PARK CITY, UT (May 5) – The Maine Winter Sports Center was among eight finalists for the first International Ski Federation’s FIS SnowKidz Award, which will be announced June 4 at the FIS Congress in Antalya, Turkey. Its ongoing “Healthy Hometowns” program introduces nearly 5,000 new participants to nordic skiing each year.
The new award was launched to recognize and promote the best examples of bringing children to the snow in varying national circumstances around the globe. The U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association awarded its 2009 Russell Wilder Award for contributions to youth to the Maine Winter Sports Center, one of over 425 USSA clubs across America. FIS member national ski associations worldwide were invited to submit projects for consideration. A total of 22 applications from 18 national associations were received along with nine others from aid and promotion causes for developing ski nations.
Healthy Hometowns provides programming for nearly 5,000 youth participants each year, in addition to providing seasonal equipment rentals to an additional 2,000. The program has a presence in clubs and schools in 96 different Maine communities. A pair of portable trailers makes rounds all winter long throughout Maine. The program also conducts leadership workshops to bring wintersport teaching skills to Maine communities so the program stays behind.
“Our program provides an exciting introduction to skiing as well as tools for communities to build sustainable ski programs,” Andy Shepard, MWSC President said. “Best of all, it’s a model that consists of easily replicable components, which any other state, region or nation could implement.”
“Healthy Hometowns is a truly amazing program that is bringing kids to the snow by the thousands,” said USSA Vice President, Athletics and two-time Olympian Luke Bodensteiner. “We’re honored as a nation to have the Maine Winter Sports Center as a finalist and hope its program motivates other communities and nations to bring the excitement of our winter sports to more kids.”
The FIS SnowKidz Awards jury selected the eight finalists. Each of those selected will receive an award of 5,000 Swiss francs. The top three will be decided by the FIS Council in June, with the winner getting a 15,000 Swiss franc grant, 10,000 for second. The eight finalists include:
• Barnas Skiklubb, Norway
• Maine Winter Sports Center, Healthy Hometowns Program, USA
• Naltar Ski School, Pakistan
• Schneekinderleicht – Bewegtes Land, Germany
• Suusabuss (Skibus), Estonia
• Skilly Day, Italy
• Snow Day, Hungary
• Teach the Teachers to Ski, Finland
The selection jury included Satu Kalajainen of Finland, representing the FIS Youth and Children’s’ Coordination Group; Essar Gabriel of Lebanon, head of the IOC Youth Olympic Games; and Swiss Riet R. Campell, President of the International Ski Instructors’ Association.