Friday, February 2, 2024

Raymond Ski Program offers outdoor winter adventure for children

By Kendra Raymond

Keeping kids active during the winter months can be a challenge. Luckily, the Raymond Ski Program is around to solve that problem for some lucky area youngsters. Sponsored by the Raymond Parks and Recreation Department, the group provides opportunities for children to learn more about skiing while also improving their skills.

Raymond Ski Program participants have fun
while riding on the Raymond Parks and
Recreation bus to Pleasant Mountain in
Bridgton for an afternoon of fresh air and 
healthy activity on the ski slopes there.
The ski club kicked off its season recently. The five-week program meets after school each Friday for an exciting evening of skiing. Kids and volunteers ride in a donated bus to Pleasant Mountain in Bridgton for an afternoon of fresh air and healthy activity.

Raymond Parks and Recreation director Joseph Crocker said that the ski season had a slow start this year due to the less-than-ideal skiing conditions, but things are picking up now and the participants are enthusiastic.

“Anyone that is participating is pretty excited,” Crocker said. “We tend to see that with skiing.”

To save on costs, the group partners with skiers from RSU 14 in Windham to get a discounted group rate. Most of the participants have their own gear, but equipment rental is also provided at an added cost.

The kids can practice their skills or choose to add lessons, which is extra.

“Because of the amount it costs, we try to keep it as low as we can to keep it affordable,” Crocker said.

According to Crocker, there are 23 participants in the Raymond Ski Program this year and there is an enrollment cap. He said that numbers are a little lower than in the past. However, the program is in its rebuilding phase after the pandemic and its momentum is growing.

Students in grades 2 through 8 are encouraged to join. Typically, the bus leaves around 3 p.m. from Raymond Elementary School and Jordan-Small Middle School and returns around 7:45 p.m.

As with many youth organizations, the help of adult volunteers is needed and welcomed.

“We primarily rely on volunteers for chaperoning. We really value their time,” Crocker said.

Helping with students can be rewarding for both the volunteer and the child. It is also a great opportunity for local high school students to gain volunteer hours. There are 12 volunteer positions that must be filled for the program to run.

Ski chaperones get an added perk receiving a free lift ticket on the day they volunteer, Crocker said.

The deadline for this year’s ski club has passed but it’s never too early to start thinking about next season. Typically, sign ups close about two weeks before the season starts, because of the paperwork and onboarding involved.

The website suggests that children who spend time outside are physically healthier, are more engaged in learning, have better behavior, and are mentally healthier. And the book “Balanced and Barefoot” by pediatric occupational therapist Angela J. Hanscom discusses the importance of outdoor play and freedom of movement to children’s cognitive development. In today’s world filled with screens and sedentary lifestyles, Hanscom offers practical and fun activities for kids of all ages and locations.

Winter Kids is a Maine non-profit designed to encourage kids to get outdoors in the winter. With resources such as outdoor story walks, snowshoe loan, an App, family day, and Learn Outside Guide, there is something for just about everyone. The Winter Kids website says that their goal is to help children and families enjoy healthy and fun outdoor winter lifestyles while nurturing a connection to the natural environment.

The Raymond Ski Program does just that. Not only are the kids out in nature, but they are actively engaging in fitness, interacting with other youth outside of school, meeting new people, and learning a skill. All ability levels are welcomed, and the atmosphere is inclusive, welcoming, and supportive.

If you would like to help out with the ski program, contact the Parks and Rec director by email: . Chaperones and other support are always welcomed. Crocker said, “Volunteers are key to our program. We couldn’t do it without them”.

Have a child that is interested in learning more about the ski club? Visit the Raymond Parks and Recreation website: or on Facebook under Raymond Parks and Rec.

For more information about Pleasant Mountain Ski Area, visit <

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