Jim Lepich has been cross country skiing since high school, but only recently decided to start teaching  the sport he’s loved for most of his life. Submitted photo Submitted photo

BETHEL — For years the Bethel Outing Club has made an effort to get children outside, and perhaps have them try something new.

This winter, club President Jim Lepich is teaching cross country skiing to second- and third-graders at Crescent Park School in Bethel and second- through fifth-graders at Woodstock Elementary Schools. He spends one day a week at each school, and the community has purchased all the gear needed.

Lepich said he’s seen progress in every child. Some students came with prior experience, while many others were trying the sport for the first time.

“We want them to have fun and move forward as much as they can skill-wise,” Lepich said.

Cross country skiing utilizes nearly every muscle in the body, according to Lepich, which makes it an ideal option for anyone looking to make the most of a workout.

He’s not alone in the venture to promote winter activity. Parents help, especially those in the Bill Koch League, a youth program for cross country developed by Koch. He was the first United States Olympian to earn a medal in cross country skiing.

The league is a free, parent-involved program, with many helping with transportation, food and instruction.

“It would not be possible without the parents,” Lepich said.

The local league was reinstated this year and Lepich is happy with the turnout. He said he expected the number to be in the single digits, but on the first Sunday over 30 children and parents showed up.

“Twenty to thirty people have consistently showed up on Sundays,” he said.

Participants gather at 1:30 p.m. Sundays behind Crescent Park School on Route 26.

“It’s from kindergarten up to eighth grade, and it gets kids out skiing, teaching, having fun and it culminates at the end the ski season with a Bill Koch Festival,” Lepich said.

More than 30 children from Bethel plan to attend the festival Saturday, Feb. 29, and Sunday, March 1, at Great Glen Trails on Route 16 in Gorham, New Hampshire, he said.

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