By Katie Bradish
Cold snaps with temperatures in the teens hit Bonner County sooner than usual this fall. A select group of locals see the early, frosty temps as a good omen for the upcoming ski season. As snow fast approaches, the Sandpoint Nordic Club in partnership with Kaniksu Land Trust are planning for a banner year.
The Pine Street Woods complex is owned by Kaniksu Land Trust and will offer six kilometers of groomed ski trails and unlimited snowshoeing opportunities, especially for those looking to wander off trail.
“This year the Sandpoint Nordic Club is grooming trails up at Pine Street Woods where we have more and a greater variety of trails. We are in a good position for growth in our after-school ski program,” said Sandpoint Nordic Club Youth Program Director Vicki Longhini. “The trails offer something for everyone, from the little skiers trying XC skiing for the first time to more experienced skiers who are thinking about learning how to ski race or just skiing to improve their fitness through the winter.
“We are so fortunate to have such depth of knowledge and talent in our coaches,” she added. “The kids that take part in our program will be mentored by adults who coach because they love the sport. Not many programs get to say that they have an Olympian and a biathlete champion on the coaching staff.”
The Sandpoint Nordic Club offers three different youth team options.
The Recreation Team is aimed at beginners to more advanced skiers who want a casual, two-day per week commitment. The Rec Team will focus on getting skiers comfortable with the Nordic equipment and increasing fitness through drills, games and snowy fun.
The Development Team is a new addition this season and will be coached by former Team USA athlete and Nordic Olympian Rebecca Dussualt. The Development Team will train three times per week. The focus will be on increasing technical skill, endurance and speed with an eye toward transitioning skiers to the race team.
“We are developing our athletes in this valley in a really healthy and well-rounded manner. That means training hard, but also enjoying all that this area boasts. Bonner County has a vast variety of enticing terrain — smooth roads, great trails and cross training options,” said Dussault. “These are the skiers of the future: Life-long endurance athletes, using movement as good medicine in all four seasons. We, as a community, get to watch these athletes come up the pathway of development, doing incredible things, on and off skis.”
The Race Team trains together year-round and is for skiers who are ready to compete in regional Nordic events. The Sandpoint Nordic Race Team has several athletes that have their sights set on making it to junior nationals.
“The Nordic Club has shown me that, with focus, anything can be accomplished and has given me the courage and confidence to work hard no matter what obstacles I face,” said Kasten Grimm, a team member of the SNC race team. “I have made great friends and had the opportunity to strive to be the best I can be.”
In addition to the ski teams, SNC will introduce the new School Program. Any elementary or middle school class can reserve a time slot to come up to the Pine Street Woods to Nordic ski or snowshoe for free. Guides are available upon request.
According to the Sandpoint Youth Needs Assessment Research Report conducted by the city of Sandpoint, perceived expense of activities and lack of convenient programing near home and school are key factors preventing parents and students from engaging in physical activities, particularly in the winter months. The same research report showed that few students in Bonner County participate in regular outdoor activity in the winter months.
To address the financial concerns and barriers to access highlighted by this report, the Sandpoint Nordic Club offers scholarships — applied for at the SNC’s website — for its eight week after-school ski teams, as well as the new School Program.
“The Sandpoint Nordic Club Youth Program has been such a positive thing for our family. We enrolled a few years ago with no knowledge of how to classic or skate ski. The coaches have taken newbies and turned us into life-long Nordic skiers. Our boys can’t wait for ‘Nordic training days’ and always come home saying they had a blast,” said Amy Longanecker, resource development director at Panhandle Alliance for Education. “As a parent, you want your kids surrounded by positive mentors and coaches. That is certainly the case for SNC Youth Programs — all the coaches bring such willingness to invest in our youth in such a positive way. My husband Jameson and I appreciate the additional opportunity to enjoy the winter season that Nordic skiing provides. We love spending time as a family on skinny skis.”
For more information about the Sandpoint Nordic Club’s programs, visit sandpointnordic.com.
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