By Jason Welker
It’s hard to imagine, but ski season is right around the corner. With two new lifts to shuttle skiers from Cedar Park to the top of Lakeside Chutes — along with El Nino predictions for the upcoming winter — local skiers have much to look forward to. If you’re a parent, like me, it’s also time to start thinking about the best options for building young skiers’ skills and confidence on the slopes.
Fortunately, there are lots of options for parents interested in ski instruction for their kids. Of course, Schweitzer Mountain Resort offers its own in-house ski instruction, but there is another option for families who are interested in a more competition-oriented program for their kids. The Schweitzer Alpine Racing School is a non-profit, independent ski program that is licensed to operate on Schweitzer but is unaffiliated with the resort. SARS has operated for more than 50 years and has grown into one of the top ski racing programs in the United States. Each year, more than 200 athletes from ages 5 to 19 participate in programs ranging from Saturday-only training to full-time competitive race programs for high-school-aged students.
In addition to the youth programs, SARS also has the only organized Masters program in the Inland Northwest. SARS Masters racers range in age from mid-20s to over 80. Each year, a handful of first-timers work toward improving their skiing skills up to Masters National Champions. Similar to its youth programs, SARS also hosts several training options to support a variety of interest and commitment levels for adults.
As a non-profit, tuition in SARS programs covers less than half of the club’s operating costs, while fundraising covers the rest. From the Sandpoint Ski Swap each November to a robust sponsorship program to our annual dinner auction held on Schweitzer, community support allows SARS to keep its tuition low enough to be within reach of any family interested in their kids receiving top-notch coaching on the mountain.
SARS programs have grown in popularity in recent years, and due to popular demand it has recently added a competition-based Freeride program for athletes aged 12 and up. The Freeride team trains every Saturday and athletes travel to three or more Big Mountain Freeride competitions around the region each season. For the first time, Schweitzer will be hosting its own Freeride competition this season, giving SARS athletes the chance to compete in front of a home crowd.
The STARS — Schweitzer “Tiny” Alpine Racers — program offers capable 5- and 6-year-old skiers the chance to be introduced to the world of ski racing. All SARS programs include a three- to five-day holiday camp between Christmas and New Year’s, plus a minimum of one full day of instruction each week from early December through the end of March. Registration opens on Sunday, Sept. 1 at our website, sars.net. Programs fill up fast, so if it is something you may be interested in, then consider signing up early.
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