Grade 3 students at Windermere Elementary and Eileen Madson Primary School are getting a head start on their ski careers thanks to a program initiated by the Toby Creek Nordic Ski Club (TCNSC).
Over a five-week period, students will be able to use about 25 sets of ski equipment on tracks set up in their own schoolyards to get a feel for what cross-country skiing is all about.
Equipment was donated to School District 6 by the club, which used a grant from the Columbia Valley Community Foundation to purchase it.
The sessions will include lessons on ski care, falling down and getting up, going down and up hill, and turning.
“The program focuses on children learning fundamental movement skills during the optimal point in their physical development,” explains Darren Tamelin, TCNSC head coach.
In addition to skiing on groomed tracks at the schools, students will have an opportunity to take a field trip to try out their new skis at a larger venue, possibly Lake Windermere.
Windermere Elementary principal Steve Bentley calls the program, known as Ski at S’kool, a great opportunity for kids who maybe hadn’t skied before, and is highly appreciative of the TCNSC for putting the program together.
“This gives us a chance to actually initiate some children who would never get the opportunity to do this,” Bentley said.
“It’s going to open up doors, and open minds to something that may be a lifelong passion for them—so I’m very excited for it from that point of view.”
While the activity began January 5, the first session was mostly dedicated to getting students fitted for skis and equipment, meaning the kids haven’t hit the track yet.
A lack of snow last week forced the school to postpone last week’s planned start.
“They are so keen to get out there—it was kind of heartbreaking to have to cancel (last time),” Bentley said.
But considering the tremendous amount of snow the valley received over the weekend, they should be ready to go for their next scheduled time, on January 19.
” All the kids were instructed to sleep with their skis so that snow would fall — it worked,” jokes Tamelin.
Bentley sees the skiing program as a first step to introducing students to many winter sports.
“I really like this as a groundbreaking thing, because if we can get the Grade 3s out there we can get so many other things moving—I’m a big proponent of snowshoeing as well.”
Not only does the program offer the students part of their daily physical activity quotient, but it also fits handily into parts of the physical education curriculum, meaning it’s really a win-win for students and teachers alike.
“My staff are really athletic people, so they’re very willing to get involved,” Bentley said.
“Parents are really involved and excited as well, so it’s a really positive activity.”
For the ski club, the program is also seen as a way to recruit new skiers to the club’s own junior development programs.
While Ski at S’kool is kicking off in Invermere and Windermere, Tamelin says the club hopes to expand the program over time, most likely to Edgewater and Canal Flats.