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NANANordic Takes Northwest Alaska Students Cross-Country Skiing


Olympic Skiers Come to NANA Region Villages To Teach Children Nordic Skiing   


May 1, 2012 - A healthy lifestyle begins with being active, but when you live above the Arctic Circle finding ways to get outside and stay fit is not always easy.  In Northwest Alaska, a new program is trying to change that.  The first annual NANANordic is bringing some of the best cross-country skiers in the United States to Kotzebue, Kiana, Selawik and Noorvik to teach students in the NANA Region how to cross-country ski.

Lars Flora, a two-time Olympian, leads the program.  He approached NANA Development Corporation (NDC) last spring with the idea, including an opportunity to bring other volunteer coaches with him. When NDC said yes, Flora was excited.  From the trail this week he said, “I love to ski, and I hope some of these young people will develop a similar passion for the sport.  It’s a good way to get outside and get moving during the long winters in the far north, but just as important, it’s a lot of fun.”

About 650 kids will participate in NANANordic this year. It is designed for the long term with cooperation from the Northwest Arctic Borough School District. The ski coaches work with physical education classes during the day and with anyone who shows up after school, when the kids energy level peaks and they are pumped just to hit the snow. “I am amazed at the enthusiasm to ski and the desire to go somewhere on skis,” said Lars. In addition, the NANANordic coaches have been skiing in between the villages.  After coaching in the region Lars fell in love with the skiable terrain, “Skiing is amazing between the villages and it is very realistic that some of these kids will be able to make similar treks in the future if they keep skiing.”  

NANA Development Corporation Vice President of Communications and Marketing Robin Kornfield said, “NANA supports this endeavor because of its focus on sustainability by providing equipment, instruction and a plan to do more teaching every year.  This is a vigorous activity students can learn today and use their whole lives in a place perfectly suited for it.”

Led by Flora, volunteer coaches include U.S. Biathlon Team members Sara Studebaker (2010 Olympic Team member) and Zach Hall; University of Alaska Anchorage cross country ski coach Andrew Kastning;  Alaska Pacific University ski team members Reese Hanneman, Charlie Renfro, Greta Anderson and  Dylan Watts; Crystal Pitney, a University of Alaska Fairbanks ski team member; ski coach and former UAF team member Tamra Kornfield of Anchorage; elite racer Evelyn Dong; Katy Rehm, Rachel Samuelson, Danielle Hess; elite high school racers from Service High School, Forest Tarbath, John Glen and Hugh Cosgrave; and high school senior Mariah Cooper, a member of the Ojibwe band from Hayward, Wis., which is the home of the American Birkebiner, the largest ski race in North America. In addition, Dr. Demain and Dr. Rathkopf of the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of Alaska spoke about sport and asthma to the middle and high school students in Kotzebue.   Healthy Futures program was also introduced in all the villages through the region’s Teck Student Leaders program. 

The group stayed in village schools and ate meals provided by NANA’s food service company, NMS Catering.

Sponsors jumped at the opportunity to help. Bruce Warwick of Maniilaq Association’s Diabetes Program donated $15,000 towards the purchase of skis.  The Girdwood Ski Club, a nonprofit organization that took NANANordic under its wing, provided administrative help. The Allergy, Asthma and Immunology Center of Alaska, AAF, DOWL HKM, Bering Air, Carlile Transportation Systems, Fisher Skis, Swix and Rossignol also contributed. Olympic ballet ski champion Suzy Chaffee drew on her contacts in the ski world for donated gear and gifts. NANA worked closely with Flora on the development of the program and provided transportation, food, and general coordination.

To see photos, go to https://www.facebook.com/#!/NanaNordic.

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