Winter Recreation

1,600 Treasure Valley students spend their Saturdays racing at Bogus Basin

School racing program at Bogus Basin incorporates beginners, experts

The ski and snowboard racing program attracted 1,625 participants from Treasure Valley high schools and middle schools this year.
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The ski and snowboard racing program attracted 1,625 participants from Treasure Valley high schools and middle schools this year.

Colin Hinchman and Jadelynn Nagy are Boise High juniors making their debuts with the school’s snow team.

Both were recruited by history teacher and snow team adviser Scott Arnold.

Yet this is not a combo you would find on many, if any, high school sports teams.

Hinchman is what you’d expect — a longtime skier with racing experience.

Nagy is not — a second-year snowboarder still learning to turn.

The Bogus Basin school racing program embraces both — and that’s one reason the program has thrived for more than 50 years. The program has 1,625 high school and middle school participants this year and 145 advisers, many of them schoolteachers volunteering their Saturdays.

“I’ve been trying to work on trying some new things,” said Nagy, who competes in novice snowboard slalom. “... I didn’t think I’d be able to and they were like: ‘We need beginners. People who can barely stand on their board.’ I was like, ‘All right, I’ll give it a try.’ ”

The program offers novice, intermediate and expert categories for ski slalom, snowboard slalom and cross country for high school and middle school divisions. Skiers and snowboarders also can compete in freestyle competitions. Some kids participate in two to four events. About 1,100 competitive runs are logged each week.

Arnold tells of one student who decided as a senior to pursue some activities she’d been afraid to try. She joined the snow team, rented gear at Greenwood’s Ski Haus, became a regular skier and eventually got a job at Greenwood’s.

We’ve had kids learn to ski through this program. ... For some kids, this program is their opportunity to ski.

Scott Arnold, Boise High history teacher and snow team adviser

It’s a largely informal program that is unlike most competitive sports. There are no practices or coaches. Races are held on six Saturdays in January and February but kids are only asked to attend three (they can attend them all). If they make three appearances, they get to ski in the annual Dotty Clark event where individual and team champions are crowned and kids get to ski on a school day. The Dotty Clark races are Feb. 16-17 this year.

Participants travel to Bogus Basin on their own for the Saturday races, buy a discounted lift ticket ($26) and receive a $4 discount on rentals if needed. For Nordic races, rental gear for up to 50 athletes is free.

For most of the day, the kids can ski with their friends or family.

“It’s very relaxed,” Hinchman said. “You don’t really need much experience, but if you have experience it’s just as fun.”

For the advisers, highlights include waiting with the athletes at the top of the race courses in Bitterroot Basin and seeing the pride on the faces of those who slice seconds off their times as the season progresses.

John Foley, the assistant coordinator for the program, has volunteered for 12 years — starting when his sons were in high school. He has brought candy to the start area of races and a list of questions relevant to the various grades. Answer a question, get a treat.

“There’s a lot of great advisers who make it fun for the kids,” he said.

Barb Spingla used her skiing experience to help get her job as a math teacher at Centennial High. When she was asked during the interview if there was something else she could do to help the school, she mentioned the snow team.

She’s in her 11th year as an adviser for the Patriots, the defending high school champs with about 80 kids on the team. She speaks to the freshman math classes about the team and visits the club for foreign exchange students, who usually fill six to eight spots. One or two true skiing beginners join the team most years.

“Every year, the kids that are in it, they go tell the other kids how much fun it is and then they join,” Spingla said. “Their friends are up here and it’s like you’re involved with the school, especially at Dotty Clark when you come up in a bus and the whole team is there. That’s a lot of fun.”

The program began in 1960 as a friendly competition between Boise and Borah high schools. Those races were named for Clark, a popular student who was killed in a car accident. The program quickly expanded to more schools and multiple days through the winter. Snowboarding, freestyle and Nordic events have been added in recent years.

This year, 31 high schools and 37 middle schools are involved.

“I love it because I get to know kids from all over town, all over the Valley,” said Lane Brown, an adviser representing Frank Church High who has worked with the program for 40 years. “You get to hear them excited about a sport that’s a lifetime sport and they get to see an old person that’s involved with them.”

Kaveri Nielsen, a special education teacher at Fairmont Junior High, helped run the novice snowboard event on a recent Saturday. She was at the finish line, where she could watch the kids react to their improving times.

“That’s what I enjoy the most,” she said. “... These guys are just happy to finish and (improve) their time.”

Kade Mitchell, a sixth-grader at West Middle School in Nampa, slid to a stop after completing a just-for-fun run in 24 seconds. He started the season at 36 seconds and had just completed the course in 26 seconds during the competition.

He joined the snow team at the suggestion of his older brother. Was he intimidated by racing?

“Not really, now that I’ve learned how to carve,” Mitchell said.

Jessica Montgomery, an eighth-grader at Eagle Middle School, also is in her first year in the program. She’s in her third year of snowboarding. She has slashed her time from 42 seconds to 30 this season on the novice course.

“I’ve gotten a lot, lot better,” she said. “I started in sixth grade and I was not good at all. I fell every 5 seconds. The first time I raced, I fell, but I haven’t fallen again.”

It’s stories like those that keep teachers like Arnold trekking to Bogus on their Saturdays. He “pounced” when an adviser spot came open at Boise.

“As a teacher, one of the great pleasures you have is working with the kids outside of the classroom, outside of your discipline,” said Arnold, who is a former student council adviser. “And this is an opportunity to do that, but more than that it’s an opportunity to see the kids enjoying one of the best resources in town, and that’s Bogus Basin. And this gets kids up here.”