FAIRBANKS — A tour of three Interior Alaska villages was a first for Raphaela Sieber and Lex Treinen, a pair of University of Alaska Fairbanks skiers, and their tour was a first for some students in those villages.
Sieber and Treinen accompanied Heidi Rader, tribes extension project director with UAF’s Cooperative Extension Service and Tanana Chiefs Conference, Charlene Stern and Maria Grossi to the communities of Fort Yukon, Venetie and Arctic Village to help teach children to ski. The five are members of K’enaanee Kkaazoot, a skiing club that means, “It is fun to slide on snow” in Koyukon Athabascan.
In the three villages, the group tutored students grades kindergarten through 12th on skiing basics and how to enjoy the sport.
“It was my first time going to any villages,” Treinen said. “Everything was new to me and I didn’t know what to expect at all.”
The group first stopped in Fort Yukon where 30 brand new pairs of skis had sat for more than a year, waiting for activity. There are few people who ski in the village, Treinen said.
“For whatever reason, nobody had been skiing for the past 20 years,” and nobody could consistently coach the children on how to ski, he said.
The group taught Fort Yukon student the basics, including putting on bindings, using poles, waxing skis, uphill skiing, downhill skiing and how to get up after a fall. Treinen said he hopes Fort Yukon kids keep up the skiing.
“There were trails all around and it was just a matter of getting them out there,” he said.
After two days in Fort Yukon, the group headed to Venetie, where some of the students had already been skiing before. There, a sledding hill became a big attraction for learning skiers. Treinen said thinking of games to play while on skis helped some of the more reluctant students get encouraged to participate.
On the final stop in Arctic Village, most of the students had gone skiing before because a couple of teachers coach them.
“The kids seem really into skiing there,” Sieber said. “Therefore, we could play games with them.”
The group played a “caribou and wolves” game modeled from “sharks and minnows.” On a longer ski run, the group got to see a herd of caribou.
“I’m really passionate about skiing,” Sieber said. “It was such an amazing opportunity to share my knowledge about skiing and share my passion about skiing.”
The most rewarding part for her was watching the kids learn.
“I showed how to go up a hill, and they went exactly up there like how you taught,” she said.
Treinen said he has another year at the university and hopes to accompany the club on another trip to help teach students to ski.
“It’s the perfect sport for villages,” he said.
Contact staff writer Reba Lean at 459-7523.