Outdoors
Southeast Alaska may not have an average January’s worth of snow, but Gastineau Elementary School and Juneau Charter School students still managed their traditional Nordic skiing field trips.
Fostering a life-long love of the outdoors 020514 OUTDOORS 1 Mary Catharine Martin Southeast Alaska may not have an average January’s worth of snow, but Gastineau Elementary School and Juneau Charter School students still managed their traditional Nordic skiing field trips.

Mary Catharine Martin

Physical Education Teacher Dirk Miller leads a line of Juneau Charter School students into the meadow last week near the start of Montana Creek Road, a Nordic skiing trail in the winter. Miller has been taking Charter School and Gastineau Elementary School students Nordic skiing for several years.


Mary Catharine Martin

Juneau Charter School teacher Liz Brooks skis down the hill at Montana Creek Trail with a student last week during a physical education field trip.


Mary Catharine Martin

Skis, poles, hot chocolate, snacks, transportation, technique, safety, falling mittens, snow levels: There’s a lot to consider when taking groups of elementary and middle school students cross country skiing. Physical Education teacher Dirk Miller has been organizing the trips for seven years, continuing a tradition started by previous P.E. teachers who left him “an arsenal” of skis, boots and poles. Here, a trio of students glide down the track on Montana Creek Road last week. Page 10.

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Wednesday, February 05, 2014

Story last updated at 2/7/2014 - 1:25 pm

Fostering a life-long love of the outdoors

 Southeast Alaska may not have an average January’s worth of snow, but Gastineau Elementary School and Juneau Charter School students still managed their traditional Nordic skiing field trips.

Skis, poles, hot chocolate, snacks, transportation, technique, safety, falling mittens, snow levels: There’s a lot to consider when taking groups of elementary and middle school students cross country skiing. Physical Education teacher Dirk Miller has been organizing the trips for seven years, continuing a tradition started by previous P.E. teachers who left him “an arsenal” of skis, boots and poles.

On a recent school day, kids were focused on staying upright, getting going and bending their knees when going downhill.

“The key is the glide,” Miller told students, demonstrating. “That’s what I like the most about skiing, is the glide.”

Carolyn Bouvier grew up in Florida. Her daughter Sandra has skied multiple years with the charter school, and though she said she thinks downhill skiing is a little easier, Montana Creek provided a little of a slope.

“This is steep right here,” Miller warned of the groomed entrance into the meadow from the trail.

“Don’t worry!” one kid yelled at another. “Everybody’s falling!”

Falling they may have been, but they were also getting up.

“It’s easier with poles,” one student said, pushing himself up from the trail.

“See,” Miller told a student who had, a few minutes earlier, despaired of rising off the snowy ground. “I knew you could get up.”

Leira Ware, whose son, James, attends the school, said she likes the amount of exercise the trip provides.

This year was a little unusual, Miller said: Usually, Gastineau’s playground provides for at least some snowy practice. But for some students, this was the first time they put on skis all year.  

Because of a lack of snow at the campground, Montana Creek has become a destination for the first time. The field trips are something Miller said “couldn’t happen if it wasn’t for the Nordic Ski Club of Juneau.”

“The community of Juneau has been very supportive of this,” he said. “When we’ve needed a hand or some help, someone in the skiing community of Juneau has been able to assist.”

One kid marveled they’d been out skiing as long as they had.  

“I think it’s great,” said Larry Blatnick, father of Charter School students Marla and Lamar. “It’s a lot of work on the parents’ side, but the payoff’s definitely worth it. A lot of kids don’t get the opportunity to go skiing much. This is their opportunity.”

Over the course of two weeks, Miller will take almost 400 kids out skiing.

“My main purpose in all of what I do is I want kids to find a sport they love,” Miller said. “It could be skiing, it could be bowling, it could be hiking … I try to get them outdoors as much as possible so they can have a lifelong love, something that gets them off the couch.”

• Contact CCW staff reporter Mary Catharine Martin at maryc.martin@capweek.com.


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