Friday, January 4, 2013

Junior Nordic Skiing in Alaska

I keep my skis and poles in my car ready to go.

To most Alaskans skiing means Nordic skiing, also called cross-country skiing. I just call it skiing. Three times a week I coach Jr. Nordic.

I get to run around on skis, mostly in the dark, making sure kids have fun. The trails are lighted but we like to bushwhack through the shortcuts and howl like wolves.

Jr. Nordic is a kid's ski program which meets at three locations in Anchorage.

I believe there are about 500 kids involved, give or take some younger siblings and parents along to help out.

We divide the kids up by ability: Polar Cubs, Otters, Wolverines, and Hawks. The Hawks are the fastest. I ski with the Polar Cubs.

Last Saturday, high winds were forecast, so I called the Jr. Nordic hotline to make sure we were skiing. The wind didn't pick up until the precise moment I opened the hatch of my car. Whoa Nellie!
About 200 kids were gathering in the snowy soccer stadium, checking in with coaches and waxing skies. Dogs are barking with excitement. I found my kids.

My group is quite fast for Polar Cubs, but I tell them to wait for the Cookie Tour to becoming Otters. The Cookie Tour is a race of sorts so we can figure out who is a Hawk and who is a Polar Cub. The kids who can't yet stand on skies forgo skiing the loop but still get a cookie.
Only two of my kids showed up on Saturday.
I usually ski with five.

The wind was roaring through the trees, and the snow was melting with pine needles mixed in, but the trails were was still skiable. We got up Heart Attack Hill which is a steep herring-bone uphill. Oh dear, I'm using too much jargon.

Cross-country skiing has two categories of technique, one is skate or freestyle and the other is classic. Skate skiing is like ice skating, while classic skiing is like running.

We teach classic skiing first, but I mix techniques shamelessly. I'm not a purist.

Classic skiing uses herring bone--also called duck walk--to get up steep hills. To duck walk, angle the ski tips outward so that the skis make a wedge with the wide part in front, tip the inside edges of the skis into the snow for traction, and walk. It helps to keep ski poles moving behind you, ready to keep you from slipping backward. The truly classic way to do it is at a run. It's quite a workout.

At the top of Heart Attack Hill, we stopped for snacks. We debated going back to play tag games in the soccer field, but I get bored with tag, especially with only three people. Instead we skied the Service Loop with a few short cuts. We even had time for rainbow tag.

Well, I'd best go get ready for skiing tonight. The snow is icy, so we're going to be at Kincaid Park. I need to stop by the grocery store for more Oreos and apple juice.

--- Lizzie Newell


Donna said...

that sounds like AMAZING fun! Good for you, and lucky for the kids!

Tam Linsey said...

You sound like a great teacher! I'm game for cutting trails and howling like wolves!

DeNise said...

I wish I'd had you when I first started cross-country (at 38) :-)
Those are some lucky kids.

Lynn Lovegreen said...

I learned to cross-country ski before they invented skate skiing. :-P It is a lot of fun, and good exercise too. I'm glad you are starting those kids on the right foot, er, ski, early in life. :-)

Anonymous said...

Great post! Thanks for sharing. I had a good ski at Kincaid in the sunshine this afternoon, sort of amazed that the snow is holding up there reasonably well! Glad you are still coaching Jr. Nordic and are a non-purist. Hope we get some more snow someday soon! Joan