What a weekend! Despite a winter storm, over 650 skiers made it to the 2023 Bill Koch League Festival resulting in the largest Festival ever by over 100 children, with skiers making the trek to the Craftsbury Outdoor Center from as far away as Moosehead, Maine and Rochester, New York. The fresh snow not only made the skiing incredible, it also made the woods even more wintery which was perfect for an event themed “The Northwoods in Winter.”
This youth cross country ski festival is the marquee event of the New England Nordic Ski Association’s Bill Koch Youth Ski League whose mission is to introduce young people to the lifelong sport of cross-country skiing, and the many associated health, fitness, and social benefits, in a fun, inclusive, and safe environment. The 2023 Festival featured racing, as well as a wide range of non-competitive winter activities, for skiers of all ability levels from kindergarten up to 8th grade.
This weekend long event had something for everyone with radar speed runs, a terrain park featuring some epic jumps, a critter count orienteering adventure, a costumed parade of athletes, mega dodgeball games, a climate action interactive art mural, and laser biathlon with US Biathlon. There were also stations further afield that skiers could visit along the mini-marathon course. These activities centered on the theme of the Northwoods in Winter and included winter survival skills and animal ID with the Northwoods Stewardship Center; draft horse logging rides with Sterling College; and maple sugaring demos, education, and tasting with the University of VT Extension Center.
We were also thrilled to have Bill Koch himself at the event cheering on athletes, shaking hands, signing autographs, and sharing his love of the sport with all the young skiers. We are so grateful that he is still so involved with youth skiing and actively working to ensure that having fun remains at the core of skiing for racers and recreational skiers alike.
On the racing front, Saturday featured the skate relay event which kicked off in a snow storm while Sunday saw the paired and individual start classic races. Sunday also featured the 8th Grade Graduation where the 8th graders skied a lap together as a group to commemorate their time in the Bill Koch League. They then lined the finish corral and handed out lollipops to the the newest and youngest event participants as they crossed the line. The graduates were then congratulated by Bill Koch and received a graduation certificate.
Spirits were high the entire weekend and the cheering was loud and encouraging. Camaraderie, community, and joy were omnipresent at this celebratory youth ski event and photos speak louder than words to convey that. We are so grateful to the Craftsbury Outdoor Center and the Craftsbury Ski Club for being incredible hosts and organizers. The BKL Organizing Committee dedicated considerable time, energy, and expertise to the planning and implementation of this event and the number of dedicated volunteers who helped with the event was unprecedented. Truly the whole Craftsbury community stepped up to make this event happen.
Before we wrap up this recap, we’d like to express our gratitude to our associate NENSA level sponsors – L.L.Bean, Swix, Salomon, and Fischer, and make special shoutout to the folks from Fischer, Skida, Salomon, and Swix who joined us on-site. And last but not least, a huge thank you to all the participants, District Chairs, parents/caregivers/chaperones, and coaches who joined us in Craftsbury, Vermont. We hope to see you all again next year!
Check out the Bill Koch League Festival on the local news HERE and watch our NENSA recap video below!