RANCHESTER — Antelope Butte Mountain Recreation Area volunteers continue to enter local schools with equipment from the nonprofit to bring the joy of skiing to hundreds of students across Sheridan County.
Last week, the organization spent four days at Tongue River Elementary. This marks the nonprofit’s first year visiting TRE.
Antelope Butte groomed the front lawn of TRE, which is where students learned from the expertise of Antelope Butte Executive Director John Kirlin and Christy Lohof, a ski patroller and snow sports assistant.
Students were outfitted in new Rossignol Evo gear and practiced classic touring techniques.
“We introduce them to the idea of skate skiing, but most kids are more comfortable sticking with classic [technique] for their first time,” Lohof said.
TRE officials did not want the volunteers’ efforts to expire once they left at the end of the week.
“In the coming weeks we will use our own skis to continue cross-country skiing on the front lawn as part of P.E. and our wellness program,” said TRE Principal Annie Griffin.
Students will also get the chance to ski bigger hills than what the front lawn offers, as the Adventure Club program will invite students to cross-country ski at the Antelope Butte Mountain Recreation Area on some Fridays.
The Adventure Club was created 13 years ago by former TRE Principal Deb Hofmeier.
“Due to the generous donations from the Kibbee Foundation and our local recreation board, we are able to get kids outside beyond the school day for lifetime experiences like cross-country skiing,” Griffin said.
TRE physical education teacher Jeremy Brandl worked with Kirlin to bring Antelope Butte to his students. Brandl remarked that students’ ski progress has been outstanding.
“The kids want to be on the mountain,” Brandl said, noting that students excitedly report if they have traveled to Antelope Butte or participate in programs such as First Chair, an Antelope Butte program that teaches skiing or snowboarding to youth ages 7-17.
“They are absolutely loving it. I hear them saying thank you to Antelope Butte all the time,” Brandl said.
TRE students are so eager for their daily ski time that one fifth-grade class received an award and collectively chose to get extra ski time last Thursday. Staff and students are grateful to Antelope Butte for the unique lessons it provides.
“It has been a gift to be able to work with Antelope Butte to enhance this experience at TRE,” Griffin said.
Lohof explained Antelope Butte’s calendar of traveling to a new elementary school every week. Schedules were shifted due to January’s lack of snow, and one school was forced to cancel its Monday-Thursday teachings due to inadequate snow at their campus but still visited Antelope Butte for one full day of skiing.
“We’ve already done a few [Sheridan County School] District 2 schools, and we have a few left to go. So this will go all through March,” Lohof said.
Even though Antelope Butte is already hauling its groomer and signature trailer all throughout the county, they are hoping to expand this program next year.
“We would like to reach over to the other side of the mountain and do the basin,” Lohof said.
For students who are eager to share their new skills with friends or family, Antelope Butte rents the same equipment with which they visit the schools. The slopes on the mountain remain open for all skiers through April 5.