Steamboat Springs Middle School 8th Graders Hit the Slopes
Skiing and Steamboat Springs go hand-in-hand. But did you know skiing has deep roots within the Steamboat Springs School District? In December of 1944, the Steamboat Springs school system became the first in the country to introduce skiing as an accredited part of the public school curriculum. Seventy-five percent of the students enrolled in ski classes.
Skiing is no longer a part of the curriculum in SSSD schools. That didn’t seem right to Lara Craig, a current Board of Education member who came back to Steamboat Springs to teach at Steamboat Springs Middle School in 1995.
“It struck me as unfortunate for those kids who have never experienced skiing and that which makes Steamboat uniquely Steamboat,” Craig said. “How can we foster a sense of place, love, and commitment to the community if a significant portion of students have never been on a pair of skis?”
Craig had an idea: to make sure every student, no matter the circumstance, could get on skis and experience what Steamboat and its history of skiing were all about.
In 1999, Craig contacted Steamboat Ski Corp, and they offered every student a lift ticket who didn’t have a pass, lessons for those who had never skied, and equipment for anyone who needed it. The first annual 8th Grade Ski Day commenced with safety lessons from ski patrol, a lesson in the history of skiing education from the Tread of Pioneers Museum, and an Olympic skiing trivia scavenger hunt around Mt. Werner.
“Fun was a huge component of the day,” Craig said.
Nearly 25 years later, 8th grade ski day lives on and has occurred yearly except during the pandemic. This year, the 8th grade ski day took place on April 7, and 165-170 kids from SSMS participated.
Kayleigh McCannon, an 8th-grade teacher at SSMS, enthusiastically took on the organizing role as she remembers with fondness her participation as an 8th-grader in this special event.
“The entire goal of the ski day is to give students a sense of place and connection so they feel compelled to give back to their community in a way,” said McCannon. “It was so successful for me because I grew up here, went to college, had a different career, moved back, and now teach 8th grade and am putting Ski Day on. It came full circle.”
Community partnerships are crucial for keeping the 8th-grade ski day tradition alive and accessible for every student. Everything Outdoor Steamboat (EOS) assisted with funds needed for lift tickets. The Yampa Valley Community Foundation also helped find two additional donors: the Dirt to Snow, Mark Satkiewicz Legacy Fund and an anonymous donor. Christy Sports and Powder Tools donated free rentals to students who needed them. Steamboat Adaptive Recreational Sports (STARS) also provided instructors for any students who needed assistance.
Eighth-grade ski day means a lot more to the students than just an opportunity to ski. For some, it is a chance to forge new friendships ahead of entering high school. Several of the students skied or ate lunch with students outside of their immediate friend group. For others, it was an opportunity to reaffirm they have friends and a community that cares for and supports them.
“The day gave us a sense of freedom and responsibility and gave teachers a greater understanding of who we are outside of the classroom,” said Caroline Erps, an 8th grader at SSMS. “This tradition is one of the many reasons why our town and schools are special. In order to interact with our community, we should not give ski day up for future generations or let them go on through high school without experiencing this awesome day.”