It was nothing short of amazing to see young cross country skiers preparing to compete in a 2.25K race in wind chills of up to 15 below at Huron Meadows early Saturday morning. The kids, 5-12 years in age, had bundled up warmly for the cold conditions and were gathering carrying their skate or classic skis and poles. The enthusiasm and energy were hard to deny as they showed a ‘thumbs up’ in posing for a photo with Frosty the Snowman before the race.
Bundled up for the cold. (All photos: Lisa Kaniewksi and Dianna Behl)
At the mass start, they lined up with Frosty the Snowman who guided the way through the 2.25K course. Although they had heard in advance about Frosty the Snowman, today was the first time they actually saw him. They had heard that he lived outside, he was used to the snow, and he could ski fast. They were definitely excited and geared up for the battle. And battle they did as some of these young athletes discovered for the first time that they were competitive. They were not about to let Frosty the Snowman beat them in any ski race!
Frosty the snowman races with the kids!
The cowbell rang, the race started, and off the skiers poled across a field and to the ‘big’ hill. This is the same daunting hill the 15K adult racers would face later and in warmer temperatures! Now of course, the kids had the option to take the easy route around the hill, but none did. The kids skied on, not worried one bit of the exertion it would take to climb it. Rather, they were thrilled that there was a hill to climb! And they climbed, slowly but surely, and once they reached the top, you could see it in their faces. Yahoo! Now they awed at the thrill of a downhill. How much fun is that for a 5 to 12 year old?
The big, challenging hill on the Frosty course
I saw fearless kids at the top of the hill, looking at a straight descent. Down they went. Some were faster than others and some just took entertaining routes to the bottom before they wiped out. They quickly recovered because falling down and getting up was part of the training and preparation for the race. They learned that falling is a part of skiing; it was part of the fun. During practices many would drop to the ground just for entertainment purposes. It was of no concern to fall down, not even in a race. They just got up and raced on, no shame involved.
Hanging out after the Learn to Ski evening class
The Huron Meadows 2.25K racecourse lead the kids through a beautiful wooded winding, and wintery trail of hills, corners, and flats. They experienced all a great cross-country ski race has to offer. Eventually they separated themselves into packs as the race progressed encouraging one another and taking turns leading in set tracks and on perfectly groomed skate trails.
No snow for the first class? We can xc ski inside the cross country ski center!
As they approached the finish you could see in their faces that this was a race to be won as many were trying to pull out in front to beat their companions. It had all the characteristics of an adult ski race at the finish. The strenuous aerobic exertion had some discarding extra clothing. It was quite entertaining to see extra scarfs and hats lying around. This 2.25K business was a long haul and a lot of work! They were exhausted but thrilled at the finish line when the Frosty Snowman medal was placed around their necks as they posed for a picture. For many, this was the first race medal in their life!
At the start...
After the race they retreated to the warming center, gathered up their bag of goodies, and famished from the race, headed right for the serving line of hot chocolate and pizza. What better way to finish a kids ski race? Moreover, what better a race to witness!?
A special thank-you goes out to the Team NordicSkiRacer members and SELCRA for the support of the event. Many volunteered their time and energies in coaching these kids, teaching them the basics of skiing, assisting with race patrol, taking photos, preparing healthy snacks, as well as sharing their enthusiasm for the sport we all love. Ski on….
REI provided headlamps to the kids for the evening ski classes