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Ray Grass: Boys and girls in fifth and sixth grade ski/snowboard free

Published: Monday, Jan. 6 2014 11:40 a.m. MST

Fifth- and sixth-grade students can ski and snowboard for free.

Photo by Canyon Ski Resort

Ski Utah has an offer that’s hard to refuse. Ski and/or snowboard 42 days this season at the 14 Utah resorts for free. The only requirement is the recipient must be in fifth grade.

Doesn’t work?

Ok, how about ski and/or snowboard 14 days free. Only condition here is the recipient must be in the sixth grade.

No strings. No deadlines. No borders. No limitations. Just give name, address, age, school, teacher and a $30 registration fee.

“Last year we gave out 8,700 Ski Utah Passports,’’ says Raelene Davis, marketing director. “We’re shooting for 10,000 this year.’’

There are roughly 70,000 fifth- and sixth-grade students in Utah, “and we’d like to see each and every one of them receive a Ski Utah Passport,’’ she adds.

The objective is simple enough. That is, to give youngsters a fun winter activity, at very little cost — just 71 cents a day when accounting for the registration fee — and to have bonding time in the slopes for kids and parents, if parents choose to tag along.

Colorado was the first state to offer students a free-ride program. Utah followed in 1998-99 with its fifth-grade program and expanded in 2002-03 to include the sixth grade.

As it stands now fifth-graders will receive three day passes at each of the 14 Utah resorts and sixth-graders will receive one day pass at each of the 14.

“It’s a way resorts can give back to the community,’’ Davis said. “And it give kids a chance to visit different areas, which they may not have been able to do. This way they’ll know, as they get older, which resort or resorts they’d enjoy skiing.’’

A study by Snowsports Industries America showed 30 percent of the students could not have participated in a snow sport had they not had the Utah pass. And, 60 percent of parents claim they skied or snowboarded more often in order to be with their kids.

Those with passports skied and/or snowboarded five or more times last season and 28 percent skied and/or snowboarded nine or more times in 2012-13.

Along with the free passes, students also receive discount coupons, which include ski or snowboard lessons, rentals and two-for-one buddy passes.

The program is also not limited to Utah students. The offer has been extended worldwide.

This year, says Davis, “We’ve sent passes to students in United Kingdom and Australia, and I’m sure to several other countries.’’

Ski Utah also has a program where parents can buy a Yeti pass good for one day at each of the 14 resorts, which allows them to follow the students. The Yeti passes are limited and have been sold out for the 2013-14 season.

To receive a passport, students must supply Ski Utah with the name of the school district, teacher’s name, student’s name, age, birthday and address, and the $30 registration fee if registering before Jan. 31. After that date the fee will jump to $40. The online passport application must be accompanied by a clear his or her face photo.

Ski Utah also is involved in a fourth grade “Learn to Ski and Ride” program. In cooperation with schools, teachers instruct students on balance, flexibility and skiing and snowboarding techniques.

“Students are taught the basic on dry land," Davis said. “Teachers will set up cones, for example, and have students run around the cones to teach balance and weight transfer. All this makes the transition onto the mountain smoother and easier. We put about 10,000 fourth-graders through this program each year.

“There is a fee for this program, but if a student can’t afford the fee we give then a free scholarship into the program.’’

All this, the passport and the fourth-grade program are made possible because of the sponsors. They include Delta Airlines, KSL-TV, KSL News Radio, Richard E. & Nancy P. Marriott Foundation, Zions Bank, Ski-N-See, Utah Ski & Golf, Smith Optics, Rossignol, Powderade and Hot Chillys.

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