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Skiing Big Sky for free

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Big Sky Resort provides free season passes to Lone Peak High School valedictorians. PHOTO BY GABRIELLE GASSER

Big Sky Resort awards students, volunteers, employees and others with low to no-cost ski passes

By Gus Hammond EBS CONTRIBUTOR

Christmas came early for John Chadwell and Carly Wilson, last year’s Lone Peak High School valedictorians. Both were surprised this fall by a letter from Big Sky Resort General Manager Troy Nedved informing them that their top grades had earned them both a free season ski pass at Big Sky Resort for this year and the next three years until they finish college.

 “The free ski pass is a very exciting and unexpected perk that I will be forever grateful for,” said Wilson, who is just completing her first semester at Emory University in Atlanta. “I was completely shocked when I got the email.”

 “I was unaware of this award until a few weeks ago; it was a pleasant surprise,” agreed Chadwell, a first-year student at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia. “Knowing about it in advance would certainly be exciting! I am thrilled for the upcoming ski season and grateful to the resort.”

Fortunately for many, you don’t have to have the highest GPA to ski the biggest skiing in America for free. The resort’s free season college pass to local Lone Peak High School’s top students isn’t the only way Big Sky rewards local students with free skiing. Wilson, who was born and raised in Big Sky, has had free access to Lone Mountain for all but four years of her life.

While the LPHS valedictorian award is only about a decade old—like LPHS itself—Big Sky has always given all local K-8 students at Ophir, home-schooled, and, most recently students at Discovery, free season passes since Boyne USA bought the area nearly 50 years ago. Even children under the age of 6, as Big Sky residents, ski free with a parent who holds a season pass.

Additionally, all K-12 students in participating schools in Gallatin, Madison, Park, Beaverhead, and Sweet Grass counties can earn a highly discounted—$239 for a blue pass—season pass by maintaining a 3.0 or above GPA through the M-BAR-T program. M-BAR-T is a program that started when Moonlight Resort was separated from Big Sky, to inspire young people to achieve academic excellence. It now allows aspirational students from five counties to continue to inexpensively enjoy the outdoor recreation of Big Sky Resort on the ski hill.

Being done with school doesn’t mean you have to pay up for a pass. All employees at the ski resort, full-time, part-time, or seasonal, receive the benefit of a free season pass. Friends and family free tickets are available to full-time employees.

Several programs reward those who work for free to ski for free. The volunteer ski patrol and mountain host programs at the resort convey free passes. Becoming a volunteer for other nonprofits that provide services on the mountain, including Eagle Mount, Big Sky Bravery, and Big Sky Youth Empowerment will earn participants free tickets and complimentary access to the area while they are volunteering. Ski coaches for the Big Sky ski team are similarly gifted.

Even earlier military service is rewarded, says Stacie Mesuda, public relations manager. “Big Sky Resort proudly offers highly discounted lift tickets for our current and retired military service members and families.”

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