Nordic ski fever hits northwest Alaska youth this week

KOTZEBUE, ALASKA – April 12, 2013 – What do you get when you mix abundant snow, Olympic athletes, college coaches, elite college and high school skiers with about 2,000 kids ages five to 18 in rural Alaska? An abundance of uncontrollable laughing, feverish excitement, winter fitness tools and memories to last a lifetime – for both the volunteer coaches and children participating in the second annual NANANordic ski camp taking place in each of the 11 village in the NANA region as well as Anaktuvuk Pass from April 8-24, 2013. The program’s goal is to teach kids how to ski as part of a healthy lifestyle. 

“Northern Alaska is covered in snow for seven months. Skiing is a way to get out on the land—away from electronic distractions and motorized vehicles. Here, skis can be basic transportation to participate in traditional activities like ice fishing, caribou hunting and just moving across the wilderness, building healthy bodies in the process,” said Robin Kornfield, program manager for NANANordic and vice president of communications and marketing for NANA Development Corporation (NDC). 

Two-time Olympian Lars Flora brought the idea to NDC in 2011. Funded by corporate and individual donations, Flora and 20 volunteers, in cooperation with the Northwest Arctic Borough School District, provided a week of cross-country ski instruction in to 650 students in Kotzebue, Kiana, Selawik and Noorvik in 2012. This year, approximately 2,000 children in all NANA region villages, as well as Anaktuvuk Pass, will have an opportunity to learn to cross-country ski from more than 40 volunteers. 

2013 NANANordic schedule:

  • April 8-12, 2013:    Kotzebue, Kiana, Ambler
  • April 14-18, 2013: Shungnak, Noatak, Noorvik, Deering, Anaktuvuk Pass
  • April 20-24, 2013: Kivalina, Selawik, Kobuk, Buckland 

Both the youth and the volunteers benefit from the program. 

“The students meet excellent role models who have set, and achieved, high goals —people they would never otherwise have met. They observe healthy behaviors in their new mentors, become more physically fit, and see their own community from a new perspective when on skis. They take part in a fun and social physical activity they can do throughout their lives. Some of these students will become proficient skiers and use skiing to go places, to meet people, and to see the world, just as their role models have,” says Kornfield. 

“As for the volunteers, they have a chance to share their passion for their sport with young people who live in a place where there’s snow from October through May. They will learn the students’ names, hear their aspirations and become friends. They will be staying in remote Native villages, something that very few people have the opportunity to experience,” adds Flora. 

Villages range in size from 100 residents to approximately 3,500 (Kotzebue). Volunteers “camp” at the schools, preparing their own meals from supplies provided in advance. They provide instruction during the physical education classes from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. followed by an after-school session for the whole community. 

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