By: Peter Graves, CXC Public Relations
If you look closely at the 4-H CANSKI Nordic Ski Club (Chequamegon Area Nordic Ski Club), the progress they have made in a decade has been stunning. They have kept the message simple over time; to help cultivate the joy of cross-country skiing in literally hundreds of kids in their area. Their message and program is making a huge difference in area skiers’ lives.
In a joint effort between UW-Extension 4-H Youth Development, the Washburn, Ashland and Bayfield schools, the Ashwabay Outdoor Education Foundation and area skiers, the program has seen its athletes achieve notable success in the challenging Wisconsin state high school league. To wit, the program is now the defending champion of the Wisconsin State Nordic Ski Championships, a title they won last February.
The program provides youth and adults a structure for multi-generational, community recreation and healthy lifestyles. Last season the program membership stood at more than 150 (2013-14 ski season). Club members also participate in on-going trail work in the summer and groom during the winter months, assuring great tracks.
About 14 to 18 coaches per year, all volunteer, provide expertise, promote the sport, instruct skiers from the area school systems, hold coaches clinics and show what a healthy and fun lifestyle cross-country skiing can be. Further, as an overriding goal the program also ensures that the development of skiing be done in a manner that develops strong community members and young leaders.
For those skiers who embrace racing as a goal, there are about thirty-five youth that compete as part of the 4-H CANSKI Racing Team which features athletes from Washburn and Ashland schools.
The club consistently places skiers among the top ten in the state meet. 4-H CANSKI skiers regularly compete at USSA Jr. Nationals. Two years ago they came away with an All American – Scott Johanik, who now helps coach and mentor youth in the program.
4-H CANSKI is proud to call Mt. Ashwabay, their home trail system, and holds the annual Mt. Ashwabay Summit ski event yearly on the 43KM of groomed trails there.
One of the group’s original organizers, Doug Liphart, who serves as Ashland County’s University of Wisconsin Extension 4-H Youth Development Agent, is excited about the program offerings saying in a recent newspaper interview…”that the mission of 4-H CANSKI is to promote fun, fitness, excellence and safety in the lifelong sport of cross-country skiing. Developing good community members and young leaders is also an explicit goal of the program. It’s a community ski club, and over the last several years we’ve had anywhere from 150 to 200 youth and adults involved.”
Chequamegon Bay is an area blessed with long and snow-drenched winters that also has an historical link to the past. Back in 1908, the first national level cross-country ski races were conducted in Ashland, and the area shares a deep love of the sport, along with its past, present and future.
The cost of a membership in the club is $25.00 and comes with a hat or a t-shirt. For just another $25.00 skis can be rented for the entire season. Scholarships are available for people who cannot afford those costs, making the program within reach of just about everyone (Ashland County is one of the poorest counties in Wisconsin, making accessibility to the sport an important focus).
Liphart’s enthusiasm, as well that of the entire Board and volunteer coaches, means that kids get started the right way on skis, and in life. As he noted…” one of our mottos of the 4-H CANSKI club that is heard quite often is ‘have fun or go home.’ And we certainly manage to have a lot of fun in the best season of the year.”
For area skiers it is a program run with the best of objectives-fun and skill development. It’s not all about racing, but if you happen to like going fast, they are really happy to have you and will help you be even faster!