Winter Ride program helps students hit the slopes

By Steve Guntli

It’s time once again for Blaine students to hop on the ski bus.

The Winter Ride program is now accepting applicants from middle and high school students looking to shred Mt. Baker this winter.

Winter Ride is a chaperoned eight-week enrichment program, sponsored by the Blaine school district, which aims to get kids out on the slopes. The program is now entering its 16th year at Blaine schools.

Julie Apeles is a school psychologist for the district, and has been the Winter Ride coordinator since 2005. Since taking on the job, she’s seen the program grow immensely inskipopularity.

“People love the program,” she said. “Kids start asking me about it in September when school starts.”

Participation in Winter Ride has nearly doubled since Apeles got involved.

“When I started, we were filling one school bus with 42 participants,” she said. “Within the next couple of years, we had enough interest to bring in another bus. Last year we had 76 participants. When we reach 84, which we should do this year, we will be on a waitlist for a third bus.”

Eight trips to and from Mt. Baker will cost $100. Students can also choose to purchase a one-time bus day pass for $20, but they must provide their own equipment and be experienced skiers or snowboarders.

Lift tickets are required and will cost $40 per day or $285 for the season for children ages 13-15. Tickets for students 16 and up will run $57 per trip and $495 for the season. The ski area also offers six weeks of ski and snowboard lessons for $75. Kids without gear can rent helmets ($57 for six weeks or $72 for eight) and skis or a snowboard ($122 for six weeks, $162 for eight). The program has previously offered scholarships for students unable to pay.

Last year, thanks to $1,500 in donations from local businesses and school staff as well as a ski area grant, four low-income students were able to participate. Apeles is seeking donations once again; those who would like to donate can contact her at 332-0724 or

The program gives kids a reason to stay healthy and active over the winter season, and teaches them a lifelong sport, Apeles said.

“At age 50 plus, they will still be skiing and snowboarding,” she said. “Through this program, they have the opportunity to learn the sport at a reduced rate, plus they get to go every weekend.”

Apeles hopes the kids will learn a little about self-reliance and confidence.

“Every kid likes to show that they can manage themselves in front of their peers, who are also managing themselves,” she said. “They quickly learn where to be and what time to be there. They choose when and what to eat. They learn how competent they really are.”

The Winter Ride program is open to students between grades 6 and 12. Fifth grade students who are experienced skiers or snowboarders can check on available seats. Sign-ups for the program will run until Friday, December 12.

The first trip is scheduled for Saturday, January 10. Sign-up forms are available in the middle and high school offices or online.

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