After the Whistle: End of an era for Bottineau skiing community

For the last 20 years, Gale Wondrasek has given hundreds of third graders the chance to try something they may not have gotten to try: skiing! “

“My happiest moments are on these hills,” said Gale Wondrasek, ski instructor.

We’re going to go around to the left. Step and ski.

Wondrasek is a full-time history teacher at Dunseith Public Schools.

She became a volunteer ski instructor at Bottineau Winter Park when she was 43.

“When I was a phy ed teacher, there was a big push 20 years ago to teach kids life-long phy ed. And that’s why we did this. So they can ski when they’re my age and older,” Wondrasek.

The 63-year-old says she’s taught more than 1,100 kids how to ski. From the newbies, to kids who have done it before.

“When you have a kid that’s really scared and later on is like, ‘Woah! This was really great!’” Wondrasek said.

“The funnest day I’ve had in a while!” said Gabriel Lafromboise, third-grader.

“I got to go on a bigger hill and it was more fun!” said Kalli Knutson, third-grader.

“What’s been your favorite part?”

“Um, just skiing down the bunny hill,” said Kate Seykora, third-grader.

“She’s pretty nice and she teaches us well,” said Lafromboise.

Wondrasek says she couldn’t have done it without the help of the older kids who come back and help mentor.

“I enjoy teaching the kids how to ski and just like seeing their faces after they learn,” said Sabra Peterson, ski mentor.

“It makes them feel good that you helped them learned how to and then they can go again some time,” said Lucas Getzlaff, ski mentor.

“It just makes you kind of feel good and then maybe they’ll go on and keep skiing,” said Peyton Getzlaff, ski mentor.

Including some help from her son, who’s a level one alpine ski instructor now.

“The nervousness. We have a lot of little kids who come up here and they’ve never done it before. It’s a big deal putting on boots for the first time and going out on the snow and having these slippery things attached to our feet. So, I think fear is most of the thing, so we as mentors, we just try and show much fun you can have and they get a real thrill out of it,” said Sean Brandt, Gale’s son.

And that’s why Wondrasek has continued to come back year after year.

“It’s the kids. It’s a great day and this is a day they’ll always remember. They’ll tell me, ‘That was our best day of third grade!’” Wondrasek said.

Wondrasek expects this to be her last winter teaching on the slopes.

“I’m going to miss the energy that she brings to it and just having the kids come up here and how excited they are for it,” said Peterson.

She hopes someone takes over the program and continues to give kids this opportunity.

“Keep on skiing,” Wondrasek said.

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