Aroostook CountyTAMC is partnering with Central Aroostook ski organizations to encourage children and adults in The County to get outside and engage in the popular winter activities of Nordic or downhill skiing as part of living a healthy, active lifestyle.

TAMC

Three local ski areas will benefit from TAMC’s support this ski season. Bigrock in Mars Hill and both the Nordic Heritage Center and Quoggy Jo Ski Center in Presque Isle have each partnered with the medical center to offer instructional and fun programs on Saturdays beginning in January and continuing throughout the winter. Each organization will contribute to the program in a unique way to provide lessons, training and fun in cross country (Nordic) and downhill (Alpine) skiing, and snowboarding to County youth.

“During the winter months with the short, cold days, it can be hard to find time to get up and get out and exercise, and many kids, and adults, find it harder to stay in shape during these months,” explained Dr. Peter Morningstar, a TAMC pediatrician at Aroostook Pediatrics. “The downhill and Nordic ski programs supported by TAMC and others represent great opportunities to fight back against the winter and get out and exercise. Staying active on the ski trails is one of the best ways to stay fit through the cold months, and my colleagues and I at Aroostook Pediatrics hope as many kids as possible take advantage of these opportunities.”

Support for the youth ski programs is part the Community Health Improvement Plan developed by TAMC in 2014.  The plan is based, in part, on the 2014 Community Health Needs Assessment (CHNA).  The CHNA was conducted by EMHS and its member organizations, including TAMC, and in partnership with dozens of other Maine healthcare stakeholders.  The report from the study was released in August 2014 and identifies issues and opportunities for collaborative community health improvement.

One of the six key areas that TAMC has prioritized its community health improvement work around is decreasing youth obesity.  The decision to support the youth ski programs is directly tied to this goal.  The other five areas of focus are: decreasing the number of adults with cardiovascular disease risk factors, improving the health status of older adults with three or more chronic conditions, decreasing inappropriate use of the emergency department, improving access to behavioral health, and reducing incidents of domestic violence.

The Bigrock SnowSchool program began on January 3 and will run through March 14. The instructors are a collection of volunteers and paid staff who have been properly trained and certified to teach children and adults of all skill levels. The SnowSchool directors are well-known retired school teachers, Eric and Elaine Hendrickson.  This year’s program offers some new and exciting additions from years past.

“In this year's Bigrock SnowSchool programs, we will be teaching students ages four and up on the basic skills and techniques of skiing and snowboarding up through mastery level techniques for the advanced students. All of our programs are designed to teach students at various skill levels new techniques to allow them to enjoy skiing/snowboarding safely and responsibly. This year, students will not only be taught skiing/snowboarding, but also proper equipment care and maintenance,” said Jeff Clockedile, in charge of marketing and rentals at Big Rock.

TAMC is sponsoring three skill levels of classes on Saturdays and Sundays at Bigrock this year along with a Wicked Cheap Wednesday Corporate Night which allows families to come ski and snowboard for an evening at a discounted rate on tickets, equipment rentals, and lessons in hopes of engaging them as lifelong skiers. The ongoing weekend classes are as follows:

Littlerockers, for ages four through six, is the beginner level class to start pre-schoolers on a path to lifelong activity. They meet on Saturdays from 1 to 3 p.m. This program is specially designed for the youngest skiers and riders, with a focus on developing fundamental skills in a safe, yet fun‐filled environment. Instructors in this program are experienced with kids and know how to use games and activities to make learning fun.

Bigrockers, for ages seven to 13, also meet on Saturdays from 1 to 3 p.m. This group is open to junior skiers and riders of all abilities, including first‐timers.  The program emphasizes skill development through coaching and on‐mountain mileage.

New this year, All Mountain Rockers, for ages eight to 13, meets on Sundays from 1 to 3 p.m. Participation in this next-step program following Bigrockers is based on the participant’s ski ability, maturity level and ability to accept and apply coaching instruction. The goal is to foster friendships while experiencing a variety of trails.

In addition to offering classes for varying skill levels, the SnowSchool will instruct children on dressing appropriately for various winter weather conditions to receive the most enjoyment from their ski sessions. Clockedile says in the interest of promoting a healthy lifestyle, they will also offer a nutritional component, teaching kids the benefits of proper nutrition on the slopes.

“The SnowSchool programs are vital to the community because they allow for and encourage families to engage in healthy outdoor activities. We find that families who begin skiing together become hooked, and it develops a more positive attitude when welcoming the long Maine winters. In the past, we have seen children in these programs come out of their shells and become much more confident in themselves beyond Bigrock Mountain,” said Clockedile. “The support from TAMC this year will allow us to offer the programs to the area at an affordable rate. Having the TAMC brand backing the SnowSchool allows us the exposure and support crucial to developing these programs. TAMC has long been a supporter of Bigrock and we are pleased that the relationship is continuing.”

For more information on the SnowSchool at Bigrock, or to sign up for programs, visit the Bigrock website at bigrockmaine.com, call (207) 425-6711, or contact Jeff Clockedile or Ryan Guerrette by email at jeffclockedile@skibigrock.me or ryanguerrette@bigrock.com. Rentals are also available at the mountain.

The Youth Ski Program at the Nordic Heritage Center (cross country skiing) and at Quoggy Jo Ski Center (downhill skiing), both located on the Fort Fairfield Road in Presque Isle, is for grades K through 8, or ages 5 through 13. The programs each begin with registration and signing waivers January 10 from 10 to 11:30 a.m. at NHC, and from 1 to 4 p.m. at Quoggy Jo. NHC Program Coordinator and instructor Jeremy J. Griffiths encourages parent or guardian participation in the free NHC program, and skiing is optional as there is much to be done. In addition to sponsoring the program, TAMC also provides healthy snacks in the main lodge building between programs.

“Cross country skiing is a life-long activity that is affordable, social, challenging, and fun,” said Griffiths, adding that skiing offers a “healthy alternative to sedentary lifestyles, a connection to the natural environment and interacting with others.”

The Youth Ski Program at NHC has been active for the past nine years, and organizers have tailored ski lessons to accommodate all skill levels. The scenic trails at NHC provide a variety of challenges for different level skiers.

“My hope is that participation will not be limited by community members thinking that our program is focused on racing and developing racers. We're all about showing people how fun skiing is and developing interest in a life-long activity that families can do together,” said Griffiths.

Participants can also downhill ski at the Quoggy Jo Ski Center for just $8 beginning with a lesson from 1 to 2 p.m. followed by a free ski until 4 p.m. Kids can choose to do one or both of the ski sessions each week.

Nordic ski rentals are available at the Welcome Center at NHC for $10. Alpine ski and snowboard rentals for youth will be available for rent at Quoggy Jo each weekend of the program for just $12.

For additional information or to volunteer, please contact Jeremy Griffiths at 316-9911 or jgriffiths17@gmail.com for the cross-country portion of the program, or Gene Cronin at gene@skiquoggyjo.org for the downhill portion of the program. Updates are also available on Facebook at facebook.com/nordicheritagesportclub.