Long, cold winters are a part of life in Wisconsin, but the Shorewood Recreation Department offers plenty of opportunities for community members embrace the elements. One such offering is the seasonal Ski and Snowboard Club, where youth can learn to ski or snowboard at Little Switzerland in Slinger, Wis.
From experienced skiers and snow-boarders to those brand-new to these sports, all students in grades four through 12 are welcome to join. The program offers packages customized to a student’s skill set with beginner lessons, equipment rentals, lift tickets and a Little Switzerland Ski Club membership available. Every Monday evening in January, participants are on the ski hill from 4:30 to 7:45 p.m. Bus transportation is provided to and from Slinger.
“It’s a favorite course for students and parents alike,” says Recreation Supervisor Justin Calvert. “The students love it because it’s a fun outdoor learning experience that they can explore with friends, independently from their par-ents. Parents love it because not only is it super convenient and a great value for the experience, but it also teaches the kids life skills and responsibility. The students are in charge of all their own gear, and they have the autonomy to navigate the hill on their own.”
The program has seen notable growth since it began in 2003. Since 2016, the program has expanded from 26 to 94 participants, plus eight chaperones (five adults and three high school students) this year.
SHS senior Griffin Treul, who is in his second year as a student chaperone, shares that his experience during his three years as a program participant inspired him to return as a chaperone.
“When I was in elementary and middle school, I loved skiing, and I loved it even more when I could do it with my friends,” he says. “I enjoy seeing how much fun the kids are having and I like helping them get better by giving tips and pointers to improve their experience.”
Retired Shorewood High School physics teacher Kevin Kane also serves as a chaperone and says there’s some-thing about the fresh winter air and the ability to witness student growth that energizes him.
“Winters in Wisconsin can be pretty bleak, and the ski/snowboard program is a great opportunity for participants to engage in a healthy outdoor activity with friends and try something new that might be outside their comfort zone,” Kane says.
A favorite memory of Kane’s is assist-ing a beginning student who was nervous and teary-eyed during the chairlift ride. “I held him tightly and assured him that we’d make it to the bottom of the hill safely. On the way down the mountain, the student fell about 10 times, but when we finally made it to the bottom, he turned to me with a huge smile and said, ‘Let's do that again!’”
Calvert says many students have used this program as a stepping stone to join the high school ski club, and all participants can gain a confidence boost.
“Students come back year after year for a reason, and I only imagine the interest will continue to grow,” he says. “I don’t see the program slowing down anytime soon!”
For more information on Rec Department programs, visit shorewoodrecreation.org.
[Pictured: Students in the Ski and Snowboard Club after hitting the slopes at Little Switzerland in Slinger, Wisc.]