The Friday, November 12, 2004 - Published on Wednesday & Friday
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By Kristine Escoto

Mountain Area Ski School
readies students for winter

    For 40 years, more than 400 Eastern Madera County students spend each Friday - from January through March - on the slopes at Badger Pass Ski Resort. The non-profit organization Mountain Area Ski School (MASS) was designed to interest students in skiing, stay active and maintain good grades and good citizenship.
     Successful students who hand in their assignments on time are eligible to spend a half-day skiing at Badger Pass each Friday during the winter months.
     “Teachers decide if students are eligible to ski,” said MASS board member, Matthew Casey. “Kids love this program and strive to maintain good grades and good attitudes to be a part of the program.”
     Casey explains safety is key. “It is our utmost concern,” he said. “Learning to be safe, have fun and get an education on the slopes is our aim.”

History of MASS
     Forty years ago Norma Colbern, Connie Bladen and Barbara Wolford drove their children from Oakhurst Elementary School to Badger Pass for a day of skiing. Colbern, mother of three sons, recognized that the kids living in the Yosemite area were eligible for weekly ski instruction for a very minimal fee. She lobbied with a reluctant school principal to get reduced price ski lessons and permission to take her children out of school for half the day to ski.
     Soon, a total of nine children were learning to ski alongside the kids from Yosemite. The cost for the ski rental, lift ticket and lessons was only $2.
     The second year the enrollment had moved up to 30 students. The school was soon more cooperative allowing students with “no demerits” to attend ski school, if they could find a ride. After two years, Yosemite said the Mountain Area group would have to provide their own instructors.
     Colbern, Rudy and Max Stauffer and a few others attended clinics to learn how to instruct. Rudy Stauffer (builder and original owner of the Yosemite Mountain Sugar Pine Railroad) saw this as an opportunity to teach Mountain Area kids the sport of downhill skiing and at the same time to inspire the kids to achieve good grades and good attitudes.
     Stauffer convinced Badger Pass management that by allowing the kids to attend the ski area during school, would benefit the management to generate rental equipment fees as well as introduce future ticket purchases to the ski area.
     As the program added more students, other school wanted to join in the program. By the fourth year, the reluctant principal - now a friendly skier - authorized school buses for transportation to Badger and the Mountain Area Ski School was given it’s official name.
     Rudy Stauffer later left the Mountain Area and turned the railroad and the MASS program over to his son, Max. Max was head of the program until 1987 when he resigned. Calvin Lyster, with 11 years of service, became the new director of the program.
     Under the guidance of Lyster and Assistant Director, Lee Halderman, the program has grown to more than 400 students (fifth through eighth grade - some schools allow fourth grade students). Additional board members include: Tom Jones, Kathy and Matthew Casey, Stan Smith as well as committee coordinators, Jon Peltier, Bob Lapschies and Susie Jones.
     There are now more than 50 volunteer instructors. Instructors are required to attend a teaching clinic to learn to instruct the kids.
     Recently cross-country skiing and snowboarding were added to the program. Students from nine Mountain Area schools are bused to Badger Pass ski area every Friday, January through March for approximately 12 weeks. The directors carry two-way radios for safety and monitor the instructors and students while they ski.


Mtn. Area Ski School in search of volunteers

By Kristine Escoto

The Mountain Area Ski School (MASS) is always in need of volunteers for the program.
     “We are looking for volunteers ages 18 to 100,” said MASS board member, Matthew Casey. “We hope for intermediate level skiers but it’s by no means required. We never want anyone to be intimidated by requiring specific levels. We accept all levels of instructors who love kids.”
     Volunteering as an instructor for the MASS programs has its benefits - skiing for free.
     Instructors from the Yosemite Ski School will provide a clinic to all MASS instructors in various teaching methods.
     If you are interested in joining the MASS program as an instructor, may obtain additional information and a blank application at Miller’s Mountain Sports, Westside Boardshop and Sierra Telephone Business Center.
     Special emphasis is expressed for the need of snowboard instructors. Snowboarding is a fast-growing sport. The program is attempts to instill the students with good “on-the-hill” etiquette as well as good technique on the snow.
     An orientation meeting will be held Dec. 3 at the Oakhurst Lutheran Church on Road 426.
     For further information, or to sign-up to be an instructor, visit the MASS website at Call or visit the group on the slopes any Friday at Badger Pass. Contact Lee Halderman, (559) 683-5110, Calvin Lyster, (559) 683-5186 or Matthew Casey, (559) 658-8794.

The program
     Children who meet the requirements to attend MASS report to their classrooms on Friday morning. They will then report to the bus and board for the ride to Badger Pass. The kids ski until approximately 3:30 p.m.
     “Children who are new to the program will come into the lodge after they are done skiing a bit earlier than the returning kids,” Casey said. “The more experienced children know the drill - returning ski equipment, unloading gear and preparing for the bus ride home. Once the kids know the routine, they will ski until the very last moment.”
     Casey stresses the academic aspect of maintaining a connection with school. “We are really proud of the fact that we maintain the importance of a connection with education and the school. This program helps to encourage students to be successful and it allows them to stay involved with academics to be able to participate in the MASS program.”
     Instructors will help the students get fitted with equipment and direct them to class. Once on the slopes, students are separated into groups:

    and advanced.

“We strongly recommend students ski for their first year before they try to snowboard,” Casey said. “While it’s ultimately up to the child, we recommend skiing first so the children will understand the conditions of the snow. It is much safer for the children and more fun because they will understand more about the process of snow sports and of course this is recommended, not a policy.”
     Children are tested every three weeks to determine if they are ready to move up in class level. “We’ve had board members with the MASS program for nearly 30 years,” Casey said. “They have been doing this for a long time. Students will be observed and instructed to do specific exercises to determine their level. We are always looking for progression.”
     New this year in the MASS program, a cross-country program will be held for ages 50 and above every Wednesday. “This program will be under the MASS umbrella,” Casey said. “Any level is welcome. The instructors are ready to get you rolling. They can contact Calvin Lyster at (559) 683-5186. Calvin will run the program under the MASS umbrella for our ‘older kids’.”
     “We have such an awesome resource in our backyard with Badger Pass so close. We believe in this program. So many children have been on the fence with school and this gives the students a great incentive to stay on top of assignments. Staying connected and involved is so important.”
     While the kids are having fun, they are learning a valuable sports education. “The kids and the instructors have non-stop fun. We really want the kids to have a positive attitude. It is key. We hope to give the kids a life skill and to choose to stay active and enjoy the outdoors.”



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The Sierra Star
49165 Crane Valley Rd [426] • PO Box 305 • Oakhurst, CA 93644-8621
Phone (559) 683-4464• Fax (559) 683-8102

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49165 Crane Valley Rd [426] • PO Box 305 • Oakhurst, CA 93644-8621
(559) 683-4464 • Fax (559) 683-8102

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