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Although this has been unusually dry winter to date, the low-snow conditions haven’t taken away from the fun of Sun Valley Ski Education Foundation’s (SVSEF) instructional programs at Rotarun. Friedman Memorial Airport is proud to support these programs by providing six scholarships this year that enable more kids to participate.

The scholarships FMA provides are a part of SVSEF’s First Turn Initiative. The initiative strives to reduce the financial, cultural, and geographical constraints that have created barriers for a child to try a gravity winter sport.. This year’s primary focus is on students at Alturas Elementary School, but anyone 5–11 years old can apply. After students fill out a form and explain why they want to learn to ski or ride, SVSEF guides students to one of three snow sports programs offered at Rotarun based on their ability level and goals:

SVSEFFor the 2017 -18 season, the programs were limited to 65 children for the LASAR program and 30 children for Rota-Rippers program. The cost of the programs varies depending on duration and sessions.  The program fees for Lasar is $250 per participant and $200 per participant for the Rota-Rippers program. Both programs include a season pass at Rotarun.  Additional financial assistance is available through Rotarun and the SVSEF

Each program is eight weeks long, and students attend two days a week.

Due to the limited snow at Rotarun this season, there have only been four days of on-snow programming thus far. Even so, it’s amazing to watch and be a part of, as many of kids who participate have never been on skis before. The rest of the time, the kids spend one day a week at the SVSEF Air Barn in Elkhorn and the other hiking and playing outdoor games.

Time at the Air Barn is focused on skills that apply to skiing and riding. Kids have an opportunity to work on balance drills, train on the trampoline, and practice small tricks. The goal is to engage the kids in activities that will assist with skiing in the future. On the days the kids are out hiking and playing games, the objective is to reinforce healthy lifestyle choices. Unless there’s more snow, kids enrolled in the Rippers programs will spend the next couple of weeks ice skating—a skill that can make you a stronger skier.

In a typical year, SVSEF coaches work the kids up to a point where they are running race gates, racing with friends and coaches, watching coaches race other coaches, and really enjoying their time on the hill. During each session, kids also spend time working on edging drills and other skills to improve their skiing.

The programs are designed to have one coach per six students, and the coaches rotate every two weeks. This gives kids an opportunity to learn from different coaches, each of whom may teach something in a slightly different but more digestible way. The program is set up to optimize learning, teach what it means to be a good teammate, discourage bullying, and demonstrate how to work hard and believe in yourself. You could say SVSEF’s motto for these programs is “growing mountain kids.”

The amazing thing about these introductory programs (and why we at the airport are so excited to be a part of them) is that most of the kids who participate work their way up through the SVSEF’s other snow sports programs. They are staying active, enjoying the wonderful place we live in, and taking part in an after-school activity that keeps them focused.