Five red jackets and one yellow jacket greeted Frisco Elementary students as they walked into their school gymnasium Wednesday. The students jumped up and down and pointed excitedly, especially toward the group's shortest member - Annie, an avalanche rescue dog, wearing her official vest and accompanied by her handler, Mike Daly.
"I bet you've seen these coats before," said Frisco Elementary principal Renea Hill at the beginning of her introduction.
The group, from Keystone Ski Patrol and Mountain Safety, came with a presentation about safety on the slopes as a part of Skier Safety Week. Frisco Elementary was the first school to watch the presentation, with Summit Cove Elementary next on the list. The group hopes to arrange similar performances for the rest of the county schools as well.
Community outreach and getting kids to learn about safety at an early age is "super important," said Patricia Reynolds, ski patrol supervisor at Keystone Resort.
"Skiing and riding are part of our community culture," she said. "Our grade school children are the next 'locals' on the hill. ... Whether we want to or not, those of us who live here and play here are leading by example."
Starting early is also helpful, Reynolds said. "K-5 is a great age to think of acting responsibly," especially since many of the children are already out on the slopes, whether with lessons through the ski school or just with family and friends.
After the team introduced themselves, they showed the students a short video, produced by the ski patrol and a group of 10 young skiers in the Keystone Avengers program, which includes kids from various schools throughout the county from ages 5-12.
The children in the video follow the antics of "Dangerous Dan," a skier who breaks the rules and acts in an unsafe manner. By interviewing Keystone personnel and skiing safely around the mountain, the children catch up to "Dangerous Dan" and convince him to change his ways. Throughout the video, the students watching clapped and cheered.
After the video presentation, the ski patrollers tested the kids' knowledge by having them help properly dress one of the ski patrollers. The good example ended up with a warm jacket, gloves, helmet and goggles, while the bad example stood before the crowd decked out in a chef's jacket, catcher's mitt, cheesehead hat and swim goggles. The kids laughed throughout and raised their hands to tell personal stories of playing on the slopes.
In the end, each student was given a sticker to prove that they, too, were a member of the Keystone Avengers team and pledged to practice safety when skiing and snowboarding.
"For a first go, I feel the kids were very enthusiastic and all wanted to participate," Reynolds stated in an email. "If our presentations can keep one child from being hurt while skiing or riding, it makes it all worthwhile for me."