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Free program gets Seeley Lake kids on skis

By Faith Smith, KECI Reporter, fcronin@keci.com
Published On: Jan 31 2013 10:57:15 PM MST
Updated On: Jan 31 2013 10:58:20 PM MST
MISSOULA, Mont. -

Seeley Lake students are putting down their video game controllers and hitting the ski trails.

It's part of a program started by a handful of Seeley Lake mothers who say they wanted to get the kids off the couch and into the wilderness.

“When we started we didn't have skis so we just kind of rounded up all the things we owned in our garages and basements,” said Seeley School ski coordinator and program founder Bridget Laird.  “Pretty soon the donations just started to come.”

Laird says what started out as a once-a-month outing into the woods has spread into a community movement. 

“It gives the kids a chance to get out after school instead of going and causing havoc around the town,” said ski league sixth grader Hunter Shelmerdine.  “It gets them away from playing video games and gets them active.”

Every Thursday after school lets out anywhere from 45 to 75 Seeley Lake kids, first through eighth grade, can borrow skis right from their school and ride the bus to the local ski trails.

Student skiers say they are thrilled to have a community supported ski program in their own backyard. 

“My favorite part is just being out with my friends and having a good time out skiing,” said Shelmerdine. 

Shelmerdine’s younger brother Sawyer is a third grader on the ski league; he says going skiing after school is his new favorite thing to do.    

“You get to see a lot more stuff than at school and plus you don't have to think as hard as school,” said Shelmerdine. 

Sophomore Cole Jungers says he's excited because this is the first year there's a high school ski team.

“I found out that a group of the older kids, which are doing skate skiing, had their own ski team that came on Tuesdays and Thursdays,” said Jungers.  “So I just jumped right in and tried to join that as fast as I could.”

Seeley Lake School’s Superintendent Chris Stout says he can't believe how many people have chipped in to make the ski league and ski team possible.

“It’s just amazing how many people have come together to make something happen,” said Stout.  “They have nothing to gain from it personally I think it just shows the strength of the community and how willing people are to help out with situations when kids are involved.”

“The kids are so excited about it,” said Laird.  “They see me in the hall and they say ‘Miss Laird when are we going to get to go skiing? Do I get to ski with you today?’”

Laird says she’s proud of her community for pitching in to help the kids learn new skills and have fun. 

“It's pretty rewarding to see how much people really do appreciate it,” said Laird. 

Ski coordinators found out Thursday that the Seeley Lake Community Project is giving the school a $7,500 grant to buy more skis and equipment for the students.