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Tahoe XC’s Strider Gliders is an eight week after-school program, which gives preschool through 5th grade students a chance to cross-country ski once a week. The kids, led by volunteer coaches, ski with groups of similar ability and age. The goal of the program is quite simple: To get kids to fall in love with cross-country skiing, which, in my humble opinion, is the greatest sport on earth. A side benefit is if the parents decide they don’t want to miss out on the fun and start cross-country skiing themselves.
I have been the director of Strider Gliders for nearly twenty years. In that time, it has grown from about 30 to 150 children. A few years ago, we also added a laser biathlon class for the older kids. There are two keys to the success of Strider Gliders: First, it only costs $115 per child per season, and that includes eight weeks of classes, as well as use of the equipment for the entire winter. And second, there are about 40 coaches, many who have been doing it for years, who are patient enough to make skiing with kids one afternoon a week a fun experience.
This week the best young cross country skiers in the nation are competing in the Junior National Nordic Races in Anchorage, Alaska. These are the future Olympic athletes of the United States. Hopefully, in that crowd of 400 skiers is the next Jessie Diggins or Kikkan Randall, who last year combined to capture the first-ever Olympic gold medal in cross-country skiing for the United States. The Far West Team attending the event has 33 skiers from around California and Nevada. Over half of those skiers were once in the Strider Gliders program.
Strider Gliders doesn’t focus on racing or training. We just introduce kids to cross-country skiing. Once they fall in love with it, they can race if they want for the middle school and high school teams, as well as join more advanced training programs, such as Auburn Ski Club.
Strider Gliders is supported by the Tahoe Cross Country Ski Education Association, a non-profit organization, which also provides Free Skiing for Schools and the Winter Discovery Center at Tahoe Cross Country. Kiwanis North Lake Tahoe has been a big supporter of Strider Gliders by donating the money for ski gear, and over the years, Sunnyside’s Taco Night fundraisers have helped raise thousands of dollars for the program.