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SALT LAKE CITY — Ski Utah's Passport program offers very inexpensive skiing and snowboarding to all Utah fifth and sixth graders. The pass is accepted at all 14 Utah ski resorts.
The deal is hard to refuse with an offer of 42 days of skiing or snowboarding for only $30 at any of the 14 Utah resorts. The only requirement is the recipient must be in 5th grade. The offer also extends to allow sixth graders to ski and/or snowboard for 14 days free.
No strings. No deadlines. No borders. Interested students just need to give a name, address, age, school, teacher and a $30 registration fee.
“Last year we gave out 8,700 Ski Utah Passports,’’ said Raelene Davis, Ski Utah marketing director. “We’re shooting for 10,000 this year.’’
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 photo of the student's face.
Utah has around 70,000 fifth and sixth grade students “and we’d like to see each and every one of them receive a Ski Utah Passport,’’ Davis said.
Davis said the objective of the program is to offer youngsters a fun winter activity at very little cost (just 71 cents a day when accounting for the registration fee), and have bonding time on the slopes for kids and parents, if their parents choose to tag along.
Colorado was the first state to offer students a free-ride program. Utah followed in 1998 to 1999 with its 5th grade program and expanded in 2002 to 2003 to include sixth grade students. The program currently allows fifth graders to receive three day passes at each of the 14 Utah resorts and sixth grade students to receive one day passes 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. Sixty percent of parents surveyed claimed 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 2012-2013.
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.
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.
Ski Utah also is also involved in a 4th 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,’‘ says Davis. “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 4th 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.’’
The passport and the 4th grade program are made possible because of the sponsors. Sponsors 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.
Ray Grass is a long time outdoor writer for the Deseret News and KSL.com.