Youth Nordic booms


City, Met Rec and nonprofits ‘get kids out the door.’

  • Children ski at Jorgensen Park on Jan. 11
    Children ski at Jorgensen Park on Jan. 11

There’s hardly a scrap of nordic skiing gear at second-hand stores. And that, said Bryan Smith of All Sports Replay, is a great problem to have.

The shortage stems from a boom in cross-country skiing, especially among youth. Thanks to collaborations between Gunnison Nordic, Crested Butte Nordic, the Gunnison County Metropolitan Recreation District (Met Rec) and the City of Gunnison Parks and Recreation Department more kids are sliding on skinny skis this winter than ever before.

“It’s pretty historic,” said Ginny Baylor of Parks and Recreation. Baylor has been one of the principal organizers of youth skiing lessons held at Jorgensen Park’s groomed trails.

“We have 35 kids starting Nordic who are matched with gear and coaches. And there are 20 on the waitlist,” she said.

With COVID-19 keeping many kids cooped up, they and their parents are eager for winter sports. Fortunately, crosscountry skiing is “almost a perfect COVID program,” Baylor said. The length of the skis keeps participants distanced, the cold encourages face coverings, and the exercise helps to keep skiers healthy.

After the lessons the kids “come back into the warm, go to bed early, and all the parents are happy,” said Brian Smith, one of the youth coaches.

The bump in interest amounts to a tripling of youth programming for Gunnison Nordic, Smith said.

To outfit the children the City of Gunnison spent $1,000 this winter on gear. That was sufficient for most but not all of the kids who needed equipment. To cover the remainder, Crested Butte Nordic stepped in to loan gear, and the partnering organizations are now on track to provide all the boots, skis and poles needed.

A grant from the Gunnison County Metropolitan Recreation District (Met Rec) was also key, helping Gunnison Nordic and the City of Gunnison to publicize the youth programs and to pay the coaches more.

“Met Rec knew we needed to get kids out the door,” Baylor said.

The kids, for their own part, seemed thrilled to click into skis as the sun went down late Monday afternoon. Coach Bryan Wickenhauser introduced the instructors and said “we’re here to teach you how to slide on snow” before leading a gaggle of 30 boys and girls onto the groomed trails. Shuffling and falling over their skis, they laughed and made laps as the Gunnison cold settled in.

(Sam Liebl can be contacted at 970.641.1414 or