March 11, 2015 9:58 pm

Ski Fit North program brings Olympic dreams to First Nations schools


CALGARY – Students from a First Nations community in northeastern Alberta are on a field trip this week, mingling with Olympians in Canmore, Alberta, and even taking some private lessons.

Fourteen-year-old Sophia Blyan says cross-country skiing changed her life when she started five years ago.

“I do it more often because I get stressed out a lot…School, work, problems at home,” said Blyan. “It makes me feel happy, secure…comfortable with myself.”

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Blyan and dozens of others from Kikino School are gliding in the tracks of legends at the Canmore Nordic Centre.

Former Olympian Beckie Scott, the driver behind this Ski Fit North Alberta program, has been visiting First Nations schools over the past six years introducing her sport and promoting a healthy lifestyle. The program reaches out to 4,000 Metis and First Nations students each year in Alberta.

“We have seen it grow from kids who’ve never been on cross-country skis before, to competing at the Alberta Winter Games,” said Scott. “We’ve had some that are just telling us we’d made a real difference in our kids’ lives, saying they are more active.”

The program has been a huge success story in the far northeastern community of Kikino. They have a ski club, compete in races, and all 105 students have gear thanks to sponsors.

“It’s been an absolutely amazing ride to see the benefits of physical literacy and mental health for our students,” said principal Laurie Thompson.

Blyan raced last year at the Alberta Winter Games, and dreams of bigger competitions in the future.

“I just hope I can go to the Olympics one day,” she said.

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