TRAVERSE CITY — Duane Amato’s family enjoyed the We Ski program so much that they went not once, but twice.
Now Amato’s two teenage sons are so fluid on cross country skis that one participates on the nordic ski team at Traverse City West and the other is part of the Junior VASA group at West Middle School.
The We Ski program — a one day per week, three-week program — is back for a fifth year, providing cross country skiing enthusiasts the opportunity to either improve their skills or try the sport for the first time. This year’s program, limited to 90 registrants, starts Thursday and continues over the next two Thursdays at Timber Ridge Resort. The program is a partnership between the North American VASA, the Vasa Ski Club and Timber Ridge.
“We wanted to provide an opportunity for families and individuals to learn to cross country ski and to improve the skills of those who already know how,” said Linda Deneen, who is the coordinator for the program. “We also wanted it to be an evening of camaraderie, so we have a snack before the lessons, then go have an hour lesson, and then come in and have a nutritious dinner afterward.”
When the Amatos took part in We Ski for the first time, Duane had about 25 years of experience cross country skiing, but his wife Vicki had only tried the sport a few times and the two boys, Nick, now 17, and Andrew, now 13, were simply beginners.
“The We Ski program, in my opinion, is probably the best opportunity for a family to get involved and learn how to ski,” said Duane Amato. “It gives the people who have never been on skis the opportunity and a family an opportunity at a low cost to go out there and give it a try for that three weeks. I’ve seen many people who are skiing as a result of those first couple of years.”
His sons are included in that, turning those sessions three years ago into a passion for the sport.
“You’re getting the best of the best that are instructors there,” said Duane Amato. “They taught (my wife) and my sons the technique. Technique in cross country skiing is like golf. You can play all day long, but if you’re not doing it right you’re not really doing it well. So it was a great opportunity for our family to really learn technique and get better and better.”
Learning technique from instructors also helped Duane Amato improve as a skier, despite having plenty of experience going into the program.
“Before We Ski, for me to get better — which was wrong in this thinking — I was just going to ski more,” he said. “I was going to go out there and go to the VASA trail and just put in more miles. You really learn how important technique is.”
Cost for the three sessions is $45 for a family or $30 for individuals. Ski equipment is the responsibility of the skiers, but rental equipment is available at Brick Wheels on Eighth Street and at Timber Ridge on a first-come, first-served basis.
As of Monday night 20 spots were still available. The program has sold out every year.
For more information call 938-4400 or visit vasa.org and vasaskiclub.com.