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According to the American Pediatric Association, children should engage in a minimum of 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous activity per day. Currently American children are woefully under this recommendation.
With the introduction of electronics, today’s youth have become increasingly more sedentary. Physical activity is key to prevent and combat childhood obesity and its associated conditions such as Type II Diabetes.
Skiing and snowboarding are two winter activities that are excellent for kids’ cardiac health because of their vigorous nature; but it’s not just about kids’ bodies. These winter sports are great for young minds and souls as well.
The act of speeding down a slippery slope with nothing but your own skill to stop builds self-confidence; and the benefit of aerobic exercise on mental health, such as improving mood and reducing anxiety, has been well documented in the medical literature.
Skiing and snowboarding offer kids the opportunity to commune with nature while doing something fun and challenging. Unfortunately, due to their socioeconomic situation or their living environment, many children simply don’t have exposure to these sports. Participating in them is simply outside the financial reach of many of these youth.
That may be changing, though, if Schone Malliet has anything to say about it. Malliet, co-founder of the non-profit National Winter Sports Education Foundation (NWSEF), has set his sights on increasing participation in winter sports for kids between the ages of 6-17, regardless of their background.
Malliet understands why exposing kids to these two winter sports is important. If not for a friend who introduced him to the sport as a young man, Malliet may have missed the opportunity to discover his love of skiing.
Malliet grew up as an African American child in South Bronx where he had no exposure to winter sports. He didn’t become familiar with skiing until his 20’s when a fellow Marine pilot took Malliet on a ski trip. That experience eventually led to Malliet becoming hooked on skiing. He went all in, eventually becoming the Executive Vice President of the National Brotherhood of Skiers.
In 2015, Malliet’s NWSEF acquired Hidden Valley, a New Jersey ski resort that was in bankruptcy. The failing Hidden Valley resort became the National Winter Activity Center (NWAC), a facility dedicated to winter sports for youth.
In addition to exposing youth of all backgrounds to winter sports, NWAC aims to provide a physical outlet that will help remediate today’s childhood obesity epidemic by instilling a love of winter sports and improving health and fitness in its participants.
The NWAC website www.winter4kids.org notes its mission as:
The National Winter Activity Center is dedicated to improving the lives, health and fitness of youth throughout the nation by providing access to winter sports activities.
The NWAC initiated operations in the 2014-2015 season as a pilot program that took on 180 participants. By all accounts, the pilot was a success, as the following season served a total of 822 young participants.
That year the Center provided 4,200 ski/snowboard sessions and access to healthy meals. Malliet hopes to double the number of kids who benefit from NWAC’s program in 2017-2018.
The nuts and bolts of NWAC’s program include hands-on instruction and access to good nutrition. The Center does not directly recruit. It relies on partner organizations such as the YMCA, the Boys and Girls Clubs, and other community groups to coordinate recruitment. These organizations also arrange for transportation.
NWAC’s program offers each participant a progressive 6 to 9 week session along with nourishing meals and education to encourage an overall healthy lifestyle.
NWAC subsidizes some of the expense that would typically be handed down to the student through things like their access to discounted equipment and funding from industry contacts. Scholarships and other assistance is available through some of the community organizations NWAC partners with.
Malliet hopes to see his vision realized around the country. In this sense, NWAC is a testing ground of sorts. NWSEF has already implemented similar pilot programs, which are modeled after NWAC, at other resorts across the United States.
Malliet has a lofty goal in mind- to get 100,000 kids involved in winter sports annually. He and NWSEF may just get there, taking into account how successful the NWAC has been within a period of two short years. National Winter Activity Center