As announced in our e-bulletin, this past week was the first of the winter for our Catamount Ski Cubs program! This is the seventh year of the program, which aims to get kids in the greater Burlington area out on snow for six consecutive weeks. The overall goal isn’t to become the fastest possible nordic skier — although, judging from some of the speeds that we hit on downhills this past week, that might be a side benefit — but instead to show participants what it’s like to be outside in Vermont in the winter, and how joyful it can be to spend an hour on skis. This isn’t a race program; it’s a FUN program!
On Tuesday I headed out for a big day of nordic with the Ski Cubs, starting with a morning at Shelburne Community School, where clear skies and brisk winds encouraged some fast skiing for the first day. We warmed up with the basics, including boot and binding usage (“No Snow in the Toe!!”), athletic stance, and weight transfer. Most participants stuck close to the main field, while some advanced skiers whizzed around the perimeter. We had many first-timers, several alpine skiers and snowboarders, a handful of Bill Koch League enthusiasts, and even a couple skiers waxing their own boards as we prepared to go outside!
When I told the students that the first day was going to be our “no-poles practice day,” there were several expressions of disbelief and at least one audible “What!?!” But despite the groans and lamentations, everyone agreed that going no-poles was not only safer, but also a great way to practice the basics of skiing. Whether you’re new to the sport or a top racer, no-poles practice and drills will no doubt make you stronger!
In the afternoon, I took our stock of ski equipment up to Huntington for the first afternoon Ski Cubs session at Brewster-Pierce Elementary School. Located just off of Camel’s Hump Road and with amazing views of the iconic peak, Brewster-Pierce is an obvious spot for a ski program. Not only is the Catamount Trail just a stone’s throw up the hill, but many teachers at the school are nordic skiers themselves. In the four years that Ski Cubs has operated at Brewster-Pierce, it’s become part of the school’s outdoor culture. Third- and fourth-graders both participate, meaning that we had many returning skiers along with a full group of new ones.
Activities at Brewster-Pierce included the same set of basic drills as at Shelburne along with a couple fun games, including an obstacle course to improve ski agility and a follow-the-leader game. There were a couple crashes, skis crossed, gloves dropped, and the usual casualties — but also smiles, laughs, and some really fast kicking and gliding.
On Saturday, after many months of planning, preparation, participant recruitment, and curriculum development, we fired up the Ski Cubs program at Bolton Valley! At 9am sharp, a long line of kids came off the bus from Burlington and Winooski and made their way into the nordic center to get fitted for boots! Along with the help of dedicated volunteers, who come out every year to help teach participants the nordic basics, the group of 25 had an awesome first day out on the snow, starting with some laps around the nordic practice area to get the basics of flat skiing and up-and-down technique. We had a technique-based relay race to cap off before moving on to our trail ski out the Broadway Trail to the beautifully-groomed Pond Loop. With lessening winds, temperatures in the high 20s, and well-consolidated snow underfoot, I couldn’t have chosen better weather!
By the end of our three-hour session, I could see some tired and happy smiles appearing on skiers’ faces. We all headed inside for a snack and debrief with the promise of more trail-skiing and excellent inter-skier relay competition coming next week.
Thanks to our all-important volunteers, our program partners, the Bolton Valley nordic staff — and of course the Norse god of snow, Ullr — for an amazing first week of Ski Cubs 2018! Let’s hope for many more!