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Popular Hazen Ski and Ride Program Changes

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photo by Parker Bailey
Jasper Regan executes a tail grab on a perfect day at the mountain during a Hazen Union School Ski and Ride Day.

HARDWICK — The Ski and Ride program at Hazen Union School has been around at least since 1981, and maybe as early as 1979, according to Tod Delericheliere who recalls that it started while he was a student. Though he’s not a skier, he counts it as one of the unique things about Hazen Union School and Hardwick that cause him to care deeply about the school and drew him to the work he does now as Hazen’s facility manager.

Students now involved in the Ski and Ride Club seem to be developing the same sort of strong connection to the school that Delericheliere feels.

Manny Fliegelman says it’s been a good chance for him to connect with other students and teachers that he wouldn’t otherwise connect with in school.

On selected Fridays, from January through March, students leave the school on a bus that holds about 40 people. This year the program started in December and was slated to continue into April, but ended in late March.

photo by Megan Hall
Hazen Union School students ride the gondola at Stowe Mountain Resort during the 2023/24 winter season. They are, from left, Kaitlyn Cloutier, Piper Hall and Ginger Bowley.

The club had 60 student members this year, according to Program Coordinator, Davd Perrigo.

There are always some who choose not to attend, or haven’t met their “Habits of Work” grade so the bus always seems to hold everyone who wants to go that week, according to Student Coordinator, Jasper Regan.

Teachers and parents, who asked not to be named, tell stories of students who became frustrated during their first trips to the mountain, even going so far as to throw their poles in anger. Perrigo is said to have spent extra time with those students, privately encouraging them to return. One tale of an initially frustrated student who received Perrigo’s attention included a report that they skied a black diamond trail and went on one of Marc Considine’s outing club trips in this, their second year with the program.

Perrigo says those stories are apocryphal, sounding like a compilation of events that have all happened, though not to any single student. He did share the story of one student who he spent time with on three consecutive days at the mountain, to the exclusion of other students who could have benefited from his attention,. On one of those trips he went back with her to the ski shop to have her boots fitted with foam and heating devices. Even then he shared that he found himself starting to think the student might never get it, and was about to give up when the student’s attitude changed completely, and off she went, down the mountain. That student apparently has become a great supporter of the program, even encouraging other students to join the club and not to get discouraged when their first attempts don’t go well.

Perrigo says this year every one of the participating students saw success on the slopes.

Through letters shared more or less publicly with the school community by Perrigo and Principal Jason Di Giulio, students, teachers, staff and parents have learned that Perrigo will not be coordinating the club next year.

Di Giulio wrote that the program will be rolled into Winter Wellness Days for the 2024-2025 winter season, adding, “While there is more reflection to be done before we know the exact shape (number of days for next year), we can expect a similar experience next year to this year, as it was the year before.”

In the same letter he wrote, hoping to clarify his plan, “to be clear, I’m not sure where the narrative that Ski and Ride is being gutted or endangered has originated. We intend to have a Ski and Ride, and we intend for there to be about 10 trips (weather, of course). We will have a new coordinator.” Di Giulio says he expcts a new coordinator for the progrsm weill be in place prior to September’s start of the 2024/25 school year.

“I spoke with a few Ski and Ride students and one teacher about the situation. There seems to be a lot of confusion around what’s going on, nobody has formed any opinions quite yet,” says Hazen Union Community Journalist Megan Cane.

Regan has been involved with the program since he was in seventh grade. He’s now a Junior and served as one of the student coordinators this past season. He’s watched as Perrigo and chaperones have made multiple trips to rental shops, some as far away as New Hampshire, to get everyone the equipment they needed.

Regan, says there was money left in the budget for April trips, but he wasn’t able to get an answer from Perrigo about why the program didn’t continue.

Perrigo says questions like Regan’s are one of the reasons he wrote his letter to the Ski and Ride community. He had felt there was a lack of information about the program’s future and planned changes to it from the administration, which he had been unable to comfortably speak about.

Parent Tom Halperin, who has an eighth-grade student in the club, feels that some teachers do not make it easy for students to join the program, even going so far as to schedule tests on Fridays, which makes decisions about taking a Friday to ski or ride hard.

Jasper Regan seems to have had a completely different experience, saying one of his AP class teachers moved the Friday class to Thursday so students could participate in Ski and Ride. He said another teacher has even tracked him down during his free time to update him on what he missed in class during a Friday trip to the mountain. He said it’s “been easy to stay on top of stuff.”

Cecilia Leibovitz, Regan’s mother, sees her son and others in the program developing skills for trying new things and meeting new people. She feels the program has been great in accepting everyone, regardless of their ability to pay, and has made it easy for families to take advantage of an opportunity that would otherwise be out of reach for many.

Halperin sees the program as important for students who might otherwise be at home after school playing video games. He sees that Perrigo has gotten students involved and they come away with a sense of accomplishment. “Perrigo has included everyone in the program, no matter who they are,” said Halperin, who added that “the program needs to stay in place; it works.”

Halperin is concerned about rolling the program into Winter Wellness Days, saying, “Wellness Days are part of the whole school coming together. That might be difficult if a quarter of the students are gone.”

Free season passes are a perk of the program for students who can find rides to Jay Peak, so the program further benefits those who can take advantage of the opportunity outside of scheduled Friday trips.

School Board Member, David Kelley, wrote, “As a Hazen School Board member I am very disturbed by this development. As a young student at Otter Valley Union High School I learned how valuable our “Ski Days” were in a variety of ways, not the least of which was learning to respect other people on and off the mountain – more important today than ever.

“The next board meeting is Tuesday, May 21, at 6. I am concerned this will be the death of one of Hazen’s most valuable programs. If you share my concerns please come to the board meeting and say so.”

Paul Fixx is editor of The Hardwick Gazette and lives in Hardwick.

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