Alpinist, author Eric Alexander launches valley’s newest Nordic program
Special to the Daily
EDWARDS — Alpinist and author Eric Alexander smiled in the afternoon sun and gently called out instructions to an aspiring Nordic athlete in his new program.
“Taylor, try and skate with your right and glide with your left,” Eric told an attendee, as he as he glided uphill effortlessly at the Arrowhead golf course.
People around the Vail Valley know the Alexander family for Amy’s 20-plus years teaching elementary school and Eric’s summit of Mount Everest. He guided his blind friend Erik Weihenmayer to the 29,035-foot summit.
Eric’s book about it, “The Summit: Faith Beyond Everest’s Death Zone,” makes one feel what it’s like to summit Everest with the largest team in history, while leading the first blind mountaineer to the top of the world. Along with incredible success, the reader will know what it’s like to fail miserably and understand that failure is needed to give success a little perspective. The reader will also know what it’s like to live every day, because the book explains how death feels.
“I have given hundreds of speeches, talks and lectures and more times than I can count I have been asked, ‘Can I buy your book?’” Eric said.
Yes you can.
Life and loves
Teaching kids to cross-country ski at Arrowhead is not a matter of life and death, but love.
Eric and Amy love teaching and climbing, but they love their community more, they said. That’s why they started their own after-school Nordic program for kids in third through eighth grade.
The program is free, but the kids are responsible for their own gear.
It’s open to Vail Christian Academy students and homeschoolers.
Ski until the snow is gone
The Alexanders’ Nordic program began in January and will run until the snow is gone. “This is our inaugural year,” Amy said. “We wanted our own kids to get excited about this sport. Then we thought maybe their friends would join in, too.”
The program’s first year of the program is noncompetitive so the kids can get a feeling for both types of Nordic skiing: skate ski and traditional.
“We love Nordic skiing. It’s so fun,” said the Alexander’s twin girls, fourth-graders Caris and Ary, “People always crash and it’s really funny to watch.”
Winter snow sports have been an integral part of the Alexanders’ relationship since the beginning. Eric’s love for the mountains grew from being raised in the Colorado Rockies where he started climbing mountains in his teens. He has since climbed six of the Seven Summits — the highest peaks on the seven continents — and led expeditions around the world.
Through his organization Higher Summits, Eric speaks all over the country, sharing inspirational stories of climbs and overcoming fears. He also teaches disabled skiers locally and directs Adventures Beyond Limits, an organization that educates and encourages youth with disabilities in the outdoors.
Amy was also born in the Rocky Mountains as a fifth-generation Coloradan and has been skiing for more than 45 years.
Mountaineering, like many sports, can instill confidence and dedication in those who fight through pain and suffering.
At the start of the hour-long program the 23 kids were split into groups, but effectively hit the ground running between the three different instructors. Some struggled through the loops of plowed tracks on the Arrowhead golf course. Some seemingly sprinted for the whole hour.
Girls outnumber boys, which is normally not the case in the male-dominated sport.
“It’s just a great option of a sport to participate in other than downhill skiing. And it’s a sport that you can continue doing your whole life,” Eric said with a big grin. “Maybe they’ll start racing next year.”
Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935 and firstname.lastname@example.org.
The graduates of Vail Mountain School’s class of 2019 will be off to far-flung destinations next fall, set to enter college in one of 16 different states or explore the world on a gap year. One grad is even attending college in Canada.