Youth Blaze Trails in West Yellowstone with help from Mayo Clinic grant

August 7, 2017

Based in Minneapolis, Minn., the Loppet Foundation engages people of all backgrounds, ages and abilities in outdoor activities like mountain biking, cross country skiing, trail running, paddling and orienteering. In addition to large-scale community events and fee-based services, the Loppet offers a series of outdoor programs that empower underserved youth from the North Minneapolis community.

With a grant from Mayo Clinic, five Loppet youth from North Minneapolis received scholarships to attend a cross country ski camp in West Yellowstone, Mont. with Loppet Nordic Racing, the Loppet’s competitive ski club. The camp combines rigorous ski training and group bonding time to empower high school youth to work hard, set high personal goals and support each other.

Loppet Office
Hai (Henri’s dad), Henri, Victor, Charlie, Daniel (Charlie’s dad), and Datelle at the Loppet office.

Scholarship recipients meet high standards

Scholarship recipients included Henri Nguyen, Victor Morales, Charlie Graybow, Datelle Straub and Nico Borello. They were selected based on their commitment to Loppet programs, as well as their personal goals and physical preparedness for the trip. The week-long West Yellowstone training camp is an intensive experience. Each day includes an early morning run and two long ski sessions.

Charlie was ecstatic when he learned the West Yellowstone scholarship was being offered again this year. “I basically screamed when I found out,” said the high school sophomore, who is also an alumni of the Junior Loppet program at Anwatin Middle School.

Datelle served as a Loppet Adventure Camp counselor this past summer where he instructed younger kids from all over the Twin Cities in mountain biking, trail running and paddling. The West Yellowstone trip was Datelle’s first time outside the state of Minnesota. But the high school sophomore likes new experiences – and this one was especially formative.

Datelle with Friends
Datelle with two new friends from Loppet Nordic Racing.

“Lots of things were challenging, especially the three hour uphill ski we did.” he said. “But I learned I was capable of more than I thought, mentally and physically. I realized if I just stayed with the group, I’d be fine.”

Victor, a freshman and alum of the Anwatin Middle School Junior Loppet team, thought the trip helped him become more disciplined and a better team

Henri, a high school sophomore and Junior Loppet alum, said he benefitted from the freedom of being able to explore, but also the structure offered by the program. “.The balance gave us a good sense of responsibility,” he said.

More than skiing

Each night, the entire Loppet Nordic Racing crew enjoyed meals together, played games, watched ski technique videos and attended clinics. This unique trip opportunity provided many group interactions and connections with the Loppet participants.

“It was super fun, meeting new people in the ski community,” said Nico, a high school sophomore and two-time West Yellowstone scholarship recipient. “I loved meeting lots of other skiers my own age. I’m also super grateful I got to do this trip for the second time!”

Nico (fourth from left), Charlie, Henri, Victor, and Datelle strike a pre-ski pose with some of the Loppet Nordic Racing crew.

Charlie’s favorite thing about the trip was the camaraderie. “There was a lot of constructive teamwork. We helped each other quite a bit. We skied together and encouraged each other out on the trail.”

The ability to help each other up when they fall, work through challenges, and even laugh at themselves will serve the fivesome well as they pursue their future goals, which have been shaped by the West Yellowstone trip.

Ski Break
Henri, Victor, Nico (fifth from left), and Charlie take a break mid-ski with other Loppet Nordic Racing members.

Charlie and Henri want to compete in Junior National qualifying ski races this winter. Victor wants to do every ski race he can this winter, in between caring for his younger siblings. Nico is excited about how much his skiing technique improved. Datelle developed an appreciation for being outdoors in the winter and being active.

“This trip really helped me realize that I like skiing in groups,” Datelle said. “I like skiing with people who are better than me because it pushes me.”

The West Yellowstone trip helped push each participant out of their comfort zones. At the end of the trip, they felt more connected to one another and the larger outdoor community and see themselves a little differently now. They are eager to tackle their next adventures in life.