The Ghana Ski Team Visits Montana
On March 28, 1999 two Ghanaian brothers, Samuel and Christopher Addo touched snow ("frozen ice milk" as they called it) for their first time at Bridger Bowl ski area outside Bozeman. The two brothers flew from their home in Accra, a city of around 1,000,000 people on the coast of Ghana, to Bozeman for a two-week stay in Montana. Can you believe that more people live in the city of Accra than in the entire state of Montana? Anyway, Samuel, eighteen years old and Christopher, only sixteen, had a more interesting adventure than most on the way to their first day on skis.
Two years ago, while walking the dusty road to school, the brothers found a Bridger Bowl brochure lying on the ground. It's anyone's guess how that brochure ever ended up over there. But it's a good thing that Chris loves to read anything he gets his hands on. Though they had seen snow only on the "telly" (TV), Samuel and Christopher decided to write for more information about Bridger Bowl. Doug Wales, an employee of Bridger, answered their letter and over the next couple of years Doug and the boys became friends. They even exchanged gifts. Doug sent a rodeo belt buckle to Accra while Sam and Chris sent back a Djembe (jem-bay); a large hourglass-shaped drum popular in West Africa.
Ghana is a tropical African nation near the equator. A cold day in Accra is eighty degrees Fahrenheit. (The boys didn't take off their coats much during their stay in Montana.) You might want to check out a map to see just where Ghana is. Now, most Ghanaian children probably can't afford a ski vacation to the United States. It takes around 2,500 Ghanian cedi just to equal one U.S. Dollar. But these kids were in luck. Doug Wales made sure that everyone in Bozeman knew about the Addos and together with people from the town, including local school children, he raised enough cedi to bring the "Ghana Ski Team" to Bridger Bowl.
First, the Addos brothers had to receive permission to leave Ghana and to enter the United States. Doug asked the offices of Congressman Rick Hill and Senators Max Baucus and Conrad Burns to write letters of support to the Ghanaian Consulate. Next, the brothers spent two days waiting in line just to get an interview with a Consular. (A Consular is a government official who works with foreign travelers.) The boys didn't find out until two days before their plane left whether or not they would be able to fly into Montana. Imagine if you had to spend three days waiting for permission anytime you wanted to go skiing. At least the lift lines wouldn't get so long.
Chris had never left Ghana before and Sam had never left West Africa. After spending a night in New York City where Doug warned them "not to leave their hotel room," the brothers flew into Gallatin Field outside Bozeman. Doug drove out and picked them up. After waiting for a while at the turnstyle to get their luggage, Doug realized that the boys hadn't brought anything with them but the small bags over their shoulders. "I was really amazed [at] how little they traveled with that evening when Sam emptied out ten different traditional garments from his little bag as gifts to me and my family and friends," Doug said later.
Fortunately, Doug had collected ski gear and clothing from his closet, his friends, and the Bridger Bowl lost and found box. "They walked out of the shops in their big, beefy ski boots much like I imagined the first man walking on the moon," said Doug. I'll bet they sort of felt like they were walking on the moon too. When they finally made it to the slopes, Sam was surprised to learn that skis don't have wheels on them. Skis really are amazing when you stop to think about it. Science at its very best. Two hours after landing in Montana, Sam and Chris were riding the rope-tow and taking a lesson from 22 year-old ski instructor Andy Geldon. The boys quickly became local celebrities, smiling and taking pictures with new friends. After all, it's not every day that people fly across the Atlantic Ocean to ski at Bridger Bowl.
The boys were determined to become skiers. Within five days of first seeing "frozen ice milk" they were standing atop Pierre's Knob, ready to tackle some real turns. It snowed two feet during the Addos stay at Bridger. One day, Doug and a photographer were supposed to meet the boys at the bottom of a ski lift. Chris was waiting there but Sam was long gone. The snow was just "toooo goooood," he explained later. At least they learned the first lesson of skiing- no friends on powder days!
Before returning home, the brothers met Montana former Governor Marc Racicot, visited some local schools, went to the theater, and toured Yellowstone National Park. We are all glad that Samuel and Christopher could visit with a few folks here in Montana. You just never know which dream might come true.