For 20 years, the happy chatter of schoolchildren has echoed among the snow-covered hemlocks of Paradise Meadows in Strathcona Provincial Park.
Guided by coaches from the Strathcona Nordic Ski Club, the students kick and glide along the trails of the Nordic Centre at Mount Washington Alpine Resort as they learn how to cross-country ski.
This year, the Strathcona Nordic Ski Club is celebrating the 20th anniversary of the school program, which has introduced over 10,000 local elementary students to the sport of cross-country skiing. The club is also celebrating the vision and generosity of Rick Morson. Twenty years ago, as a member of the Strathcona Nordic’s Board of Directors, Morson promoted the concept of the school program. His idea was to bring elementary students from schools in Campbell River and the Comox Valley to Mount Washington to provide cross-country ski lessons.
The program was immediately popular. Teachers incorporated the lessons into the curriculum and returned with their students year after year. In recognition of Morson as a founding and ongoing donor, the school program has been renamed the Rick Morson Nordic Ski School
Over time, the club has responded to the increased need of financial support for students whose families cannot afford the program fees. The fees are quite modest and are kept low by the support of Mount Washington Alpine Resort which supplies rental gear and trail passes at reasonable rates. This year with the support of a Sport Canada grant administered by Nordiqu Canada, a community gaming grant, donations from individuals and a generous donation from the Richardson Wealth Morson Carson Wealth Counsel, the club will be able to provide a full subsidy to 85 students and a partial subsidy to over 40 students.
Strathcona Nordics was formed in 1998 as an amalgamation of several pre-existing community-based Island clubs. It is a not-for-profit organization that relies on volunteers, donors and partners for the support. The Strathcona Nordics Ski Club provides skill development programs for all ages of skiers. This includes a junior racing program, a racing development program, a rabbits program for young children and masters programs for adults. The school program serves students from grade 3 to grade 6. Most of the students are new to cross-country skiing and many have not been to Mount Washington previously. The Rick Morson Nordic Ski School recognizes Mount Washington Alpine resort, the Strathcona Nordics Ski Club, and Richardson Wealth Morson Carson Wealth Counsel as the foundational organizations of the program.
The club provides trained coaches and a coordinator for the school program. The instructors are a diverse group of individuals including a helicopter pilot, a red seal carpenter, a college student, former teachers, an optometrist and a physician. They share a common bond – the joy of introducing students to a new sport and helping them develop new skills and confidence. During the lessons there is always a moment when the magic happens, a child previously nervous and awkward starts to have fun. This is when the happy chatter can be heard. If you’re skiing along the trails, you may hear us coming – groups of fledging skiers gliding along the trails.
Anyone interested in becoming a school program instructor can contact the club at firstname.lastname@example.org