Taking flight in spring light. Photo courtesy of NANANordic.
If you put kids on skis, they’ll use them to skate ski, ski jump, skijor, do biathlons, and race across snow and ice to their hearts’ content.
That’s the idea two-time Olympian Lars Flora took to the NANA Development Corporation in 2011.The following year, he and 20 volunteers held weeklong cross country skiing camps for 650 students in Kotzebue, Kiana, Selawik and Noorvik.
NANANordic ignited, with twice as many coaches heading to NANA region villages and Anaktuvuk Pass this month to run ski camps for 2,000 kids in 12 communities. Getting and moving gear and coaches to the villages takes time, money and resources, but the results take no time to see.
“After raising money, buying skis, getting coaches there, and doing so much more to make it happen, you go to these schools and see that it’s so simple, so tangible, so apparent that the program fills a huge need,” said Robin Kornfield, program manager for NANANordic and vice president of communications and marketing for NANA Development Corporation.
The program’s coaching pool includes Olympians, World Cup skiers, university coaches, and student athletes. The program focuses on skiing for fun, but it shares an enthusiasm and expectation for healthy habits.
“They’re drinking water, not soda,” said Kornfield. “They’re eating apples, not candy.”
Coaches often ski from village to village, where they camp at schools, prepare their own meals, and work all day with kids during physical education classes before opening up ski cam to the whole community. Some of these villages of 100 to 3,500 residents have a skiing history.
Flora looks at the program in terms of a long-term commitment. “It’s about getting people acquainted, if not competing,” he said. “It’s about finding ways to make skiing a regular part of their lives.”
To that end, NANANordic donates skis to the school districts so the villages can make gear available to people all year. The program also supports efforts to get kids on skis in Anchorage, and coordinates rural Alaska running camps in the fall to complement the spring skiing camps.
This month, coaches will complete camps in 12 communities: Kotzebue, Kiana, Ambler, Shungnak, Noatak, Noorvik, Deering, Anaktuvuk Pass, Kivalina, Selawik, Kobuk, and Buckland. For more information, visitwww.NANANordic.com.