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Why Skiing?
October 19, 2021
Hunter Lacey

At the 2021 BSF Oktoberfest, BSF Board President Hunter Lacey gave a speech that got to the heart of “Why BSF?” Below is an edited excerpt from that speech. Hunter not only volunteers his time on the BSF Board of Directors, but he also spends much of his free time shoveling snow and helping the Freestyle team build jumps and courses.

by Hunter Lacey

I’m often asked why I put in the time that I do with Bridger Ski Foundation.  If you ride the Bridger lift much, you’ve probably seen me with a shovel in my hand.  I think most folks are expecting to hear me say that I do it for the kids or some other profoundly altruistic reason.  The truth is,  I’m just a ski bum.  I pretty much jump at any opportunity to go skiing even if it means moving piles of snow from one side of Bronco to the other.  

But digging deeper – the reason I love being up on the mountain enough that even shoveling snow is enjoyable is because I was exposed to skiing the right way at the right time in my life.  I didn’t know it at the time, but looking back, skiing was certainly a very positive influence in my life.  

Like many kids, I faced some challenges.  Mine were at home.  I moved out of my house near the beginning of my junior year of high school and after a few weeks of couch surfing, I finally settled into a cozy house near Cooper park with a few college guys – most of them older brothers of my friends from school.  It was exactly as you’re picturing – nightly parties, zero parental guidance and easy access to poor choices.  But I worked full time, paid my own rent, stayed in school, excused my own absences (and got detention when I forgot) and somehow saved enough money for my Bridger pass and to travel to freestyle competitions.   

Maybe mine’s an extreme case, but even kids with more stable families don’t have it easy.  I think it’s probably more true today than ever before.  How my kids interact socially is so different from my childhood.  In this dynamic and constantly evolving social experiment we’re living in right now, it can be hard and confusing to “parent.”  How do we allow our kids the latitude they need to grow, while protecting them from unseen dangers?  Kids should have choices on how they engage with their world, but without guidance, they won’t always choose the most wholesome of activities.  

For me, I grew up skiing alongside BSF Freestyle legends like Mike Papke and Tony Gilpin –– and by skiing alongside them, I really mean skiing a fair bit behind them, trying as hard as I could not to get ditched and have to ride the lift single.  It was tough love, but it gave me goals.

Those guys, along with the other BSF icons like Michael Leslie, Curtis Crazy Legs Johnson, Davin McLaughlin, Mickey Price and the rest of the crew couldn’t help but infect those of us around them with their passion for the sport of freestyle skiing.  

I was never actually enrolled in a BSF program.  In the late 80’s and 90’s, the landscape was a little different.  Freestyle was new and much less organized.  Plus, I just didn’t have the money. 

A handful of us in similar circumstances rat-packed along with the BSF team. We received coaching, access to the training venue and basically most of what the team got.  The BSF community was inclusive, supportive and welcomed me even though I never paid a dime.  There’s been incredible growth in our community and BSF looks much different today than it did in the 80’s, but one thing that hasn’t changed is its culture of inclusivity.  Everyone in the organization truly wants to share their love of skiing.

Now, I never made it very far in freestyle skiing.  A win to me was making it over the finish line.  I was late to the sport, uncoordinated in the air, and frankly just not that good.  But the passion to ski and compete pushed me to finish high school and make wholesome choices – most of the time. 

So here we are full circle and back to the original question of why I donate the time I do.  Quite simply because someone donated their time to share their love of skiing with me and it was profound enough to encourage me to overcome my obstacles. 

Now I’m paying it forward to the next generation and enjoying every minute of it.  I genuinely cherish the time I spend at Bridger Bowl and with the  BSF Freestyle team.  There’s truly nothing more fulfilling than seeing a kid land his first backflip, or see the light bulb click when they start to understand the mechanics of a proper mogul turn.  

There are lots of great sports.  All of them teach teamwork, dedication and coping with disappointment.  A handful are also lifetime activities that the whole family can share.  But only one sport that I know of is all of that, combined with an expansive outdoor venue where kids can test their independence and push their individual boundaries in a safe environment – that’s skiing.

Our mission statement at Bridger Ski Foundation focuses on breaking down the barriers of entry to the wonderful sport of skiing.  We depend on outstanding leadership, great coaches, energetic volunteers and, of course, financial donations.  I ask you all, please – help us break down these barriers by picking one or more of those areas and giving as much as you can.  I can personally attest to the fact that it makes a difference.

Hunter Lacey is president of the Bridger Ski Foundation Board of Directors, father to two young BSF skiers, and owner of Bar 3 BBQ and Bar 3 Brewing in Belgrade.