Inspired by a story the Scouts read in Boys’ Life magazine, a troop from Florida is heading to Montana this month for a once-in-a-lifetime ski trip.
Over four days, they’ll tour Yellowstone National Park on a snowcat, work on the Snow Sports merit badge, learn about avalanche rescue from members of the ski patrol and spend two days skiing at the magnificent Big Sky Resort.
All that fun, plus a cross-country flight, must cost the Scouts of Troop 610 a fortune, right?
That’s where this story gets really interesting.
Thanks to careful planning, group discounts and troop fundraisers, each Scout will pay just $750 out of pocket. That’s still a lot of money, but it’s a fraction of what these families would spend to take a similar trip on their own.
I talked with Troop 610’s Stephanie Thomas to learn more.
It began in Boys’ Life
As 2017 came to a close, Thomas’ son Jack was reading the January 2018 issue of Boys’ Life magazine.
He flipped to Aaron Derr’s cover story, accompanied by some stunning photos from W. Garth Dowling. The story introduces readers to Scouts who went skiing at Big Sky Resort in Montana.
“Skiing is something everybody can learn how to do,” one Scout told Derr. “And once you learn, it’s really enjoyable.”
That was enough convincing. Jack proposed the trip to the troop for early 2019. That would give them a year to fundraise and plan the epic adventure.
Planning the trip
The Scouts did most of the planning. They selected the itinerary, created packing lists and led pre-trip lessons at monthly troop meetings. They did pretty much anything that didn’t involve booking something with a credit card.
That’s just the way it’s supposed to work in a youth-led troop.
It helps that the Montana Council offers its own skiing package for Scouts.
In Derr’s companion story in Scouting magazine, he uncovered how the council negotiates impossibly low rates for Scouts attending its annual Big Sky Ski Weekend.
Extending the trip
The Scouts soon realized that flying seven hours from Tampa, Fla., to Bozeman, Mont., is a lot for just two days.
“So the Scouts decided to add two extra days to the trip so that we could visit Yellowstone,” Thomas says. “None of us have ever been to Yellowstone, much less seen it in the snow.”
As the troop’s camping chair, Thomas pored over the trip details to make sure everything would be perfect. That’ll make her time on the trip more enjoyable as she sits back to watch the Scouts lead.
“They will set the pace of the trip and be responsible for checking gear and reviewing cold-weather safety, including first aid and wilderness survival in the snow before we go,” she says. “The older Scouts will be responsible for making sure we stay on task and keeping everyone focused and safe.”
Fundraising for the trip
After the schedule was set, the price emerged: $1,000 per person. Wanting to lower that out-of-pocket cost, the Scouts scheduled a series of fundraisers.
They gift-wrapped gifts for Father’s Day at Bass Pro Shops, held a garage sale, and sold holiday wreaths and mulch. Each money-earning project was done with the ski trip in mind.
“I find that Scouts are more motivated to participate in the fundraising when they know they are going to get to go on these special trips,” Thomas says.
The fundraisers were so successful that the troop was able to knock $250 off each Scout’s cost.
Saving money for the trip
Thomas and the Scouts devised some other ways to save money for their trip:
- Ask for group rates any time you’re booking tickets or travel.
- Stay at hotels or motels that include a free breakfast.
- Track plane ticket prices to buy at the cheapest moment.
- Borrow gear from other troops. (For this trip, Troop 610 is borrowing snow bibs and jackets from another troop.)
You can do it, too!
Can your troop or Venturing crew pull off a similarly awesome adventure? Absolutely.
Thomas says long-distance Scouting trips aren’t more difficult; they just require more planning.
Everyone plays a role: Scouts plan the itinerary, adults support the Scouts and parents make the financial commitment.
“Trips outside of your normal monthly camping are so rewarding, and the Scouts will remember them for a lifetime,” Thomas says. “These trips keep the older Scouts engaged and interested in Scouting and expose them to what all the world has to offer.”
Thomas says longer trips present Scouts with opportunities to test themselves.
“The Scouts learn to work together to help each other overcome these challenges,” she says. “By the end of the trip, these Scouts bond like never before.”