Skiing and snowboarding have never been big high-school sports in Southern Oregon, but that doesn't mean there aren't kids who want to compete.

Skiing and snowboarding have never been big high-school sports in Southern Oregon, but that doesn't mean there aren't kids who want to compete.

Schools don't have the money to support ski teams, but a group of parents have been helping local kids compete on the snow for years. The Medford Ski and Snowboard Education Foundation helps young skiers and snowboarders improve their skills and test themselves against other Oregon kids at places like Mount Hood and Mount Bachelor.

The nonprofit foundation supports kids from 11 high schools in Jackson and Josephine counties. (Ashland has its own program.) They train together but compete for their individual schools in local and state meets. Right now they're working toward the state meet, set for the first week in March at Mount Bachelor.

Kids at every skill level are encouraged to participate, says Cindy Broadwater, MSEF's treasurer and chief fundraising organizer.

"We take everyone from green athletes to those who compete at the highest level," Broadwater says.

Kids pay $450 to participate, and they have to meet their respective school's athletic eligibility rules to join. The foundation hires coaches (three for skiers and three for snowboarders) and arranges transportation to events.

That fee may sound steep, since kids also have to have their own equipment (several hundred dollars) and a season pass at Mount Ashland (about $250 at sale prices), but the foundation encourages them to raise the money on their own by selling holiday wreaths at $10 apiece.

Broadwater says local businesses and community members have been generous supporters when the kids come knocking on their doors, "and they have been for years."

This winter's crop includes 24 skiers and 25 boarders. Broadwater says the number of skiers has grown this year as freestyle skiing, which incorporates tricks and aerial maneuvers like those performed by snowboarders, gains popularity. Skiers also compete in traditional races against the clock — slalom and giant slalom.

The gender mix is slightly weighted toward guys (60 percent), but there are plenty of girls who want to shred, too.

Broadwater says the athletes pick up more than physical skills and the ability to do challenging stunts in the snow.

"They gain confidence in themselves as individuals," she says. "They're going to be our community leaders some day, and they need to have a way to build self-esteem."

Tax-deductible contributions to the foundation can be sent to MSEF, P.O. Box 421, Medford, OR 97501. Make checks payable to MSEF.

Bavarian Night Saturday

We're all Bavarians now — Saturday marks Mount Ashland's Bavarian Night, the annual fundraising event for the ski patrol.

Patrollers do their best to keep us from killing ourselves out there on the mountain. They mark hazards, manage avalanche conditions and haul us off the slopes when we crash and burn. This is their only fundraising event for the year. All proceeds from twilight lift tickets (3 p.m. to 9 p.m.) will go to the ski patrol.

There will be live music in the lodge performed by the Bavarian Beach Bums (that should be eclectic) and fireworks at 9 p.m. Adult twilight tickets are $23, for kids to age 17 and seniors 65 to 69 it's $17.

This is your only chance all year to ski on Saturday night. With any luck, there could be some new snow. As of Wednesday, two weather fronts were approaching and forecasters were predicting an increasing chance of snow through Friday and into Saturday.

Reach reporter Bill Kettler at 776-4492 or e-mail:bkettler@mailtribune.com