Gardiner Ski Club is a communal effort

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Zander Opperman, 15, of Gardiner, competes in the Yellowstone Rendezvous Race in West Yellowstone, March 3. He also coaches and competes locally in several biathlons.

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Participants, including many Park County residents, ski from the starting line March 3 in West Yellowstone at the Yellowstone Rendezvous Race.

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The Gardiner ski team includes, from left, Baylor Arterburn, 13, Graham Stacy, 13, Justin Burke, 15, Preston Roberts, 12, Claire Murphy, 8, and Garrett Klein, 9.

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Parents attend to support the student athletes skiing in the Yellowstone Rendezvous Race in West Yellowstone, March 3. From left: Wendi Burke, Jerry Bartlett, Jim Roberts, Joni Roberts, Ron Burke, and Matilda Roberts (front).

The motto is “Have fun, go fast.” That’s how the Gardiner Ski Club operates and, with the community support, students learn the sport of skiing.

“The goal is to get kids out on skis,” said Bianca Klein, team coordinator and coach of the Classic Skiers, which ranges from age 5 to 8. “I feel real strongly that skiing is a lifelong sport and the earlier you get them out, the better. This is really a community sport that brings together quite a few people. Honestly, we couldn’t do it without the community support.”

The team had 15 members this season, which were split between three groups: the Classic Skiers, the Skate Crew and the Nords. After the Classic’s 5-8 range, the Skate Crew and Nords’ ages are 8-10 and 10 and up, respectively. With a wide range of ages and skill levels along with not being a sanctioned team, the team’s success is based on individual improvement.

“I think it’s probably personal with each athlete,” Klein said. “For instance, my daughter couldn’t even put her skis on at the beginning of the season. Now she’s putting on her skis and going downhill by herself. To me, that’s a huge success. Other kids have never once put on a pair of skate skis and they’re super fast and confident in their skills now. It’s probably more of an individual success, not necessarily a team success. We’re just happy to get the kids out there really.”

The team practices and competes at multiple places around the area, with B Bar Ranch being one of the main practice trails it uses.

The team relies on the community for more than just providing pupils. When it comes to funding, equipment to use and instructors to do the teaching, the team’s meager funding would not be able to provide what’s necessary to build a cohesive club. That’s where the community comes in.

“This is a scrappy community team,” Klein laughed. “We put word out on Facebook on a message group that we are indeed forming a team this year and that we needed coaches. Anyone with experience or who loved this sport contacted me. We’ve also had quite a few donations of different gear when I put the call out last year. Some of the local community businesses have chipped in either free rentals or they offered instruction with their coaches.”

Business that donated include: Bombardier Salutations Group, Xanterra Parks & Resorts, B Bar Ranch and Coach Kelly Kjorlien of Bridger Biathlon Club.

The club wrapped up its season as winter transitions to spring, with multiple skiers making big improvements. The most notable results came from Zander Opperman, a 15-year-old from Gardiner who placed high in several biathlons.

The club has been working on either joining forces with a nonprofit or starting its own so funding isn’t as much of an issue, but the team’s “Have fun, go fast” mission statement, along with community support, insures the club’s continued presence.

Photos courtesy of

Bianca J Klein

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