Barbara Halsey thanked Jim May on a nearly weekly basis last winter. The Wayzata mother was showing her gratitude for May’s help with her mildly autistic son, Steve Halsey.
Steve Halsey is 21, and doesn’t drive but loves to snowboard, so he joined the Plymouth Ski and Snowboard Club to hit the slopes with a group of all types of teenagers. If it weren’t for May and his friend, Chip Campbell, leading the resurgence of the moribund club, Steve Halsey probably wouldn’t have been outside carving up the abundant snow last winter.
“They have made him feel a part of things and looked after him a little bit,” Barbara Halsey says. “He can be a little forgetful at times, and they have taken him under their wing.”
Before last winter, the Plymouth Ski and Snowboard Club sat dormant with sparse membership. The club began about 15 years ago and membership reached as high as about 50 kids, but in 2009 and 2010, membership slipped to only a handful of diehards.
May and Campbell stepped in last fall to revitalize the club. The men have run similar clubs and canvassed Wayzata High School to recruit skiers and boarders. They were satisfied when they netted about 30 students ranging from freshmen to seniors.
“We hit them hard,” May says. “It can be hard to get something off the ground the first year, but once you get a quorum you can build on that. We’ve been pleasantly surprised by the turnout.”
They sell the kids on a loosely structured chance to get out with friends on up to six Sundays in January and February. May and Campbell let the kids hit the slopes on their own in an effort to teach responsibility.
“When you go out and take these kids out, they are away from their mom and dad and must show a personal responsibility when out on the slopes and being back on time,” Campbell says. “That type of stuff—cleaning up after yourselves, on the bus and in the chalet. Mentoring them in the sense of no smoking, no drinking, no drugs. We encourage, and try and help them.”
“We just have the kids hit the slopes and have a great time,” Campbell says.
They sell the parents on responsibly chaperoned trips at an affordable cost for the bus fares and discounted lift tickets.
May says they cover their bases with an adult in the chalet and on the ski hills to handle emergencies, supervised pick-ups and a bus driver with a safe driving record.
Barbara Halsey says if one of the kids is late for the bus, May and Campbell deal with it in a good-natured way.
“They make them sing a little solo,” she says. “They deal with it in a light-handed way to get the kids to cooperate.”
For Steve Halsey, membership in the club has shown him that his disability won’t keep him down.
“It’s just a big obstacle, but … coping with it has shown me how much I really can do,” he says. “The club, in a way, makes me feel accepted.”
May and Campbell want to expand the club to up to 50 or 60 members, and dream about taking a weekend trip to Michigan or to the Rocky Mountains.
“We had a lot of younger kids in it [last year] and if they had a good time, they will come back,” May says. “We expect it to build on itself.”
Before the Snow Flies
The Plymouth Ski and Snowboard Club welcomes high school-age residents interested in strapping on skis or a board.
Early registration ended in November, but it’s not too late to join. The club will take members throughout December in advance of the trips to regional hills beginning in January.
Registration is $135, and covers busing and chaperones. Lift tickets are an additional $18 each week. “That is less than half the price [of a lift ticket], and we have been able to negotiate that with the ski areas,” club leader Jim May says.
January 8: Trollhaugen
January 15: Wild Mountain
January 22: Welch Village
January 29: Afton Alps
February 12: Spirit Mountain
February 26: Wild Mountain
For more information, contact Cindy Anderson, Plymouth parks and recreation, at 763.509.5200 or email her.