By Elisha Underwood and Jake Dixon

RiseVT- Windham County awarded an amplify grant to The Guilford Recreation Commission to promote Cross Country Skiing in Guilford by identifying trails, offering free Nordic equipment (skis, boots, poles) to students of Guilford Central School and Guilford Homeschoolers during the winter season, and providing free instruction.

In 2017, the Guilford Recreation Commission initiated a project to encourage Nordic skiing in Guilford. The Bill Koch Nordic Skiing Project was named and in honor of Guilford native Bill Koch, Olympic Silver Medalist in 1976 and innovator of the skate skiing technique. Bill owes developing his early skills to skiing to school and has given this project his blessing.  In recent years, Guilford has boasted about a number of outstanding accomplishments of local Nordic skiers; Guilford resident Isaac Freitas- Egon was the top ranked high school skier in the state, and Nordic team members from Guilford have regularly contributed to both the  boys’ and girls’ state championship teams. Nordic skiing continues to be a proud part of this tight-knit community’s heritage.

Working in coordination with the Guilford Conservation Commission, CC4G, the Guilford Recreation Club, and the Fairgrounds Committee, the Recreation Commission has to date identified four trails: Carpenter Hill, School Loop, Fairground, and Playscape; these trails are suitable for a range of ages and abilities, from novice to expert.  Guilford’s topography lends itself to trail development, so additional trails may be added in the future.  As part of this overall project to foster healthy winter activity for all, the Guilford Library will house good, used Nordic equipment, along with snow shoes, making these items available to borrowers of all ages in a process similar to a library’s lending of books.

Last winter, the Recreation Commission made Nordic skiing available to all interested Guilford School students. This winter a survey sent to students, pre-K through 6 at Guilford Central School and the Guilford Home School Group, found 28 more students interested, a total of 52 students and twenty-five of these students in need of equipment. Last winter Guilford Promise Grant of  $2600, plus an anonymous donation and a hefty discount from the Skirack in Burlington enabled the Rec Commission to purchase 25 Nordic packages of skis, boots, poles, given free of charge to Guilford School students for the duration of the winter.  The Rec Commission also offered a series of lessons and an end-of-season Winterfest, where students could demonstrate their skills.

This year due to the number of students who expressed interest, a Rise VT Amplify Grant of $1499, a $500 anonymous donation, $1200 from the Recreation Commission, another generous discount from the Skirack in Burlington, plus monies from fund raising efforts will enable the Rec Commission to purchase Nordic equipment for $3871.40 and once again offer skis, boots, poles free of charge to all interested Guilford students for the duration of the winter.  More lessons and an end-of-season Winterfest are on the agenda. This gratifying project both honors the legacy of Bill Koch and demonstrates the Recreation Commission’s dedication to inspiring a love of wholesome, affordable winter activity.