With solid cold and snowy conditions prevailing for the start of 2019, our Ski Cubs youth program has been off to an amazing start. Many days of bundling up in balaclavas, buffs, gloves and hats have led into wonderful kicking and gliding on snow-covered trails. There have been tumbles and floundering in powder, there have been speedy descents and hills climbed with the “duck walk,” there has been high energy and tired skiers…but most of all, we’ve had a lot of fun.
Our first day of Ski Cubs at Bolton Valley, we were blessed with a crystal-clear, sparkling day of the kind that all skiers live for — even, I think, the youngest and newest ones! Skiers returning to the program after previous seasons were immediately at home on the trails around the Bolton nordic center, while others started to get their feet under them while clipping into skis for the first time.
If you’re new to the CTA, you might ask, “What is Ski Cubs?” It’s our yearly youth learn-to-ski program that helps kids between 8 and 14 get outside on nordic skis and have fun during the snowy season. Ski Cubs is about getting as many kids out on skis as possible, and to that end, the program is free to all participants and their families. Whether they’re coming to ski with us at Bolton Valley on Saturdays, or engaging with Ski Cubs during their PE classes at elementary schools in Huntington and Shelburne, students of all backgrounds can try out nordic skiing at no cost. The sort of skiing we do in the program is geared toward learning and having fun, rather than racing or speed, which lowers the barrier to entry for kids who might not have had a chance to try it out in a collaborative, non-competitive setting.
Most importantly of all, program partnerships with schools and community centers that serve New American communities in Burlington and Winooski allow us to introduce kids of all backgrounds to nordic skiing — not just kids who grew up with trails going out their back door.
This year, we have twenty-five skiers as part of the Bolton Valley Ski Cubs group, which comes to the nordic trails every Saturday by bus from Burlington and Winooski. In Huntington, forty 3rd- and 4th-graders have had the chance to try nordic skiing through weekday programs, and in Shelburne, we not only have almost a hundred youth nordic skiers in 6th-grade PE classes; we also have an after-school program open to kids of all ages, whether they want to try skiing for the first time or build up their skills.
As the season progresses, the Ski Cubs participants move from the basics of nordic skiing — staying warm and dressing appropriately for skiing, clipping into your skis, using poles safely — into technical aspects of sliding on snow, such as herringboning, snowplowing and turning corners. During our Bolton Valley program, we have a wealth of trails to choose from, both groomed and ungroomed, that participants can explore and enjoy thanks to the help of our devoted instructors.
We owe a big Thank You to all our program partners who help us spread the word about Ski Cubs, our instructors who come out every week to help make sure every kid has a great time on skis, the Bolton Valley Nordic Center that accommodates us, our school partners at Brewster-Pierce School and Shelburne Community School, and everyone else who helps make this program what it is!
If you want to support Ski Cubs, consider donating any unused nordic ski equipment you may have — we’re looking for boots, skis, and poles in many sizes, from youth to young adult — or sign up to take the backcountry ski shuttle from Nebraska Valley to Bolton. Funds we raise from the backcountry shuttle are rolled back into helping pay for the bus from Burlington and Winooski to Bolton Valley — one of our biggest program expenses, and our most crucial logistical aid to getting more kids, from more communities, out skiing!
If you see the Ski Cubs out on the trails, wish them a good season — or better yet, challenge them to a race: they might take you up on it!
~Scott Berkley, CTA Youth Programs coordinator