The Bill Koch Story & the New England Bill Koch Youth Ski League


The Bill Koch Story

‘Kochie’ was born June 7, 1955 in Brattleboro, VT, and grew up in Guilford, in southeastern Vermont. He and his younger brother, Fritz, used to race the school bus to grade school. Originally, Bill was a nordic combined skier, terrific in the cross-country portion and pretty good in ski jumping. But, when he was just age 16, he just missed the 1972 Olympic Team – he would have been the alternate. So Bill decided to focus on cross-country skiing. Four years later, at the 1976 Winter Olympic Games in Insbruck, Austria, he was the Olympic silver medalist in the 30-km race. And his name became a household word, forever associated with the sport of cross-country skiing.

bill-koch-photo-peter-ashleyAfter rocketing to success, though, his skiing was hobbled by an asthmatic condition. But he returned for the 1978 season, competed in the 1980 Olympics in Lake Placid, NY, and then, with Coach Mike Gallagher’s approval, took off the 1981 season so he could try something different. When the first World Cup season was staged in the winter of 1981-82, Bill won four races and captured that first official World Cup title. Bill was back on top.

Prior to 1981 there was only one technique in cross-country skiing, the “diagonal stride, in which both skis stay in prepared tracks. But while competing in a race on a frozen river in Scandinavia at the end of the 1980 season, Bill was surprised to see a Swede, Bjorn Risby, go sailing by him with a different technique. Risby had one ski in the track, but was pushing off to the side, like a speedskater, with his other ski. The technique was faster. Risby won the race and Bill decided he had to learn the technique. He perfected the technique in the Winter of ’81, then jolted the international community in ’82 when he used it to win in Le Brassus, Switzerland.

“I didn’t invent skating,” Bill is always meticulous to say, “but I did help popularize it.” In the United States Koch put the sport of cross-country skiing on the big stage twice. Once when he collected his Olympic medal in 1976 and again in 1982 when he won the Overall World Cup. The sport has never been the same.


Written by Paul Robbins, a freelance writer in Weathersfield, Vt., was nordic correspondent for the U.S. Ski Team in 1982. Exerpt taken from NENSA’s BKL Parent/Leader Manual.



The New England Bill Koch Youth Ski League (NEBKYSL) is the largest, cross-country ski program for young people in the United States. Whether a child loves the adventure of cross-country skiing, of playing with friends on skis, or wants to grow up to be a ski racer, the New England Bill Koch League has something for him or her.

Bill Koch League Age Groups:
NENSA BKL Age Groups are classified by year in school.
Lollipop: Ages 0-7
U6: Ages 4-5: Grade PreK – K
U8: Ages 6-7: Grades 1 & 2
Junior 5 / (U10): Ages 8-9 Grades 3 & 4
Junior 4 / (U12): Ages 10-11 Grades 5 & 6
Junior 3 / (U14): Ages 12-13 Grades 7 & 8

NENSA is the parent organization of the New England Bill Koch League — Bill Koch League skiers are the youth skiers of NENSA. NENSA provides support for BKL members and club leaders in the form of annual membership benefits, the option to purchase club liability insurance, and a range of educational and competitive programs for individuals and clubs. BKL District Chairs form the BKL Committee of the NENSA Board. One of the members of the BKL Committee is a NENSA staff member oversees NENSA’s youth programming.

The mission of the New England Bill Koch League (NEBKL) is to introduce young people to the lifelong sport of cross-country skiing with all of its recreational, social, fitness, and competitive opportunities.

The Bill Koch League Teaching Philosophy

The New England Bill Koch League believes that children should have the opportunity to have fun while learning to cross-country ski. The NEBKL believes in creating a safe and healthy environment where children can develop physically, psychologically, and socially. All NEBKL activities and competitions are designed to teach each young athlete to participate to the best of his or her respective abilities.

Why join a Bill Koch League?

Now more than ever, Bill Koch Leagues are one of the most valuable ways to introduce youth to sport, a love of the outdoors and an outlet for play. Has anyone ever asked you why his or her child should join a BKL? Here are just a few reasons why they should join too:

Deliberate PLAY: At the heart of BKL’s are games, which is something that our youth does not get enough of anymore. Sports Psychologist Jean Cote says, “To promote lifelong, intrinsically motivated sport participation, it is imperative to build a foundation during childhood. Inclusion of high amounts of deliberate play actives early in development provides that motivational foundation.” Learning by doing is the primary teaching style of BKL’s, meaning your child will get a lot of deliberate PLAY time at a BKL practice!

Diversification: BKLs ensure that youth are multisport athletes, because skiing isn’t always available, practices are sometimes on foot, and there are 3 other seasons for youth to choose different sports. Research shows that early participant in multiple sports leads to better overall motor and athletic development, less overuse injuries and burnout, and kids will be more likely to play sports longer throughout life.

Healthy competition: All NEBKL activities and competitions are designed to teach each young athlete to participate to the best of his or her respective abilities. The focus of a BKL is always on what is best for your child, and when asked in surveys, 9 out of 10 kids says “FUN” is the main reason they participate in sports. Results and winning are often the priority of adults, while children mostly want a venue to try their best

Active for life: Joining a BKL means that you as a parent are often on skis or participating in some way. BKLs are focused on community and creating a lifelong love for being active outside. Skiing is a low impact sport that can be done for life.

Starting a Bill Koch Club

Creating something where nothing has existed is challenging. The Bill Koch League Parent Manual (email [email protected] for your copy) walks you step by step through the process of starting a Bill Koch League club. But you need to be aware that there is help available from a number of other resources as well.

Where To Get Help

The NENSA Administrative Office is a great general resource and should be your first call any time you have questions. The Operations Manager at the office can help you with club registration and membership. Tom Weir is the Youth Program Director ([email protected]) who is on hand to supply you with contact information concerning the Chairperson for New England Bill Koch League, BKL District Chairs, and other BKL Club Leaders, along with basic advice such as how to timeline your start-up efforts with other clubs in region. Click here to find a listing of BKL District Chairs, BKL Club Leaders and Club Contacts.

New England Bill Koch League Personnel

The NEBKL is staffed by volunteers whose love for the sport has led them to work for its success. NEBKL is structured in this way:

New England Bill Koch League Chairperson: heads the New England BKL Committee- Currently Kate Koch

BKL District Chairpersons: constitute the BKL Committee and represent the clubs in their area.

The Districts in New England currently consist of:

Northeast Vermont – NEVT

Northwest Vermont – NWVT

Central Vermont- CEVT

Southern Vermont – SOVT

Eastern Massachusetts – EAMA

Western Massachusetts – WEMA

Northern Maine – NOME

Western/Central Maine – WEME

Southern Maine – SOME

Northern New Hampshire – NONH

Central New Hampshire – CENH

BKL Club Leader: within each district there are a varying number of clubs. Each club has a club leader. The NENSA Office can send you contact information on all of the people listed above, including club leaders. Or you can find a list of Club leader contacts at the NENSA website. They will share their experiences with you and help you with any questions you might have.

The Role of The Club Leader

The BKL Club Leader plans, organizes, and directs BKL activities at the local, or club level. Skillful leaders appreciate the benefits of delegating responsibility, so not all of the tasks listed below need to be done directly by the leader him/herself— but all come under the broad job description of a BKL Club Leader:

• plans or supervises planning of indoor and outdoor activities of the club

• arranges the schedule and meeting place for club sessions

• involves and coordinates parent’s participation in the club

• supervises/assists with enrollment and registration at the local level

• registers club with NENSA

• provides liaison with District Chair and NEBKL Chairperson

• conducts and evaluates club sessions

• awards prizes or patches at end of season