Sioux Falls, SD
Frigid temperatures have allowed Great Bear, located east of Sioux Falls, to open their slopes for the season. A program at the ski resort is helping pass the sport on to the next generation of skiers and snowboarders.
Like many sports, skiing and snowboarding can be expensive hobbies to pick up. But Fifth Grade Fridays at Great Bear are helping to change that.
"We opened on a Friday this year and it kicked off right away at 4:00. We were open for an hour and it was going," Great Bear's winter sports director Brennan Ahnberg said.
Every Friday evening, fifth graders can get a lift ticket, ski or snowboard rental and lesson for just $5. It's a program that hundreds of kids have taken advantage of over the last four years.
"It's a madhouse out here, we actually crack jokes. It's intense. We have, I would say, probably between 50 and 150 fifth graders out here at one point in time," Ahnberg said.
On this particular fifth Grade Friday, Brennan Hurd is looking to give snowboarding a try.
"I just wanted to do something different this year," Brennan said.
"He wants to learn how to snowboard this year. He knows how to ski, so it seems like a great opportunity to get a lesson, get some rentals and some time with his friends for $5," Brennan's mom Susan Hurd said.
For many of the kids, their love of winter sports won't stop with Fifth Grade Fridays.
"About 35 percent of our season pass holders come back from Fifth Grade Fridays and we give them an additional 15 percent off on top of our preseason sale," Ahnberg said.
"I'll have to let him out of my sight even more, so we'll see how I deal with that next year as a sixth grader," Susan said.
But that's by design because passing on the love of skiing and snowboarding is what 5th Grade Fridays are all about.
"Our sole purpose as instructors and as a ski area is to keep the sport we love alive, and that's exactly why we're targeting the group that's going to make that possible," Ahnberg said.
Fifth Grade Fridays start at 4 p.m. and run the entire length of the skiing season at Great Bear. To register your fifth grader, all you need to do is bring in a current report card to the ski lodge.
For more information visit Great Bear's website.