With the excellent snow conditions this year, I'm sure many of you have already been out cross-country skiing or have seen others enjoying this sport on ski trails in Juneau.
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Some people use skiing as a leisurely way to meander about scenic areas such as the Mendenhall Lake campground, Dredge Lake, Eagle Beach or Herbert River Trail. Others use Nordic skiing to maintain fitness as an alternative workout to running. They may be training for the Buckwheat Ski Classic or Tour of Anchorage races.
Still others watch with envy as the skate skiers glide by effortlessly on the groomed tracks set by the Juneau Nordic Ski Club.
If you find yourself wondering how you or members of your family might learn the basics of Nordic skiing - classic or skate - or improve the techniques you already have, you may want to take advantage of the many opportunities offered right here in Juneau.
Kids have a great program tailored just for them in the Juneau 4-H Cross Country Club, which started its 10th season on Jan. 7.
The ski club was established in 1998 to introduce more kids to cross-country skiing and to improve their skiing and outdoor skills. In addition to providing the young 4H members with a healthy winter activity, the program has been a great experience for families that choose to ski during the weekly outings.
Like other 4-H clubs in Juneau, the cross-country ski club includes youths from kindergarten through 12th grade. The 4-H clubs are volunteer-run organizations sponsored and assisted by the Cooperative Extension Service 4-H program, which is a part of the University of Alaska system.
Over the past 10 years, ski club enrollment has averaged 60 kids with as many as 100 registered in one season. The program really caught on in its second year, when the club purchased ski equipment through a City and Borough of Juneau Youth Activities Grant.
For a nominal rental fee, club members can check out ski gear for the season. From the fees, the club can add new gear and replace old gear each year. If the members attend seven of the 10 weekly ski sessions, they receive a partial refund on their equipment rental. For 2007, there are more than 75 youths signed up so far.
Ski season for the club runs for 10 Sundays from early January into March.
The ski club has not always had the early snow that fell in Juneau this year. In some years there has not been enough "usable precipitation" to ski by the first meeting, but that doesn't deter the group.
"We have never canceled a meeting," said club coach and organizer Frankie Pillifant. "It always looks worse from your windshield. When we have rain and no snow, we hike. And if it is just torrential and blustery several meetings in a row, we have rented gym space from Community Schools."
Additional information about this program can be obtained by calling the Cooperative Extension Service at 465-8749.
For women, Eaglecrest Snowsports School is offering exciting classes designed for women interested in developing their skills for classic and skate skiing.
The Women's Classic Magic! class runs Jan. 21 and 28 from 10 a.m. to noon. The Women's Skate Away class also runs Feb. 4, 11, and 18, also from 10 a.m. until noon.
For men and women who already have basic skills in skate skiing, a six-week Power and Conditioning Program for Nordic Skate skiing is being offered up at Eaglecrest Ski Area.
The course is intended to improve technique and develop strength, and it covers various poling, transition, and downhill techniques. It includes instruction, demonstration, training tips, video analysis and timed workouts. These sessions will be held on Saturday mornings from 10 a.m. until noon and are taught by instructors certified by the Profession Ski Instructors of America.
Eaglecrest offers two Nordic trails of varying difficulty. The Snowsports School offers lessons for all abilities in both the classic, traditional style of skiing and the newer skating style. It rents only classic gear, whereas Foggy Mountain Shop rents both classic and skate gear.
For more information about lessons you can call the Snowsports School at 790-2000, ext. 211.
Sometimes lessons or clinics are the incentive you need to get out skiing.
I hope you take advantage of an opportunity to learn how to Nordic ski this year and discover the thrill of gliding through the snow in some of the most breathtaking country in the world. Don't let another winter pass you by. Get out there and enjoy some Nordic fun in the snow.
Nancy Thomas is a board member of the Juneau Nordic Ski Club and a former 20-year member of the National Ski Patrol. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.