photos by Terry Bratton······ This story was highlighted on the First Lady's Let's Move blog.
Saturday mornings for most Atlanta youths involve helping around the house, spending time with friends or completing homework. Not on Saturday, January 28, 2012 when100 Atlanta-area youths traveled with the Southern Snow Seekers Ski Club (SSS) about 3.5 hours to North Carolina’s Cataloochee Ski/Snowboard Resort for their inaugural experience on the slopes.
Cataloochee has thrived for over 50 years. The club considers it one of the top Southeastern ski resorts and the club favorite for learning. For years, SSS has taken busloads of first timers there. While the typical day trip has introduced numerous families to snow sports, limited disposable income also has prevented many from participating. Snow sports remain unfamiliar activities to urbanites. Club leaders wanted to change this model.
The snow sports industry’s Learn to Ski & Snowboard Month (LSSM)team provides tools to resorts and clubs to help introduce first timers to professional instruction. A leading advocate, Cataloochee’s Tammy Brown, was eager to help SSS determine if it could introduce 100 youth to snow sports in a single trip. The goal required collaboration to accomplish.
SSS decided to partner with the Whitehead Boys and Girls Club and Knollwood Elementary School. Both were located in economically-challenged communities. The club worked with energetic leaders - Whitehead Director Nneka Carter and Knollwood Assistant Principal Dr. Chuck Pettus - but recognized that families would not be able to contribute towards the trip’s estimated $10,000 cost.
To help, Cataloochee provided deeply discounted learn-to-ski/ snowboard packages for the youths and adult chaperones. SSS collaborated with community-oriented partners including Harmon Brothers Transportation and local restaurants on other discounts.
Part of the National Brotherhood of Skiers (NBS), the club applied for regional and national grants. The club and member contributions covered remaining expenses.
·T-E-A-M (Together Everyone Achieved More) yielded success. Around 5:30 AM on January 28, the group began its journey to scenic Maggie Valley and Cataloochee -- just over 30 miles due west of Asheville. With breakfast biscuits and bottled water in hand, children, teens, parents, chaperones and club members filled three buses.
“Excitement was high”, said Kimberly King, SSS President. Except for the five ski club members and three of the chaperones, traveling to a ski resort was a unique adventure. Cataloochee’s Ski School Team greeted each bus and reviewed what to expect. The slope experts answered questions and prepared the group for equipment and clothing rentals. It was time to hit the slopes
French fries and pizza were terms heard throughout the morning. These are “learn to ski” terms without any connection to favorite resort meal items. After three hours, the group visited Cataloochee’s on-mountain restaurant for lunch. Club members and chaperones sat in amazement as many gulped down their food, eager to return to the snow.
As the clock neared 3:30 PM, club organizers had to remind everyone that it was almost time to head home. They witnessed a wide range of emotions, from tears to smiles, as group members trekked back to the rental shop and bus. Reactions were consistent and frequent - “When can we do this again” or “This is the best day of my life”. For the kids, the trip represented an adventure. For many adults, it was their first time outside of Georgia. Club members were sure that winter sports had added 100 new enthusiasts.
“We love snow sports and recognize that knowledge about them in urban communities is limited. Working with Cataloochee, LSSM and other partners, we could introduce a large group to the slopes and reiterate First Lady Michelle Obama’s message about creating and sustaining healthy communities,” said King
She noted that many opt to hibernate in the winter thinking opportunities for physical activity are unavailable. “Our trip showcased snow sports as a fun and enjoyable way to move and stay healthy, even if there’s a chill in the air,” she commented. “We look forward to working with our private, public and community partners to share and generate more excitement regarding the winter sports message.· As we club members say, we want everyone to think snow!”