In the long list of things for which New Jersey is famous—strong accents, the Boss, bridge traffic—skiing typically doesn’t make the cut. The state’s biggest hills barely top 1,500 feet, winters are mild, and snowfall is increasingly unpredictable. As a girl growing up there in the 1980s, I began ski days before dawn in the parking lot of my junior high, aboard a school bus bound for the icy slopes of the Poconos, two hours away. My husband, who was raised in a town 20 miles away, mooched rides after school to night-ski under the lights at Vernon Valley.
Suffice it to say, Jersey might seem an odd place to launch the National Winter Activity Center (NWAC), a nonprofit geared toward raising the next generation of skiers and boarders. But as we learned from Olympic gold medalist Lindsey Vonn, who learned to race at tiny Buck Hill outside Minneapolis, you don’t need big mountains to become a skier—or a champion skier at that. What you need is a critical mass of kids, buses to get them to the slopes, affordable lessons and gear, and a strategy for transforming a sport into a community.
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