Program introduces Nordic skiing to kids who would have otherwise not tried it | VailDaily.com

Program introduces Nordic skiing to kids who would have otherwise not tried it

EAGLE COUNTY — Eagle County Schools want any kid who is interested in Nordic skiing to have the opportunity to learn.

With a van full of gear and a love of the sport, Vail local Christian Kloser has been bringing the sport to elementary schools across the county this season thanks to a partnership between the school district, Ski & Snowboard Club Vail, the Vail Valley Foundation and the Vail Recreation District.

"We started out with just one school and it's grown quite a bit," Kloser said. "Participation has tripled since starting last year."

It's an after school program, getting kids out on the snow for an hour and a half a few days per week. Most of the kids involved in the program come from a background where they would have not been otherwise introduced to the sport.

"We recognize that snowsports are an important part of our community and that all kids, regardless or their background, should have an opportunity to access those snow sports," said Eagle County Schools Superintendent Jason Glass. "Whether it be for recreation or, as we've seen often in our community, in the internationally competitive realm."

Glass said for Eagle County Schools, the decision to invest in all the equipment for the children to be able to participate was an easy choice.

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"We looked at buying Nordic skis the same way most schools would look at buying basketballs and volleyballs for their gymnasiums," he said.

FUN FIRST

If the image of Nordic skiing brings to mind endurance athletes suffering as they compete on a track, then you might not recognize Kloser's program at first.

"We play tag or capture the flag, sometimes we even play soccer on Nordic skis," Kloser said. "There's a lot of falling, but they love that part. One of the most important things we teach is how to get back up after they fall down."

On Thursday, third-grader Emiliano Quinones put on Nordic skis for the first time.

"My favorite part was the freeze tag," he said. "I had to test my speed limits and get into those positions they showed us. It was lots of fun. I had to learn to get back up after I fall."

Kloser said incorporating proper technique into the various games and activities on Nordic skis has been his main goal.

"We try to show them that it's a fun and easy way to get around on snow, but also that it is a sport with top-level people competing in it," he said. "We show there's an avenue through Ski Club Vail that they can continue to pursue if they want."

STRIDING FORWARD

The Nordic program at Ski & Snowboard Club Vail has been one of the fastest-growing programs in the club. Program founder Dan Weiland grew up Nordic skiing in the Vail Valley, before there was an official program for athletes.

"It was me going out on my own and doing it solo," he said.

When he approached Ski & Snowboard Club about starting a Nordic program, the idea was embraced and they started with a handful of kids. Now, there's more than 100 participants and their Maloit Park training facility has been certified for competition by the International Ski Federation. On Feb. 25-26, Ski & Snowboard Club Vail will host the NCAA Western Regional Nordic Championships for the second year in a row.

"The sport just continues to grow at all levels in this community," Weiland said.

In that way, Kloser's trips to Eagle County Schools have mirrored the sport's track in general in our area, with participation steadily growing.

Chad Young with the Vail Rec District said he expected the program would be popular, but he wasn't expecting numbers of nearly 80 like they now have. Young helps Kloser with the outings, joining the kids on skis.

"It's been even better than we expected," Young said.

Currently, Kloser and Young visit Red Sandstone Elementary, Homestake Peak Elementary and Brush Creek Elementary schools.

"Hopefully we'll be able to expand to even more schools," Kloser said. "We let the parents know that we provide all the gear and everything, all they have to do is sign their kids up … Some kids who have gotten really good, zooming ahead and looking for jumps and stuff. It's been fun to watch them progress and enjoy the sport."