Different ski powers-that-be know the importance of getting kids to ski. Mom and Dad and the rest of the family typically aren't far behind, if the kids are on the slopes.  It helps the skiing economy, while creating healthier kids and families.

Many ski organizations offer free opportunities for different ages of kids. Fifth graders in Utah can ski or ride for free for three days at all 13 of Ski Utah's participating resorts. That's 39 days of fun on the snow. There is a $25 processing fee, and an adult must accompany the child. There also are deals on equipment rentals, lift tickets, and other activities for the passport kids and their families. A few of the major resorts have some blackout dates during high season. 

Utah also offers a 6th grade passport, which is about the same as above, but with one day free at each participating Utah resort. The processing fee is $20. On average, 4,000 kids participate in the Ski Utah Passport program each year.

"Fifth graders are at an age where they are interested in trying new things and will ultimately begin making recreational choices that will last a lifetime. The Ski Utah Passport and SnowPass programs make it easy and affordable for kids to try the different resorts in Utah " says Raelene Davis with Ski Utah.  

Visit the Ski Utah Web site to register or get more information. The program is designed for Utah kids; however out-of-state visitors will not be turned away.

Colorado has been offering the same deals to 5th graders, through Colorado Ski Country USA (CSCUSA), for 12 years. Applications are sent to more than 1,200 public and private schools statewide. Information is also online at CSCUSA's Web site.  CSCUSA has introduced nearly 200,000 fifth graders to winter sports through the 5th Grade Passport program, getting them outside and active in the snow.

Colorado's 6th graders can apply for the 6th Grade Passport, which costs $99. They'll get four days on the snow at every participating Colorado resort. There are 21 Colorado resorts that participate in the program, and want your kids to come visit.

Anyone the right age can apply.  "While we don't market the programs outside of Colorado, the program is open to all families with children in the 5th and 6th grade," says  CSCUSA's Amy Thieme.

Vail Resorts offers a similar program for its four participating resorts: Vail, Beaver Creek, Breckenridge, and Keystone. When signing up for the "School of Shred" pass, the student must be present (and parents must have proper documentation) at one of the resort's ticket windows, or at the offices of the Front Range Vail Resorts, as well as selected Front Range retailers. Details are available by calling 888-215-3867.

Ski New Hampshire offers the Earn Your Turns program for 4th graders. Kids get a passport with a lift ticket or trail pass to all of Ski New Hampshire's 38-member resorts, plus a $5 voucher for a lesson. The 5th Grade Snowsports passport offers a range of lift tickets or trail passes to the same 38 resorts.

Kim Pickering, Ski New Hampshire's Program Director, says, "Last year we had 3,132 4th grade students participate and 1,163 5th graders participate from 12 states and Canada. These programs are an affordable and easy way for families to get out and enjoy skiing in NH." Information is available at the Ski New Hampshire Web site or by calling 603-745-9396. 

The WinterKids Passport in Maine is offered to families with kids in 5th, 6th or 7th grade. The passport is good for free or reduced tickets at over 50 Maine outdoor recreation areas. It includes cross country and downhill skiing, sledding, tubing, ice skating, and even a coupon to a family-oriented dog sledding area. The WinterKids Passport also offers free or discounted lessons and rentals. 

The goal of the program is to help Maine children develop lifelong habits of health, education, and physical fitness through participation in outdoor winter activity. Applications are distributed through schools and local sponsors