Everyone knows there’s no such thing as free lunch, but if you live in the Inland Northwest there is such a thing as almost-free skiing if you’re a 5th-grader. The five ski resorts that make up Ski The Northwest Rockies offer the 5th Grade Ski Free Passport. The 5th Grade Passport was actually a major impetus for the five local mountains joining together for a common marketing program over ten years ago.
The program is modeled after programs in other states, including Ski Utah, that target 5th Graders. Turns out 10 and 11 year-olds are at an age where they are independent enough to get more out of free skiing but not old enough to have established all their outdoor recreation habits. If they spend a year skiing for free the chances are they’ll be enjoying snowsports for years to come.
The program works like this: parents can sign their kids up for a $20 dollar fee through the mail or at www.5thgradeskipassport.com. Starting in November they will receive a special card in the mail. The card is good for at least 3 days of free skiing at each of the 5 local mountains (Mt. Spokane, 49 Degrees North, Silver Mountain, Schweitzer, and Lookout Pass.) Some blackout days may apply. The card is also good for some rental discounts, lesson discounts and promotions. There is also now some 5th Grade Passport reciprocity at Mission Ridge and at some other resorts in Central and Southern Idaho should your family decide to travel farther to ski. There is no deadline to apply; you can wait until March if you want but obviously the sooner you a get a passport the more skiing or snowboarding you can do. It takes 2-3 weeks to process cards so don’t wait until the last minute.
According to Tom Stebbins at Ski the Northwest Rockies the program has grown over the last ten years to now include over 3,000 kids each year. And while helping to encourage the next generation of powder hounds is a nice bonus for the mountains Stebbins says a big reason for the program is just “to help people do more activities together as a family.” The snow may not be on the ground here yet, but it’s coming soon. If you’ve got a 5th grader don’t miss this chance for a big discount skiing or boarding this year.
JON SNYDER, EDITOR-IN-CHIEF