, providing kids a safe and fun after school atmosphere.

The program, which officially started on Jan. 6, encourages students from Holy Name, Gladstone and Escanaba to be active and have fun during the winter months. It also provides an opportunity for kids to learn how to ski and snowboard.

According to Nicole Sanderson, the Gladstone parks and recreation director, the program has been a huge success thus far.

“On the first day, we suited up 21 kids for lessons and 110 kids got off buses. It was a huge first day,” she said.

The program is held every Monday, Thursday and Friday — except when school is not in session.

For $12 per day or through a season membership, students in participating schools can be brought to the ski hill for the program.

According to Sanderson, last year the parks and recreation department sold $15,500 in season passes for the ski hill.

“And this year we’ve sold already $17,500 in season passes,” she said. “That’s already up over $2,000 and we’ve just opened up.”

She added she thought last year had a good turnout, but this year has proven to be even better.

“It’s a success,” Sanderson said. “There’s lots and lots of people utilizing (the hill).”

The importance of the after school program is it allows for kids to progress at their own speed in a new skill — either skiing or snowboarding — and creates an active social environment without competitiveness found in other sports, Sanderson said.

She added allowing kids to learn to ski and snowboard at their own pace creates an environment that is good for their self-esteem and a confidence builder.

Kristina Hansen, the principal at James T. Jones Elementary School in Gladstone, said the after school program is important because it gets kids outside enjoying winter activities in a safe environment.

She added it also can have a lasting impact as kids can learn a skill and hobby that they can do forever.

Lily Meimander, 10, has been participating in the after school program for three years.

She explained her favorite part about the program is it provides the transportation to the ski hill.

“I get to ride the bus and my mom and dad don’t have to bring me here because they work,” she said.

The after school program provides transportation for the students to the ski hill, healthy snacks, tutoring and a way for all skill levels to enjoy the outdoors and being active.

Meimander noted the program is beneficial to kids in the area because it provides an opportunity to learn skiing or snowboarding.

“You get to learn how to ski and snowboard if you’ve never done it before and then you may like it. You get like a first chance,” she said.

She added her first time skiing was through the program.

The after school program provides equipment and instruction.

Landon Pepin, 9, and Ryder Amis, 9, both have been participating in the after school program for two years.

Pepin and Amis agreed the best part of the program is skiing and hanging out with friends.

Although Amis knew how to ski before, Pepin explained he was taught how to ski when he first starting participating in the program.

According to Pepin, the program is also a great way for kids, like himself, who don’t enjoy going outside in the winter to still have fun outdoors.

An hour before the kids are allowed out on the hill, they are provided a snack and time to complete homework.

Meimander, Pepin and Amis all agreed having a chance to do their homework before heading out on the slopes is good for the students involved in the program.

Meimander said students involved might not get all of their course work done at school, and once kids go home after skiing, it might be too late to complete homework before bed.

The program will wrap up Feb. 29.