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Idaho 4th grader visits all 20 of the Gem State’s ski resorts for school project


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NEW PLYMOUTH – Every Idaho elementary school student knows fourth grade is a seminal year.

Not only is it the grade 9 and 10-year-olds reach upper-class status, but it is also when they learn about Idaho history and complete a months-long research project. For most students, that project entails Google and poster boards.

But Henry Black, a fourth-grader from New Plymouth, decided on a different route. Instead of learning about Idaho from a book, he opted to experience it on the slopes.

Henry, with the support of his parents, crafted a plan to ski all 20 of the Gem state’s resorts, learning about their history at each stop.

As for what inspired the adventure, Henry’s mother, Becky Black, explained.

“I think there was some talk in the house about what would be a cool project,” Black said. “We brainstormed, and then we agreed on this.”

Henry initiated the project months before ski season began.

“In the fall, he wrote a letter to all the ski resorts,” Black said. “He addressed the envelopes and sent one to each one of the different ski areas.”

And then, instead of just waiting for snow, the family waited for letters.

“Every day, he would check the mail for months,” Black explained. “It was so fun. He just lived for those responses.”

Eventually, nearly all of the resorts responded enthusiastically to Henry’s plan, and many offered unique tour experiences or compensated tickets.

“The very first letter he got back was from a teeny ski hill called Bald Mountain in Pierce. They offered to give us a place to sleep and asked us to let them know when we were coming,” remembered Black. “So we actually stayed in the ski patrol lodge on the mountain that night. It was just amazing.”

Another big moment for the Black family was when Sun Valley responded with four free lift tickets.

“We were super grateful,” said Black. “It was huge for us, we couldn’t have taken the whole family to Sun Valley. It’s so expensive. So we were just really grateful.”

For Henry, the project has been nothing but a success so far.

“My favorite part is just skiing in general,” Henry said. “I have some (resorts) that are the best for different reasons — Lookout Pass and Lost Trail for the snow. They had great snow. Sun Valley and Schweitzer just had so much terrain, everything. Fresh powder, ice snow, and groomer.”

Now, Henry has just one resort left to visit — Kelly Canyon.

“Once we go to Kelly, we will have been to all 20 resorts,” explained Henry’s mother. “Three of them were closed, so we took a picture by the sign, but we’re planning on going back once they’re open.”

After a winter full of skiing, Henry plans to present his project to his classmates, many of whom have already seen him talking about his quest on the local news.

“We’re going to take it to the next level like we’ve done with everything,” Henry said of his project presentation plans. “We’re going to make a photo book and probably a PowerPoint.”

In the meantime, Henry plans to keep skiing. Even after visiting every resort in Idaho, he still has goals to accomplish. Next on the list?

“Me and my cousin have been trying to do 180s on skis,” Henry said. “We can do a 90, but we’re trying to get 180s.”

Overall, Henry’s mom summed up the whole experience in a single sentence.

“It’s been awesome.”