Every single sport, no matter what it is, needs a solid grassroots program in order to either carry on or grow.

Without it, there is no sport.

The Yellowknife Ski Club took its sport into schools over the last couple of months with its Ski At School program. The program, which is the brainchild of Bernadette Knox, the ski club’s director of programs, is designed as a way to bring skiing to students who can’t be a part of the club’s programs for whatever their reason may be.

Four schools – Weledeh, Range Lake North, Mildred Hall and K’alemi Dene School in Ndilo – were part of the program this year, said Kerry Wheler, the ski club’s events director, who was one of the coaches who worked on the program this season.

Wheler, along with some other coaches, had been going to the schools to introduce skiing to students with roughly 90 in total taking part, she said.

The instruction included skiing with the students on the playground areas and using a learn-by-play format, where games were used as a way to teach the students fundamentals. Once April hit, it was time to head to the Yellowknife Ski Club, where the students got the chance to hit the trails and experience the club for the first time.

“A lot of the kids are brand new to the sport and they were really enthusiastic about learning,” said Wheler.

David Mkhitaryan of Weledeh Catholic School cuts through the snow during a session at the Yellowknife Ski Club as part of the club’s Ski At School program. James McCarthy/NNSL photo

The club looked after the cost of transportation as well as providing snacks for everyone, she added, thanks to the help of several sponsors.

“We had Nordiq Canada (national governing body of cross-country skiing) help out, we received a grant from AltaGas and the RYSE (Regional Youth Sporting Events) program,” she said.

The RYSE program is looked after by the Department of Municipal and Community Affairs (MACA).

Weledeh’s group got the chance to hit the ski club last week and the students didn’t exactly look out of place.

Marianne Maltby, who teaches Grade 7 at the school, said the group of 11 from her class who took part had the time of their lives both as part of the program and at the ski club.

“They were so excited,” she said. “A lot of these kids have never even put on a pair of skis before but they took right to it and I hope they’ve found a sport that they can fall in love with.”

The amount of students who participated in the program was around half of Maltby’s regular class; some students didn’t take part for various reasons, she said.

“We have students who are remotely learning and some whose parents just didn’t feel comfortable with having their kids do it,” she said. “They were worried that their children would hurt themselves and that’s totally understandable.”

Part of the reason Maltby loved the program so much was that it allowed her students to be able to ski when they probably would have never had the chance to.

“We have some students at our school who would never get the chance to do something like this for purely financial reasons,” she said. “That’s why this was so great because you’ve not only shown these kids how much fun skiing can be but that they can do it like everyone else can.”

James McCarthy

After being a nomad around North America following my semi-debauched post-secondary days, I put down my roots in Yellowknife in 2006. I’ve been keeping this sports seat warm with NNSL for the better...

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