Ski and Snowboard Program at Monarch Mountain
Crestone Eagle ~ March 2019 ~ By Mason Osgood
Visit Monarch Mountain ski resort during a Friday and you’re likely to see a sea of children with pink helmet covers. These kids are part of the Crestone Charter School (CCS) and Monarch Mountain ski/snowboard program. Every Friday CCS Intermediate through High School students (grades 4-12) travel up to Monarch to take lessons and free-ski as part of CCS’s experiential learning curriculum.
The program began at CCS in the late 90’s when the whole school and many parents would travel to Monarch and help to teach fellow students. Up until two years ago, students would be taught by more advanced students and parents. Finally, Monarch Mountain and CCS decided it was in both of their best interests to incorporate Monarch’s professional ski instructor staff.
Today a typical Friday begins with CCS students splitting into several different instructor groups based on ability and whether they ski or snowboard. In a system designed by CCS teachers, the students are assigned a colored star, the highest a gold star, which designates your ski level and where you can ski on the mountain. Some students begin their first time on skis or snowboards in this program and have the opportunity to learn from qualified instructors every week. Other students, many high schoolers, have been skiing or boarding their whole life and see the lessons as an opportunity to hone their skills on moguls or terrain parks. Max Vanhorn, a CCS sophomore, has been part of the program for four years and says, “the program has allowed me to gain an ability to learn a skill I would otherwise never be able to do and get some exercise! It is just amazing.”
After cramming into the sack lunch in the lodge, students are free the rest of the afternoon for “free ski.” This is not without a strict buddy system and teachers/parents supervising on each lift. This “freeski” period allows students to explore the mountain on their own, and practice their skills after a morning ski lesson. Orion Propst, a CCS freshman who has been participating in the program since 5th grade, says during freeski he loves to “push my limits over cliffs and onto rails.” Propst’s father, Wade, helps out CCS every Friday driving the gear van and leading the most advanced groups into Monarch’s Mirkwood Basin.
This program, one of its kind in the San Luis Valley, is held closely to CCS parents and staff who look forward to the winter months when Friday’s become a little more interesting and full of learning and laughter on Monarch Mountain.