WinterKids schools program puts kids on slopes

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DENVER -- The boom in family travel has not gone unnoticed by the ski industry, which this year is giving travel agents who sell ski a marketing boost from an unlikely source: the kids themselves.

The WinterKids program, promoted in conjunction with the Ski Tour Operators Association (Skitops), a group of 20 independently owned travel companies, and the National Ski Areas Association (NSAA), is creating programs to get school-age children on the slopes.

"We have to do everything we can to introduce kids to winter sports," said Bruce Rosard, Skitops representative and president of Moguls Mountain Travel in Boulder, Colo.

Rosard said the program is not aimed solely at destination resorts but also at smaller ski areas. "Look at the number of schools that are within three hours of ski slopes," he said. "We're not talking about just rural communities; we're talking about major metropolitan areas in every region."

Skitops is working with the NSAA, which represents 326 alpine resorts throughout the U.S., to establish pilot programs between public schools and nearby ski areas this season.

The NSAA is promoting WinterKids by asking its members to distribute a 140-page teacher's curriculum and student handbooks to schools in their respective areas.

The goal, according to Carla Marcus, WinterKids executive director, is to promote knowledge of winter ecology, science, math, art, cardiovascular health, history and nutrition while also teaching kids alpine skiing, snowboarding, cross-country skiing, touring, snowshoeing, ice-skating and tobogganing.

The program is the nationwide incarnation of an educational program operating in Maine's public schools that works with educators to incorporate winter sports into their curricula.

A list of participating ski areas is in the works, Rosard said. He suggested that Skitops members come up with discounted packages and bus transportation to and from the ski areas as added incentives to the program.

For more details, visit www.skitops.com, www.nsaa.org or www.winterkids.org.

To contact reporter Felicity Long, send e-mail to [email protected].

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