ScoutingJanuary-February 2000

Scouts on Skis

By Katharine and Eric Fletcher

Weekend ski packages offered by Vermont's Green Mountain Council lure schussing Scouts from as far away as Ohio.

It wasn't the fanciest way down the mountain, but it got the job done.

Davis Brown explained how his ski run down Double Diamond—Okemo Mountain Resort's most challenging trail—turned into an adventure during a Scout skiing weekend in central Vermont.

"I was skiing with my friend Tim Fortin and his dad on sheer ice," said the Scout from Troop 11, chartered to the North Stamford Congregational Church in Stamford, Conn. "Suddenly, my ski binding popped loose. I sat down while Tim's dad checked my skis. We decided I could make it down. So I took off the other ski and sat on the ground, held my skis behind me, and headed down ... slowly!

"It was awesome!" exclaimed the 11-year-old, reliving the scary descent. "Once I got to the bottom, I walked to the chairlift and asked for help."

Soon Davis was whizzing toward Okemo's repair shop aboard a snowmobile. "It only took 15 minutes to fix," he said.

Davis then caught up with Tim, and the pair took a chairlift up the 3,344-foot mountain to ski Double Diamond again. "No more problems," Davis said, later. "We skied all day. Our last run started a minute before they closed the lifts!"

Why they come

All-out, all-day skiing and snowboarding is why Scouts like Davis and Tim travel from as far away as Ohio to attend the six ski weekends hosted by the BSA's Green Mountain Council in Vermont.

Almost all the boys come from outside Vermont. "We are the only council in this part of New England that hosts ski weekends," said Paul Murphy, the Green Mountain Council district executive who manages the events. "Most of the groups come from Massachusetts and Connecticut," he said, "but we also draw from New York and New Jersey."

The 1999 weekends were held at three resorts. The Okemo event in early February attracted more than 100 Scouts. Three weekends at Killington Resort and two others at Mount Snow brought in a thousand more Scouts.

Choose your ski package

Six councils were represented at Okemo. As with the other ski venues, troops chose from a cafeteria plan of ski and snowboard rate packages offered by the Green Mountain Council.

The Eagle Package, at $110 per person, provides an all-inclusive deal for those arriving Friday night: two-day lift ticket, two dinners, two breakfasts, two cracker barrels, a patch, sleeping facilities at the Ludlow (Vt.) Armory, shower facilities, evening programs, and access to the resort's hospitality suite, which serves snacks and hot chocolate.

The $95 Life Package is for those who want to arrive Saturday morning. Groups who provide their own meals and lodging opt for the Star Package. It costs $75 per person and includes lift tickets, a patch, and access to the hospitality suite.

The Silver Beaver Package is for people who don't want to ski but want all the other components. It costs $60 a person. Equipment rental and snowboarding or skiing lessons are available at additional cost for all packages.

"When you consider that Okemo's two-day group lift ticket is $92, we offer a great price with the package deals," Murphy said. "We want to make a ski weekend affordable for all Scouts."

A special appeal

A day of hard skiing builds ravenous appetites, especially among Scouts. At dinnertime back at the armory, the Scouts chowed down on cook Chris Howland's popular chili. But it was more than good eats that impressed Edward Lancevich about the Okemo weekend.

"My Scouts are already looking forward to next year," said the Scoutmaster of Troop 80, chartered to Cathedral of the Incarnate in Garden City, N.J. "We ski a lot—Sugarbush, Hunter Mountain, and others—but Okemo represents a weekend to meet Scouts from other states. Usually, we do things on our own. But this type of event gets the boys swapping stories and comparing experiences with other Scouts. It's fun. There'll be more of us here next year."

That makes Paul Murphy happy. "We have the infrastructure in place," he said. "We have room to expand these events by as many as 300 Scouts per weekend."

To do that, he says the council will begin offering packages that include accommodations in slope-side condominiums. "We want to provide services that fit the need. I realize not everyone wants to sleep on a cot at a school gym or armory."

Murphy also hopes to find more volunteers and certified ski patrollers who will teach skiing and snowboarding to Scouts who want to work on the Snow Sports merit badge during the weekends.

One thing not likely to change is the council's low-key approach to promoting the ski events.

"We start planning in July," said (then) Green Mountain Council finance director Stephen Hoitt. "Then we send out information to Scout executives, mail flyers to previous attendees, and talk it up whenever we hit the road."

And the council doesn't need to advertise the event in neighboring council newsletters. "Our best advertising comes from word of mouth," Hoitt said.

You can bet young Davis Brown told everyone about his experiences at the Scout ski weekend. After all, how many other Scouts can lay claim to navigating one of Vermont's steepest slopes by the seat of his pants?

Freelance writers Katharine and Eric Fletcher live in Quyon, Quebec, Canada.

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