The Canadian ski industry has seen the future, and it starts with Grade 5 students.
Borrowing a concept initiated by Colorado ski resorts last winter, more than 100 Canadian ski resorts, including Whistler/Blackcomb, are each offering three days of free lift tickets to Grade 5 students when accompanied by paying adults.
"We’re hoping to attract kids who haven’t skied or boarded before, and they’ll bring their parents along," said Heidi Buckley of the Canadian Ski Council.
The Ski and Snowboard Passport Program is open to all Grade 5 students, or 10 year olds, in Canada. For a $5 administration fee the Canadian Ski Council will send eligible applicants a passport with coupons for each participating ski area in their province or region. There are three coupons good for a day’s lift ticket at each ski area and a fourth coupon offering discounts on rentals, lessons or food items. A paying adult must accompany a passport holder. The adult may bring up to two passport holders per visit.
Colorado ski areas started the program last year after studies found that people who learn to ski or ride at 10 years of age are most likely to make the sport a lifetime activity. Despite the growth of snowboarding, the total number of skier/snowboarder visits across North America has remained flat for the past decade.
Buckley says 10 years is an age where kids can influence their parents, but they also need their parents supervision while skiing.
The 21 B.C. ski areas participating in the program all have a supply of passports and will be distributing them through the schools they regularly work with. The Canada West Ski Areas Association is also planning a direct mail campaign to every Grade 5 teacher in the province to inform them of the program.
"It’s very exciting. It’s getting parents back into skiing and getting whole families participating in recreation," said Vicki Dalgleish of Canada West Ski Areas Association.
The list of B.C. ski areas participating in the program includes Apex, Big White, Grouse Mountain, Mount Washington, Sun Peaks, Hemlock Valley, Mount Seymour, Silver Star and Whistler/Blackcomb. All participating ski areas should have information on the passport program.
The deadline for the Canadian Ski Council to receive passport applications is Dec. 31.