Getting kids interested in Nordic skiing isn’t as challenging as you might think |

Getting kids interested in Nordic skiing isn’t as challenging as you might think

Diana Lynn Rau

And they giggled…and then there were peals of laughter as one boy slid down the hill sitting on his skis. People stared from the picnic tables in front of the Nordic Center at these kids having a great time. Kids who really didn’t want to come to the free kids Nordic lessons were suddenly having fun and didn’t want to stop. We skied down slopes sitting down, kneeling on the skis, acting like a monkey, marching like a soldier or got a dog ride back up the hill. Kids steered around slalom cones racing each other, chased a soccer ball on skis, or turned each other into sharks while gliding on only one ski.

Who said you have to be serious and learn this sport school style?

These kids didn’t even realize they were learning — learning control of their skis, learning control of their bodies for balance, learning how to open up your coat when you are too hot so the sweat doesn’t freeze; or jump up and down and swing your arms when you are cold, drink when you are thirsty, and eat snacks when you are hungry. So much to learn but we can have fun doing it.

Grand Nordic now has programs available in both Granby and Fraser Elementary for kids to learn to ski through the rec programs. The East Grand Middle School again had record numbers come out for the Nordic Team. The Middle Park High School team is having some of its best results ever. This year a program was started at the Winter Park Comp Center for advanced competition athletes offering different training schedules to complement the program offered at Snow Mtn Ranch. Grand Nordic has helped provide equipment and scholarships for many of these skiers to supplement funding of grants and program fees of the schools. The success of these programs is a tribute to the parents and coaches helping at all these programs, whether they are teaching or writing or taking photographs or just driving the kids to the meets. We need the aid station volunteers for the treks and races, the bus drivers, the bakers of cookies and brownies, the ringers of bells and other noisemakers. We love our volunteers!

We teach, but we also make it fun. The attitude of the adults teaching is so crucial. We can laugh and be crazy too. We can lay on our backs and show kids how to raise their feet and skis into the air to straighten them out (when they seemed so impossibly tangled up!), and lay them neatly on the ground on the downhill side pointed across the slope so they can stand up. Try explaining that to a kid. Or can you just get down and show them! And if someone falls down, we can all go down to practice getting up again. Games like scootering on one ski teach how to commit to your weight on one ski and we have glide contests with the winner enjoying their choice of bite-sized candy. We throw or kick a soccer ball ahead and ski to it – the first one there gets to be the one to kick or thrown it again.

These kids (and adults too) use up lots of energy and most need to replenish part way through a lesson so I always keep miniature candy bars in my pack. Yes, we have healthier things available like granola bars or licorice or fruit chews. Kids march like soldiers up the hill so their heads are up and tiger paws (the pattern on the bottom of their no-wax skis) grab the snow. The monkey stance lets them go down hills secure in being lower to the ground with their legs apart, knees bent (your shock absorbers) and hands forward pointing where they want to go. All these things are really pretty silly, but they work and everyone has fun. The parents’ jaws drop when they watch their kid for the first time going all the way down a steep slope without falling, a slope even the parent was a bit afraid to tackle! And out come the cameras or phones when kids are being pulled by Duke the dog! After all, you have to learn to depend on your own balance to ski behind a dog.

Our kids learn as we teach. If we are too serious, most kids get turned off. If we are afraid to let them try, they will be afraid to try anything. If they don’t fall, they aren’t trying hard enough. We need to laugh with them, not at them. The best teachers are often a bit unorthodox, a bit crazy, but always encouraging. Both kids and adults learn the most when they are also having fun and discover that they really can do something. And they will be more likely to be outside in the sunshine, even on those colder and windier days. When your kid tells you I want to stay out and ski more, or I want to go back and do that again, please listen!

That makes for more fun for the entire family. We want our kids to ski with us so we have to be patient, understanding and encouraging. Make it social, invite friends, ski with your dog. Go to events like the Foxy Freestyle Nordic Race in Grand Lake on Saturday, Feb. 25, where there is not only a 2K kids race at 10 a.m. but a 15K freestyle Race and a 5K intermediate race open to adaptive skiers at 1030 a.m. Let the kids see the adaptive skiers in action. These people missing legs and arms amaze adults and kids alike. This is a benefit for the WP Disabled Competitive Nordic Program and all proceeds go to National Sports Center for the Disabled. And it’s family pricing at $40 per family. It replaces the old popular Grand Lake Classic so popular with families for many years. Call 970-627-808 for more information or to register.

Another family event is the Snow Mountain Ranch Stampede on Saturday and Sunday, March 11-12 with both freestyle and classic events skiing from Snow Mountain Ranch to Granby Ranch, weather permitting. Saturday the 50K Skate starts at 9 a.m., 25K Skate 9:15 a.m., 10K Skate 10 a.m.. The free 2K Kids Fun Race starts at 1 p.m. at Granby Ranch Base Lodge with a big old stuffed dog waiting for the winner: On Sunday the 50K Classic starts at 9 a.m., 25K Classic 9:15 a.m., and the 10K Classic at 10 a.m. The first 250 people to register for the 25K and 50K will receive a free Swix Event Hat. Bib pick-up times and on-site registration: Friday, March 10, from 4-6 p.m., and Saturday and Sunday from 7-8:30 a.m. in the upstairs of the Nordic Center. Stay for the delicious post-race barbecue at the Granby Ranch, included with each paid entry. Register online.

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