2014-03-13 / News

Leader of Lawn School ski club hangs up boots after nine years

By Ken Shane

Forty-nine lucky students, a handful of chaperones and leader Robin Tregenza take to the slopes at Yawgoo Valley in Exeter six times each winter. 
Robin Tregenza Forty-nine lucky students, a handful of chaperones and leader Robin Tregenza take to the slopes at Yawgoo Valley in Exeter six times each winter. Robin Tregenza The ski club at Lawn School has been running for 10 years, and for nine of those seasons, local realtor Robin Tregenza has led the group. During her tenure, three of her children have passed through the middle school.

Now that Tregenza’s youngest child is heading to North Kingstown High, the club is in search of new leadership.

In the school’s pursuit for a new ski leader, it’s important to know what the post entails.

According to Tregenza, it begins each November when she sends a letter alerting parents about the ski club. Her message is usually met with a tremendous response. About 10 days later, there is a one-day opportunity to sign up at the school. Although registration doesn’t begin until 8 a.m., there is usually a line of people outside a half hour before the doors open. The 49 available spots are filled up within 15 minutes, and then people are placed on a waiting list.

Each Wednesday for six weeks during the winter, members of the ski club arrive at school at 8 a.m. with all of their gear, which Tregenza locks into a closet for the day. She returns to the school at 2 p.m. and lays out the equipment in the cafeteria. When the final bell rings, the lucky students go to the cafeteria and completely outfit themselves for the trip.

The skis and snowboards are loaded into the waiting Grey Goose luxury bus that takes the students and Tregenza to Yawgoo Valley in Exeter, about a 20-minute ride. Eighth-graders get on the bus first, giving them the coveted seats in the rear of the bus. Kids on the waiting list, as well as parents, siblings and chaperones, arrive at the ski area on their own. Tregenza has no trouble finding five chaperones each week because they receive a free ticket to ski.

“I have also found that siblings and parents wanted to ski,” Tregenza said. “Over the years, people have been added to the emails. I think my highest number was 88 Jamestowners.”

While the bus is unloading at Yawgoo, she goes inside to get the lift tickets.

Tregenza has developed a system over her nine years.

“Anyone getting rentals gets off the bus first so that they can get their equipment and start skiing,” she said. “The lesson kids also get off first so that they can meet their instructors and begin their lessons right away. The rest of the kids grab their tickets, grab their gear, and they’re usually out skiing by about 3:15 p.m.”

And they continue skiing until about 6:30 at night.

When the ski club was first started, lessons weren’t offered. Tregenza’s husband and other volunteers led the instructions. She soon learned, however, that lessons had to be offered since a number of students had never skied before. In fact, some children of military families had never even seen snow before. For safety reasons, it became mandatory for all beginners to take at least three lessons. Once their training is complete, beginners ski with a chaperone until they’re comfortable on their own.

The discounted tickets are a primary reason there is so much interest in the club. Tregenza says running the club takes some organization skills since there are different tickets for different students.

“I have the numbers exactly right so that each ticket matches up to the person skiing,” Tregenza said.

She has to have the information two days early so she can let Yawgoo know who is renting, who needs lessons, or who needs just a regular lift ticket.

The tickets are nonrefundable, she says. Any time a club member can’t make it, the reservation is canceled and their money is placed in a scholarship fund. It allows students from families who can’t afford the program to participate. Members of the club pay the exact rate for the bus and lift ticket for six weeks, with no charges added on. This year’s fee was $169, but lessons and rentals are extra. The club is fully supported by the fees. Tregenza and the chaperones are volunteers, and all payments are handled through the school department.

Tregenza addresses the group before each season, pointing out that skiing is a privilege. Not many schools in Rhode Island offer a ski club, and she stresses the students are representing their town and their school. With that comes responsibility to themselves and to other skiers, she says.

“We’re not necessarily a team, it’s not a team sport, but I ask them to treat it as a team.”

Tregenza said there have been injuries, but that it’s “part of the environment.” One of the most common injuries is broken arms among snowboarders.

Tregenza’s tenure with the ski club got off to a rather inauspicious start. On the first trip she took with the students, an eighthgrader decided to leave the ski area with an older sibling’s friend who had a car. They went to get some food without telling anyone, and when it was time to count the students for the trip back, there was one missing. After waiting for some time, the student returned. Thankfully that was the only time she has dealt with a missing skier.

Over her nine years, Tregneza has noticed one whopping change: the ratio of skiers to snowboarders. When she started, 80 percent of the participants were skiers. Nowadays, that percentage has completely reversed. About eight of every 10 kids snowboard.

Tregenza would like to find someone else to run the ski club. Anyone interested can call her at Island Realty.

“I’m more than happy next year to have them shadow me so that I can teach them the ropes,” Tregenza said. “It’s so fun and inspiring to watch these kids conquer something that’s really hard for them.”

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