Hitting the books, and the Nordic track

Red Sandstone Elementary School students skate on the Nordic track set up outside of the school. While Wednesday and Thursday were the culminating events, students will continue to use the track at the school while weather permits.
Special to the Daily

VAIL — Staying after school doesn’t sound fun, unless you’re part of Youth Power 365’s Pwr Hrs program at local schools.

At Red Sandstone Elementary School, 33 second- through fifth-graders are part of the academic enrichment program in its first year at the school. Students stay after school a few days a week and further their literary, math and other skills. That’s the academic part.

“If we’re going to have kids stay after school to build academics, we need to throw in an enrichment component,” said Laurine Megna-Davis, reading and library specialist at Red Sandstone.

That’s where the Vail Recreation District and Ski & Snowboard Club Vail come in with the fun part. Dan Weiland, Ski & Snowboard Club Vail’s Nordic program director, helped get new Nordic equipment for each of the students, and the Vail Recreation District provides and maintains a field for some of the kids’ first experience on skis.

“This is a brain child of Dan’s for a long time,” Megna-Davis said. “He’s had this vision of wanting to bring Nordic skiing to a segment of the population that otherwise wouldn’t be exposed.”

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Red Sandstone offered three Pwr Hrs sessions this school year, each being a seven-week program. Much more than a “homework club,” the program helps kids be social in an ever growing world of technology.

“This can be a hard place, particularly if you’re a kid and you don’t really like winter,” said Chad Young, of the recreation district and one of the two Nordic coaches for Red Sandstone’s Pwr Hrs. “So to get out there and have a lot of fun with winter, it makes a big difference.”

Vail Recreation District staff went above and beyond when creating a place for the students to Nordic ski. Instead of just the track around a field, they groomed the middle to make room to play everything from sharks and minnows to soccer.

“It’s fun. It’s a chance where I get to be a kid again,” said Christian Kloser, of Ski & Snowboard Club Vail and the second Nordic coach of the program. “They know how to have fun, they don’t know how to Nordic ski completely, but we try to incorporate both. It’s really fun to see the improvement.”

On the first day, the two coaches took the young Nordic enthusiasts to a small hill, where “some of the kids are crawling up the hill and some of the kids are slipping,” Young said. “They just look like gerbils on a wheel — going nowhere.”

At the culmination of the final Pwr Hrs session of the season on Wednesday and Thursday, the students completed an obstacle course, where that hill from day 1 was the easiest part.

“It’s great to have kids that stick with the program,” Kloser said, “but regardless, giving them, this experience at this age is something you can’t really get other places. It gets them out on skis, which you want to be able to do when you live in an area like this.”

Reporter Ross Leonhart can be reached at 970-748-2915 and Follow him on Instagram at colorado_livin_on_the_hill.

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