NANANordic in action

04 September 2014 06:59
Kids having fun at NANANordic
Kids having fun at NANANordic -

The mission of FIS SnowKidz Organiser NANANordic is to introduce Cross-Country Skiing to rural Alaska through a sustainable Nordic ski programme.

In its inaugural year in 2012, NANANordic introduced 650 students in four villages in the NANA region in Northwestern Alaska to Nordic skiing. The following year in 2013, more than 1,500 youth in all 11 NANA villages received instruction. In 2014, the programme expanded to 25 communities across Alaska from Anchorage to villages around Bethel, Aniak, Unalakleet, Nome and Barrow. In the regions outside of NANA, the programme is known as Skiku. (

To promote the year-round active lifestyles, NANANordic volunteer coaches visit the same communities in September each year and work with students by hosting running camps. This summer it was during the final week of August that eight volunteer coaches along with programme leader and two-time Olympic Nordic skier Lars Flora (USA) headed north for a great week of exercise and active living. 

Amongst the group of coaches was FIS Cross-Country Media Assistant Jeff Ellis.  “It was my first trip to this region of Alaska and I didn’t know what to expect. We slept on classroom floors, participated in Physical Education classes and joined in on after school running programmes.  It was amazing to the see energy and enthusiasm these kids have for playing games and how much they looked forward to getting back on to skis this winter. By the end of the week I was ready for a rest, but I can’t wait to go back,” stated Ellis.

Each April, a team of coaches will spend a week in villages, bringing skis, boots, poles and other gear for the children to use. After the week, NANANordic donates the equipment to the schools. Coaches incorporate a variety of games to help the kids get comfortable on their skis. Students receive instruction in their classes during the school day and an optional, after-school programme. Some kids spend up to three hours or more a day on skis.

The NANA region, located in northwest Alaska, is vast: 38,000 square miles, most of which is above the Arctic Circle. More than 90 percent of the region’s residents are Iñupiat, descendants of the people who inhabited this land more than 10,000 years ago.

To view pictures of the event, visit here:

To view some of the action from last year’s edition, watch here: