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Skis for all
The Central Kitsap ski school held its annual Ski Swap, an event that helps kids gear up for the snowy season even if their families can’t afford it.
Rows of tables lined with snowboards, bins filled with gloves, hats, goggles, and racks of insulated ski suits filled the Central Kitsap Junior High School gymnasium Nov. 19. Some the gear came from donations made by individual skiers and snowboarders who no longer need their equipment, others are sold at discount prices by ski equipment liquidators in Tacoma and Wenatchee.
“We try to hook up kids that need this gear with people that don’t want theirs anymore, so they can do their thing safely and have fun,” said Dave Kellar, ski school director.
Kitsap Sports and other local vendors are charged $5 a piece to sell their gear at the swap. They also give a portion of their sales back to the ski school to use as registration fee or transportation scholarships.
According to Kellar, the ski school will give out about 20 scholarships this year to deserving students. Once considered a luxury sport for privileged kids, Kellar wants to continue ski school’s mission of making the joy of winter sports possible for all.
The Central Kitsap ski school was founded in 1969 by Hal Hoover, a former vice principal of Central Kitsap Junior High School. It now enrolls students from grades 5 to 12.
While the majority of students come from Central Kitsap, Kellar reported that a good number of parents drive kids in from further north and south in the county.
“We are district sponsored, like a football team, but all of our funding comes from enrollment fees. Still, we get to use district buses and use the district rights and responsibilities which makes it a lot less of a headache for us,” said Kellar.
Kellar said that kids don’t usually misbehave on the eight trips the school makes up to Steven’s Pass, but when they do, “they have to answer to ski school and also to regular school discipline as well.”
Once at Steven’s Pass, the school partners with mountain instructors to get everyone off to the right start.
“Adults don’t always think that they need lessons. That’s often why they learn to ski slower. They fight it. Kids get on the mountain and realize pretty quickly, ‘OK this is where I am’ and move their bodies,” said Kellar.
By the end of the season, many of the beginners are on chair lifts and going on intermediate to advanced trails.
According to Kellar, the advanced courses include back country skiing techniques, learning how to shred, grind rails, and do tricks.
Kellar said that most kids want to jump straight into tricks because that it what they’ve seen on TV. But parents must sign off on letting their kids go into Terrain Park, which features the built-in jumps and rails.
“We’re all about the education part. More experienced ski school members will ride up with us and do their thing, but our focus goes into the beginners,” said Kellar.
PAYING FOR SCHOOL
As Kellar directed shoppers, he was approached by a young man and his father who were holding a yellow registration form. The father took Kellar to the side and asked about transportation scholarship opportunities, and Kellar assured him that they will find something for the boy.
“With money the way it is these days, kids are really starting to need these scholarships to participate,” said Kellar.
In addition to transportation scholarships, which cover fees for taking the bus to Steven’s Pass, there are partial fee scholarships, and opportunities for gear.
Kitsap Sports gives a number of gear scholarships every year ranging from protective outerwear to actual boards.
Anthony Hamblet is a former ski school student and current Kitsap Sports employee who believes that the ski swap is a valuable service for Kitsap skiers.
“Five years ago, when I started, there was no way I could have been involved if there was no ski swap,” said Hamblet.
Ski school also provides their version of a “work-study” program. Kids can work the events and meetings, manning the cash box, set up, and break down. In exchange, the school helps fund their activities.
Cheap gear also provides opportunities for adults.
Dave Burmark and Denise Doering-Burmark left the gym with armfuls of skiing gear. This is their second year at the swap as they are just starting to get back into the sport.
“You know, we’re starting again after years. Kids, jobs, money, that’s what kept us off the slopes,” said Burmark. They are planning a trip to Crystal Mountain this weekend to search out the perfect powder.
Central Kitsap ski school has a mandatory meeting Dec. 6 for all members to prepare for the first trip out. Steven’s Pass ski patrol will come down to brief students on safety on the mountain and rules.
Trips to the slopes will be Dec. 10, 17 and Jan. 7 and five Saturdays after that.