A few years ago, Tom and Theresa Frost didn’t even ski. Now they’re the epicenter of earth-shaking activity on the Mount Spokane nordic ski trails.
“I’d always wanted to ski,” Tom said, “but we lived in California and it was five hours to reach snow.” When the geologist and his family moved to Spokane, however, they jumped into the sport.
“We went up on a Wednesday and thrashed until we figured it out,” Theresa said, noting that the experience was a bit traumatic, especially for their son, Brian.
“He sort of grew into the sport,” Tom said.
“He hated it,” Theresa added.
“We had old borrowed beat-up equipment with three-pin bindings and he didn’t enjoy it much at first,” Tom conceded.
“He swore he’d never do it again,” Theresa said.
But with some instruction, an upgrade in gear and some acquaintances on the trails, Brian’s attitude quickly changed.
“He’s 12 now and he loves everything from whacking around in the woods to racing,” Tom said.
“He just flies,” Theresa assured.
Julia, 8, is doing fine, too.
The transition was eased by the Inland Empire Nordic Club’s kids’ ski program for ages 5-12. Based on learning through fun and games, the national program called Bill Koch Youth Ski League has had a presence in Spokane for about 15 years. But it never amounted to more than two station-wagons full of kids until recently, growing from 13 members in 1991 to 143 this year.
Three years ago, the Frosts volunteered their organization and computer skills to this tangle of skis.
“We don’t advertise this,” Tom said. “It’s all word of mouth.”
Theresa volunteered to do the newsletter. Tom agreed to head up the Bill Koch League, which, for the unindoctrinated, is named after the only American to win a medal in an Olympic nordic skiing event.
In December, when most families were worrying about holiday shopping, the Frosts were pouring countless hours into sorting kids into compatible groups and rallying parents to teach.
Every Saturday in January and February, the Frosts have orchestrated the swarm of kids and at least 35 parent volunteers through the fog, cold and scattered venues of Mount Spokane’s ski trails.
“The fun part is watching these kids grow into skiing and seeing the parents discover they’re better teachers than they ever thought they’d be,” Tom said.
Doubtless some children aren’t cut out to be cross-country kids.
“Sometimes it’s just a temporary thing, but some kids just don’t want to ski,” Tom said.
In December, even Tom found himself in a daily funk of worrying about weather. He didn’t want the program to sink for lack of snow.
“What I’ve learned is that the kids are adaptable,” he said. “The worrying was a waste of time. We could probably go up there and have fun on gravel.”
Every week, at least one child has returned to the lodge during the two-hour ski sessions for reasons ranging from cold hands to missing mom.
“It works best to put them to work helping us behind the registration table,” Theresa said. “Pretty soon, they’re feeling like big shots and they forget why they came in early.”
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