AVSC’s Garrett Russell coaching cross-country skiing in Alaska, Australia
Garrett Russell is always looking for unique travel opportunities, and his knowledge of Nordic skiing has opened many doors for him to do so. Russell, who is the Bill Koch Youth Ski League director for the Aspen Valley Ski and Snowboard Club, has spent the past week teaching in northern Alaska through a program called Skiku.
“You go with a group of people who may coach Nordic skiing or have a passion for it and want to pass on their skills,” Russell said prior to leaving for Alaska last week. “We will be working during their P.E. class. We will be taking them out and outfitting them with a bunch of skis.”
Russell traveled to the village of Point Lay, which is located within the Artic Circle, this week where he was working with the local schools to teach cross-country skiing. While the Anchorage area is one of the world’s premier hubs for competitive Nordic skiing, the sport isn’t as present in the rest of the state.
According to its website, Skiku’s “goal is to get Alaska skiing.” Russell volunteered with the nonprofit for the first time last spring, where he went to Utqiagvik, Alaska, otherwise known as Barrow, the northernmost city in the United States.
“I actually grew up in Alaska from the age of 9 to 15. Last year was the first year I was able to go back in 18 years, since I moved,” said Russell, now 33. “Because my passion is Nordic skiing, I also wanted to find another volunteer opportunity to allow me to travel and go someplace really unique and super far off the grid. This opportunity presented itself to be what I was looking for.”
Russell’s second stint with Skiku will end this weekend. Then, in June, the second part of his summer travels will get underway when he heads to Australia where he will be the head cross-country ski coach for New South Wales Cross Country, a ski club similar to AVSC.
The opportunity came about through AVSC Nordic program director August Teague, who spent four years with the Australian national team before returning to his roots in Aspen. This will be Russell’s first time traveling to Australia. He’ll return to Aspen in the fall to continue working with AVSC.
A local kid got on the X Games Aspen podium on Sunday night, but it wasn’t the one most people expected. Even Jon Sallinen didn’t think he’d be taking home a medal.