Lakeland Hills YMCA Announces Partnership with Mountain Creek

Kids can conquer the slopes this winter while conquering their fears

MORRIS COUNTY — Kids can conquer the slopes this winter while conquering their fears in an exclusive partnership with Lakeland Hills Family YMCA, Mountain Creek Resort, Big Snow, and the Mental Health Association. Students in grades 3-8 will immerse themselves in this 3-month, 8-session experience. While learning how to shred the slopes, they will also learn lifelong social and emotional skills.

This inclusive program is called “GRIT ‘n Snow” with “GRIT” an acronym for Growing Resiliency In Time. It kicks off as children learn how to snowboard or ski with Mountain Creek pros using Burton® gear in the Ys main gymnasium before heading to the mountain to learn about the snow. Sessions begin on Thursday, December 8, for five weeks and include one hour in the gym with Mountain Creek pros learning snowboarding, then one hour in a classroom setting, focusing on one of the mental components of GRIT: Resilience, Empathy, Friendship, Communication, and Confidence. Then it’s three Saturday trips to the slopes at Mountain Creek. The last day at Mountain Creek culminates with a fun family dinner, where the participants and their families join the Mountain Creek team to celebrate the skills, both on and off the slopes, that they learned through the GRIT experience.

This innovative program is open to both Y members and non-members, and 10% of the available slots will be given to students needing financial assistance. The cost of the program includes all equipment, instruction, and transportation to Mountain Creek. With generous funding from Mountain Creek, Mental Health Association, and Peapack-Gladstone Bank, this program is being made available to as many students as possible within its limited enrollment.

Each session at Lakeland Hills Family YMCA consists of two hours, with one hour focusing on an adventure curriculum of skills-based training with the professionals from Mountain Creek, and the other one hour on facilitated activities and conversations, including role-playing, social-media posts, etc. Addressing the mental-health component of this program is just as important, if not more so, than the snowboard/ski skills each participant will learn. With one in six U.S. youth aged 6-17 reporting a mental-health disorder each year, the partnership with Mental Health Association is vital. As some of the common youth mental-health challenges are anxiety, depression, eating disorders, substance abuse, and trauma experience, a child’s usual way of thinking, feeling, and acting interferes with daily life. This is what makes this program so unique: It consistently engages youth in coping strategies, relationship building, friendships, fostering connections, etc.

Another unique aspect of this initiative with Lakeland Hills YMCA, Mountain Creek, and Mental Health Association is the inclusion of those with mental or physical abilities. One of Lakeland Hills’s young volunteers is an individual named Packey, who has autism and is a snowboard whiz. Packey will be helping students with the adventure curriculum, thus proving that individuals with disabilities or who need adaptive equipment can and should be active participants.

Lakeland Hills Family YMCAs Youth Resiliency Series began just last month in partnership with the Mental Health Association and Team De-Stig of the Morris County Chamber of Commerce. A mental-wellness initiative was highlighted with a painting party where local students painted one of the highly visible picnic tables bright yellow, the symbol of optimism and hope. There was also a ribbon-cutting ceremony of the symbolism of the yellow table – a place where children and adults may sit, gather their thoughts, find friendship, or simply have a conversation. It is a judgment-free space for individuals to come together to ask for help or offer support. The second part of the Youth Resiliency Series was Sunday, November 13, at the Youth Mental Health Superhero 5K. This date is also known as World Kindness Day. With over 120 participants running or walking on a cold and windy morning, the chilly weather did not damper the spirits of the “superheroes” wearing their Mental Health Association logoed capes or showing support for the program. The impact of the Youth Resiliency Series cannot be underestimated. The comprehensive curriculum educates both kids and parents about how to identify mental health warning signs, what steps to take for yourself or someone close to you who is suffering, how to arm yourself with effective mental-health resources, and how to build resilience in small and big ways. Data shows that adventure-based curriculums have the capacity to significantly increase a person’s sense of accomplishment, self-efficacy, self-esteem, self-confidence, self-trust, and overall personal growth. The participants in this program will be pre-and-post-tested on these target impacts.

Lastly, there will be a strong focus in this program on connection. Groups will be matched by age and will remain consistent throughout the three-month program. This encourages bonds and trust to be built within the group. Peers will depend on one another for physical, emotional, and moral support and will be encouraged to look out not only for themselves but for others as well.

Another key component of GRIT is reenergizing the connection between parent and child. Time, stress, age, and communication can all have a negative impact on a parent and child bond. When speaking to the community during the planning process of this initiative, it was noted that parents of middle school-aged kids find it difficult to find activities where they can truly connect with their children. Snowboarding and skiing are activities that invite all ages and allow both parent and child to experience learning and cheering each other on together.

Be sure to have your kids check out a snow day at Mountain Creek Resort: (1) Long Live The Snow Day – YouTube.

Need more info? Contact Lakeland Hills Family YMCA, Kim Kostrowski, at or call Kim at (973) 507-7034. Ready to register? Program Search ( For more than 100 years, Lakeland Hills Family YMCA Y has been the leading community organization serving thousands of people, with its focus on Healthy Living, Youth Development, and Social Responsibility. For more information on Lakeland Hills Family YMCA, please visit their website at or email Rosemary Linder Day at No one serves the community as powerfully as the Y does every day.