Bonneville Joint School District 93 fourth-graders recently sent dozens of thank-you notes to the Idaho Falls Nordic Ski Patrol after participating in this year’s cross-country ski program.

In the past two seasons, the Nordic Ski Patrol has donated $8,000 to the program to purchase gear.

This year, 12 of the 14 elementary schools in the district joined the program to introduce Nordic skiing to fourth-graders.

Most of the messages went like this:

“Dear Nordic Ski Patrol, thank you so much for buying the skis for District 93 … I have never cross-country skied. I would like to ski every day at school. It’s so fun to ski with friends. … Sincerely, Brylie”

“It’s awesome,” said Julie Abbott, one of the district’s physical education coordinators in charge of the program. “It’s wonderful to see the kids out there skiing. It’s an amazing program.”

Each December Abbott and fellow PE coordinator Terry Belnap train teachers on how to teach cross-country skiing to kids. The first week of January, two sets of 35 skis, 50 pairs of boots and poles are delivered to two different schools. The first day, kids learn how to lace up boots, attach them to bindings and ski around the carpeted halls of the school. They learn how to slide and glide, how to move their bodies and how to fall and get up.

“The easiest way for them to learn is inside, so they don’t have to worry about getting their hats, their gloves, being cold and learning to ski all at once,” Abbott said.

On the other days of the week, the classes go outside and ski. The Idaho Falls Ski Club lends a hand by grooming tracks around the playgrounds. The following week, the skis are delivered to the next school.

“Skiing is fun and I love, love, love doing it! Thank you for this wonderful week…” Kya wrote in a thank-you note.

Not only are the children sending back notes, but so are the teachers.

“The teachers are sending notes that the kids are so excited and doing so much better in class and there are no discipline problems because they want to do it,” Abbott said. “Kids are made to be out moving and learning and then they can go back and concentrate in the class.”

Besides the funds from the Idaho Falls Nordic Ski Patrol, the Bonneville Education Foundation has also contributed $500 the last two years and Idaho Mountain Trading has helped outfit teachers for training classes. Abbott said money received this year for the program went to buy 12 more pairs of boots because fourth-graders’ feet seem to be getting bigger.

The ski patrol earns its funds by sponsoring the Banff Mountain Film Festival World Tour each year.

“A lot of those teachers are like ‘Wow the kids just loved it’ and ‘I’m glad I did it even though I’m not a skier’,” Abbott said.

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