The sun shone brightly onto Mr. Miller’s class last Wednesday morning as they played high above Princeton. A light skiff of snow softened the surface just right. All the conditions had cooperated. It was the first of what Vermilion Forks School Principal Barry Clarke and his staff hope will be many such excursions to the trail network at China Ridge.
Starting back over a year ago, the wheels were set in motion to make the China Ridge Trails more accessible to youth. China Ridge members did more than just lend a hand to make that happen, but were instrumental in the process. First, classes in cross-country skiing were re-introduced to the community and have been ongoing through several key China Ridge instructors This, along with numerous events held at China Ridge, brought an awareness to locals of the value of the trail network that was in Princeton’s backyard. The newly constructed Longhouse had become a focal point for all events and gave China Ridge a boost forward to the next level in recreation.
Part of the new and improved trail network included trail building work bees from local volunteers, members of China Ridge Trails Association and world class trail builder Duncan Mckenzie of D-Mac Trails Inc. of Whistler, B.C. Mckenzie brought his knowledge and China Ridge brought their enthusiasm. Together the mixture was pure magic.
As China RIdge flourished and more and more locals were invited to try a free ski or snowshoe experience, the schools started to notice. Together China Ridge Trails Association and Vermilion Forks School applied for and was awarded a grant to purchase cross-country ski equipment. China Ridge Trails president Kelley Cook multiplied the funding by contacting a cross-country ski equipment corporation and securing a fantastic price for the needed sports paraphernalia to hold a youth ski program. It was a coup for both the school and the club.
This February all the puzzle pieces fell into place and principal Barry Clarke and teacher Rod Miller were able to bring up Miller’s class to the hill for their first ski outing. The students loaded onto the bus and headed up the hill arriving at the China Ridge parking lot twenty minutes later. “This is the first of what I hope will be many such days,” said Clarke. “China Ridge is so close to town and offers the youth in our community a really unique opportunity to experience the outdoors and fulfill their exercise curriculum for the day.”
“I thought this would be boring,” stated Grade 4 student Cole MacDonald as he bombed around on his pair of skis like he had been skiing for a while. “This is really fun.” Fun seemed to be the theme of the day with Kelley Cook and Rod Dixon teaching the eager crew the basics of cross-country skiing and later played frozen tag with them.
Teacher’s Aid Lorna Coyne was also there to help out for the morning excursion. All the students were fitted in boots and fastened into their skis quite quickly with all the helpers. Cook wanted everybody to know that long time China Ridge member John Henry had graciously donated his time and expertise to mount all the bindings onto the skis when they arrived late last ski season.
“They were such quick learners,” said instructor Cook. “We focussed on fun and it worked.” With the School Community Connections Program sponsored through the Union of B.C Municipality grant between the school district, the local government and the regional district and a direct line to Madshus ski equipment through expert ski tech Nat Brown, China Ridge was able to locate and purchase 40 sets of matching equipment straight out of the factory.
“We wanted to do a school program, so we could reach all the local youth,” added Cook. “The physical literacy program through the schools has taken on cross-country skiing as part of their program and everybody involved including the kids really hopes to do more of it. For our first day with the students, everything was a complete success.”