The largest kids’ Nordic ski festival in the United States, The New England Bill Koch League Festival, will be hosted by Great Glen Trails Outdoor center during the weekend of March 5 and 6, 2016. The New England Bill Koch League Festival, also knows as the BKL Festival is the marquee event of the New England Nordic Ski Association’s Bill Koch Youth Ski League and attracts pre-school through eighth grade participants from across New England, the Northeast and Canadian provinces.
The Festival carries the name of America’s only Olympic cross country medalist, Bill Koch. In 1976 Koch, from Putney, Vermont, won a silver medal at the Winter Olympics in Innsbruck, Austria. Following this achievement, the national nordic ski program for youth was renamed in his honor, and the Bill Koch League (BKL) has continued throughout the Northeast for decades, introducing youth to the joys of cross country skiing in BKL Clubs, mostly led by parents and volunteers. Bill Koch himself will be at the Festival, supporting and encouraging all the young skiers, including his own son, Will.
The Festival rotates annually through the states of New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Maine and Vermont. Last year’s Festival was held at the Mountain Top Inn and Resort in Chittenden, Vermont. The last time the Festival was held in NH, in 2012, Great Glen Trails was also chosen to host. The popular Pinkham Notch outdoor center did so, attracting and entertaining 625 kids plus their parents, siblings and coaches.
Festivities will start up on Saturday with the parade of participants, grouped by the geographic district they represent. With a theme of “White Mountain Magic”, there are sure to be elves, magicians, fairies, witches and magical creatures marching at the base of the Mt. Washington Auto Road. Saturday’s on-snow events include two-person relay races by grade levels using classic technique, and a variety of Nordic Adventure non-timed activities such as games on skis, an obstacle course to be negotiated on skis, and a magical mystery-themed ski tour to Great Glen’s warming cabin with refreshments. Great Glen’s daily offerings of snow tubing and the Trails Tracker character hunt are also available for the kids on both weekend days. The evening wraps up with a pasta dinner held at the Town & Country Inn and Resort in Shelburne, NH.
The fun continues on Sunday with individual interval-start races of 1 to 4 kilometers in length, depending on grade level. The Lollipop Race for novice skiers in 2nd grade and younger routinely brings the most smiles to observers as “knee-high” youngsters scurry as best they can to reach the finish line and ultimately to receive a lollipop. Eighth graders, in their final year of eligibility for the BKL Festival, have a graduation ceremony with a unique skiing challenge and public recognition. The obstacle course is again available as is a speed test, with radar being used to clock skier-generated momentum. Awards ceremonies throughout the weekend will recognize outstanding performances in the races.
The 2016 Festival has many generous sponsors. Valley Originals, a group of locally-owned and operated restaurants in the Mt. Washington Valley area, is a Gold Sponsor, as well as L.L. Bean. Every registered skier will receive a “goody” bag that includes items donated by Ragged Mountain of Intervale, Polartec, Swix, and Gould Academy. The Holderness Nordic Club, the Nansen Ski Club and Gould Academy are all playing significant roles in overseeing the obstacle course, radar runs and Saturday ski tour respectively.
Photos courtesy of Great Glen Trails
Over one hundred volunteers will be sporting brightly-colored special event hats provided by Choucas. The Town & Country Inn, Northeast Delta Dental, Paula Jones Creative, White Birch Books, Zeb’s General Store, Kroka Expeditions, Rossignol, Salomon and Burke Mountain Academy are also supporting the event as sponsors. Additional sponsors are still being sought for this huge event, as are volunteers who will make this weekend a fun and memorable experience for the hundreds of kids and their families coming to the area.
Pre-registration for participation in the New England BKL Festival is required and is done online through the event’s website: bklfestival.com. For more information and to get involved, contact Sue Wemyss, Festival Event Director at Great Glen Trails via phone: 603-466-2333 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org.