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New youth program teaches snow safety to girls

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By Jessianne Wright
EBS Contributor

BIG SKY – On April 14, a diverse group of girls will take to the slopes at Big Sky Resort, outfitted with snow safety tools like avalanche beacons, probes, a rescue sled and first aid kits.

Accompanied by ski patrollers and other female volunteers, these girls-all between the ages of 8 and 16-will spend the day as members of the ski patrol crew, learning important snow safety skills and gaining exposure to the industry.

“There aren’t many women involved with ski patrolling,” said Christy Pelland, who is responsible for bringing the junior ski patrol camp to Big Sky.

Based in Washington state, Pelland works with SheJumps, a nonprofit organization that develops outdoor opportunities for women of all ages. Pelland is the director of youth programing, called Wild Skills, which is composed of overnight adventures and day camps.

Motivated by her own 7-year-old daughter’s interest in donning a red coat, Pelland decided to add ski patrol to the Wild Skills curriculum in December 2017. She joined forces with her friend and Crystal Mountain ski patrol director Kim Kircher. Together, the duo mapped out a day in the life of a ski patroller and spun the daily routine into fun activities for kids.

Kircher, who has a cabin in Big Sky and is married to former Big Sky Resort General Manager John Kircher, started volunteering for ski patrol in 1989 at 17 years old. Having worked as a paid patroller since 1995, Kircher says she doesn’t see very many younger volunteers these days.

“I really want to encourage younger people to get involved with ski patrol,” she said. “Big Sky is one of my favorite ski areas in the world and Big Sky ski patrol does an amazing job and to be instilling that in young girls is pretty awesome,” Kircher said, adding that she hopes to travel to Big Sky for the program.

With camps held at Crystal Mountain, Park City Mountain Resort in Utah and Idaho’s Sun Valley Resort, Big Sky’s will be the last of the season and will be capped at about 33 girls.

“It’s amazing how much enthusiasm there was right away,” Kircher said, adding that a second camp was held at Crystal because the waiting list was longer than the acceptance list. “People are so excited about this.”

“It caught fire as soon as it came out,” Pelland added.

For more information, or to register for the Wild Skills Junior Ski Patrol, visit

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