Mt. Hood Meadows was honored to host 23 middle school students from Tsuruta, Japan, last Thursday, who were visiting as part of the Tsuruta-Hood River Sister City cultural exchange program. The students took to the slopes for some great spring skiing, receiving lessons from our instructional team, and getting outfitted by our rental center team. The day was capped off with lunch in The Schuss.
The Tsuruta-Hood River Sister City program has been going on for over 40 years, connecting students and community members in the two mountain towns. While the students were new to Meadows this year, this was not the first time Meadows has welcomed Tsuruta schoolkids.
"Our relationship with the Tsuruta Sister City exchange program goes far back," noted Heidi Logosz, Meadows' sustainability manager, who helped usher the group around the resort on Thursday. "We have been hosting the students for a day of learning to ski for decades. It is a way to welcome the students to our community and let them enjoy an aspect of life in the Hood River Valley."
Meadows was just one of the many stops on the 10-day trip for the Tsuruta kids, who also spent time visiting Hood River Valley schools, taking in a Portland Trail Blazer basketball game, roller skating, shopping at Clackamas Town Center, and paying tribute to Japanese elders in Idlewilde Cemetery in Hood River.
"It's about bringing cultures together and making the world feel a little bit smaller," explained Ben Stenn, who sits on the program's board, and is also the chef and managing partner at Celilo Restaurant and Bar in Hood River. "That's kind of an important thing today."
Mt. Hood Meadows was a highlight of the trip, as skiing is exceedingly popular in Japan. With a mix of skill levels, some students received instruction at the Ballroom Carpet, while others ventured up to Vista Express, but the students had a great time no matter where they were on the mountain.
"We have had such an excellent welcome from Meadows, and we have been really well-provisioned. There are a lot of instructors," Stenn said of the group's experience. "My Japanese language skills aren't great, but a smile is the international symbol for, 'It's going great,' so I'm going to give it two thumbs up, all-around."