International students spend ski weekend at Copper Mountain |

International students spend ski weekend at Copper Mountain

Summit Daily/Caddie NathFrom the left, Ed Hoglund, Thomas Kocken and Arthur Braga took part in Rocky Mountain Rotary Youth Exchange ski weekend at Copper Mountain.

COPPER MOUNTAIN – When 18-year-old Esteban Simon moved to Colorado from Peru, he’d never tried skiing before.

“We don’t have as much snow as you do here,” Simon said of the mountains back home. “And we don’t have skiing because the snow is not right for that.”

But Saturday, after only six days on the slopes since his arrival in Colorado in August, he tried his first blue run with a guide and some friends during the Rocky Mountain Rotary Youth Exchange ski weekend at Copper Mountain.

This year, District 5450, which includes Summit County Rotary Club, is hosting 24 students from 21 countries through the organization’s international youth exchange program. This weekend, most of those students came together at Copper for what is by far the most fun of their four retreat weekends over the course of their year-long stay in the U.S.

The international students in the program, who are spending the year with host families all over Colorado, arrived in Summit County on Friday for a weekend of skiing, snowboarding, activities and time together.

“Our goal is to get the students together,” said Kimberly Armitage, the district chair for rotary youth exchange. “The whole idea of youth exchange is to help to create world peace, ultimately, (by) putting all different countries together to get rid of the stereotypes. Youth exchange helps by these students learning about their different countries.”

The students in District 5450’s program spend their year at different high schools with different families in Denver, Boulder, Jefferson and Summit counties and other parts of the state, but four weekends a year they get away together to get to know one another and build friendships.

Thomas Kocken, an 18 year old, from the Netherlands said making friends within the program is easy to do.

“We’re all really good friends because we have something in common,” Kocken said. “We’re all having the same experience.”

Kocken spent the weekend learning to snowboard.

Students stayed with temporary host families in Summit County this weekend. When they weren’t on the slopes, they went to see the snow sculptors at work in Breckenridge, decorated T-shirts, swam in the pool at Mountainside Clubhouse and enjoyed a dinner together, catered by Copper Mountain. Copper also provided the kids’ lift passes.

Summit High School generally hosts two exchange students through the Rotary program.

Rotary District 5450 also sends local students abroad to 34 other countries every year. This year 26 students from Colorado are abroad through the exchange program, three from Summit County.

Those interested in getting involved with the Rotary Youth Exchange Program either by enrolling their student or becoming a host family should contact Jim Brooks at (970) 453-2264 or apply on the program website at

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