Imagine, children playing soccer on cross-country skies, rocking back and forth on a wide teeter-totter with those skies and trying to negotiate a hill on one ski.
These are just a few of the activities young people ages seven to 13 participate in during the Loppet Adventure Winter Camp held each year at Theodore Wirth Park in Minneapolis during winter break.
“We have many wild things for kids to do as well as ski orienteering, relays, downhill slalom and basic ski training all designed to make them better skiers,” said director Allie Rykken.
“The soccer playing will never make them great soccer players but it will give them greater balance, speed and teach them to turn with short steps. They play without poles. They can ski with the ball, kick or throw it, they can even carry the ball if they need to. The day camp develops skills rather than endurance,” added Rykken.
There are two one-week camps with a total of 60 students broken into groups of six to eight with a leader. They learn how to wax and care for skies.
The skies are included in the tuition for the class.
The camp is sponsored by the City of Lakes Nordic Ski Foundation, which was founded to promote and support cross country skiing in Minneapolis with an emphasis on inner-city youth.
The Foundation was founded in 2002 to start the urban cross-country marathon called the City of Lakes Loppet. Last year the Foundation hosted the first Junior Olympics in an urban sitting and hopes to host the Para-Olympics next year.
Through their winter and summer camp and other youth programs they have trained 600 Minneapolis school children on how to ski.
The Foundation has also worked to improve Wirth Park and plans to improve ski trails, add lights, snowmaking equipment and grooming.
John Munger, Executive Director of the Foundations, hopes to see an new Nordic Ski Center build at Wirth Park with the help of $1.7 million in bonding money approved this year.
“It is all about helping people learn Nordic skiing and to enjoy the outdoors. It is fun to see these kids learn what they can do on skies,” said Munger.