This winter, Ski Idaho celebrates its 20th anniversary by once again offering its Ski Free Passport program to fifth and sixth grade students. While students have a limited number of days they can ski free, there are some perks that may not seem obvious. Fifth graders get three free ski days at any participating resort, and sixth graders get two free ski days at any participating resort, but both ages can use their two or three free days at each participating resort. This means, if you’re a fifth grader and have travel-willing parents, you could ski three days at each of the 18 participating Idaho resorts for a total of 54 free ski days.

“The free days are amazing perks, but the lifelong connection to the mountain and snow sports is huge,” says Dig Chrismer, Marketing Manager at Schweitzer Mountain Resort. “Free helps get them to the mountains; the passion keeps them coming back.”

The Ski Idaho Passport program is available to fifth and sixth graders from any state or country, though all the participating resorts are located in Idaho. Passports can be purchased online at Skiidaho.us and are made available for mobile access or to print at home. Each mountain will scan an electronic code on the passport to track the number of free days used.

 

Photo courtesy of Schweitzer Mountain Resort.

A group of fifth and sixth graders take the Basin Express to access Midway at Schweitzer. // Photo courtesy of Schweitzer Mountain Resort.

“In the beginning, we were seeing a lot of our local kids taking advantage of this program, but as time has gone on, more destination guests are taking advantage since you don’t have to live in Idaho to get the free days,” adds Chrismer. If your child fits the age for the program, it works as a discount for the whole family to ski.

Ski Idaho notes that the program has encouraged parents who were former skiers to reengage, and it prepares students for middle school or high school ski teams and clubs. “Fifth and sixth graders are at a crucial age in their development where they are choosing healthy lifestyle activities, including sports like skiing and snowboarding, over more sedentary activities,” explains Tony Harrison, a Ski Idaho representative.

January is Learn to Ski and Snowboard Month, and Chrismer recommends it as a great time to take advantage of the passport program. Holiday crowds have usually thinned, and conditions tend to peak.

Developing healthy habits is one reason the Ski Idaho Passport program focuses on the fifth and sixth grade age group. Chrismer has seen other perks with engaging this age group, too. “One of the best benefits for our local kids is that winters are long and cold in north Idaho. Getting involved with skiing and snowboarding helps keep them connected to outdoor sports all year long,” she says. “Playing outside is key to staying healthy both mentally and physically.”

 

Photo courtesy of Schweitzer Mountain Resort.

A group of fifth grade skiers from a Sandpoint area elementary school. // Photo courtesy of Schweitzer Mountain Resort.

The fifth and sixth grade age group is also the perfect time for kids to start exploring the mountain, Chrismer explains. “Kids are old enough to know how to stay warm and comfortable on the slopes. [They] still have the fearlessness that we see in younger kids.”

Each passport requires a one-time online purchase fee of $15, and when they get to the mountain, students must be accompanied by a parent or guardian for the passport to be valid. While the passport does not include lessons or guided tours, Schweitzer Mountain Resort offers half day lessons for $49, which are available seven days a week.

“Skiing and snowboarding have a reputation of being pricey, and while that can be true, there are ways to find great deals on gear and lift tickets if people research the resorts,” Chrismer says. For example there are also beginner packages for lessons and rentals to get other family members involved. Schweitzer’s “Beginner 1-2-3” lesson package for adults, paired with some free passports for kids of the right age, can create a new learning experience for the whole family.

“Make plans to really give these sports a chance,” Chrismer says. “One day on the mountain is a good start, two is better, and the third time is the charm. As with anything new, the more time you can spend on your skis, the better!”

Resorts participating in the Ski Free Passport program include Silver Mountain, Schweitzer, Lookout Pass, Sun Valley, Grand Targhee, Brundage Mountain, Tamarack, Cottonwood Butte, and other Idaho resorts. Find all the details at Skiidaho.us. //