Organizers say about 200 local kids and adults in need will have a day of fun this spring at the Mt. Ashland Ski Area — even if they have to forgo skiing and snowboarding because of a lack of snow.
The ski area will host the group March 24 for the second annual Winter Wellness Day. The ski area plans to provide lift tickets and ski and snowboard gear if there's enough snow.
After being open for just eight days so far this winter, the ski area shut down Feb. 5 because of warm temperatures and lack of snow.
The ski area could reopen if it gets enough snow, ski area officials said.
The ski area received 2 inches of snow last weekend, it reported on its website. The National Weather Service is forecasting a 50 percent chance of snow Wednesday.
If the snowpack falls short in March, families in need could instead go snowshoeing, take part in fun and educational snow science projects or enjoy other activities, said Dan Mata, case supervisor and Mentoring Youth Towards Independence/ASPIRE coordinator for Court Appointed Special Advocates of Jackson County.
CASAs are trained adults who advocate for the interests of abused and neglected children as they navigate the child welfare and court systems. CASAs and the kids they help are among those who will spend a day on the mountain.
Other organizations are joining in the effort to identify and register families that would benefit from a day at the ski area, including La Clinica, Maslow Project, Children's Advocacy Center, and Kids Unlimited, organizers said.
Black Bird Shopping Center will help out with winter clothing and gear, while First Student school buses will carry kids and adults to and from the mountain. The Mt. Ashland Ski Association, U.S. Forest Service and Jackson Care Connect health organization are also partners in the effort, organizers said.
Mt. Ashland Ski Area Development Director Michael Stringer said kids can take part in activities on the mountain, rather than just watching television or playing video games.
"Mt. Ashland and its partners want to promote wellness. You can experience it in real life locally with all these great partners," Stringer said.
He noted the event falls during spring break week for local school districts.
"A lot of kids' parents don't even have time to take off work, let alone take them on a distant trip," Stringer said.
If the ski area has enough snow, many of the kids will be trying skiing and snowboarding for the first time, he said.
Last year, when the program launched, the Mt. Ashland Ski Area hosted about 150 kids and adults for a day of skiing and snowboarding, Mata said.
"The whole idea is to get them out on the mountain where they can see the beautiful scenery they have on top of the mountain," Mata said. "It's getting kids involved and getting them outside of the house. It's something exciting to go back to school and talk about."
He said a day on the mountain can provide a needed break for kids who've been suffering from abuse and neglect, allowing them to put their problems aside for the day.
"These kids have been through so much trauma. Why not all come together and show them how many people care about them? We're trying to lift their spirits," Mata said.
He noted exercising and being outside is good for people mentally and physically, but many families lack the money needed to take part in activities such as skiing or snowboarding.
"I'm so grateful to see what this community does for these children," Mata said.