Young people who participate in the Juneau 4H Cross Country Ski Club learn more than just how to shuffle through tracks in the snow with long boards strapped to their feet.
"We're giving the kids the ability to persevere and achieve," said Frankie Pillifant, who started the club six years ago with her husband, Odin Brudie.
The couple and other volunteers teach kids, and sometimes the kids' parents, cross-country skiing skills at weekly lessons. Sign-up sessions for the club are on Wednesday, Dec. 17, and the first Sunday session is Jan. 4.
Kids and their families can sign up for the Juneau 4H Cross Country Ski Club in the Riverbend Elementary School Commons on Wednesday, Dec. 17. New members can join the club from 6 to 7 p.m. on Dec. 17 in the Riverbend Elementary School Commons. Returning members should sign up at the school between 7 and 8 p.m. that evening.
For $50, members can rent a pair of waxless cross-country skis for the season. If a child attends at least seven of the ski sessions, which take place from 1:30 to 3 p.m. on Sundays from January through March, $20 of the rental fee will be returned.
The club offers kids and parents to learn and share a new activity together, said Jim Douglas, the 4H cooperative extension agent for the University of Alaska Southeast.
"It's a family experience, and that's exactly what it was intended to be," Douglas said.
The group rents skis to the kids so that they can practice on their own as well as during the group sessions. If parents are interested in skiing, the kids have more of a chance of making it to the trails between 4H ski sessions, Douglas said.
Parents often learn to ski with their children, and sometimes the young ones end up being good examples for their elders.
"When you're 9 years old or 7 or 5 years old and you fall over, it's pretty easy to get up again," Douglas said. "When you're 35 or 40 years old and maybe not in that good of shape, it's harder."
Regardless of whether the kids or the parents end up being champion skiers, the point is that they're getting outside at a time of year when they might otherwise be in front of the television playing video games.
"We really give them a healthy hobby, and a healthy Alaskan hobby," said Douglas. "... In a lot of Alaska, cross-country skiing is one way to really see a lot of beautiful country. We don't have the trails set here in that manner, but if they were to go up to Anchorage, there are hundreds of miles of trails in the Anchorage bowl they could ski."
Kids join the club with varying levels of athletic ability, but they find ways to make the sport work for them, said Pillifant.
"It's that issue of perseverance again," she said. "Even when you think you're not getting it done the best way, you keep trying. Learning the skill takes practice."
More advanced skiers are given the chance to skate ski, in which a larger amount of work and more skill are traded for greater speed on the trails.
Aside from getting in shape, families benefit from the release of energy before kids start the school week and parents head to work, Pillifant said.
"It certainly sets my week up for me very nicely," she said.
For more information on the Juneau 4H Cross Country Ski Club, call Jim Douglas at 465-8756.
Christine Schmid can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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