PINKHAM NOTCH — The New England Bill Koch League strives to introduce youngsters to the lifelong sport of cross-country skiing and all that it offers for recreational and social opportunities.

The league promotes fitness and competitive challenges, but its main goal is to create a fun environment where children develop a true love for the sport.

Named after Bill Koch, first U.S. Olympic medalist in cross-country skiing, the NEBKL is the largest cross-country ski program for children in the United States, and is comprised of over 45 clubs throughout New England, with well over 800 youth participants and adult leaders.

Great Glen Trails has hosted a BKL club for more than 15 years, led by Olympian and ski school director Sue Wemyss.

The highlight of the season — for kids and coaches alike — is the annual New England Bill Koch League Festival. For 2020, the festival is being hosted by Great Glen Trails Outdoor Center. This two-day event will begin Saturday with a full schedule of races to be held throughout the weekend.

In addition to the multiple categories of races, the festival will give kids a taste of ski jumping and biathlon, as well as fun activities such as snow tubing, obstacle courses, radar runs, ski tours, snowman building and face painting.

Special guests at this year’s NEBKL Festival include two-time Olympic cross-country skier Ida Sargent, as well as the league’s namesake, Bill Koch.

Both will be available during the festival for autographs and discussions.

While most of the NEBKL clubs will be attending the festival, you don’t need to be a club member to participate. Registration is open to all kids in grades 1-8 who are looking for a fun weekend of winter activities and racing.

For info, go to greatglentrails.org.

Customers and lodging partners should be aware that during the festival the trails on the western side of Route 16, as well as the tubing hill, will be closed to the general public.

However, Great Glen will be open for snowshoeing and backcountry skiing on the trails on the eastern side of the trail system. The Mt. Washington SnowCoaches will be operating daily, and tours can be reserved online at snowcoachnh.com

The festival’s presenting sponsor is the Valley Originals, plus there are a host of other regional and national businesses, including L.L. Bean, Swix, Nokian Tires, The Glen House hotel, Ragged Mountain Equipment, Skida, Living Shores Aquarium, Settlers Green, SkiErg, Bolt Depot, Northeast Delta Dental, Bavarian Chocolate Haus, Zeb’s Country Store, Clif Bar, Shaw’s Supermarkets, Big Dave’s Bagels & Deli, Town & Country Inn and Resort, and the Law Offices of Cooper Cargill Chant.

If your business is interested in supporting this family-friendly event, contact Lisa McCoy (lisa@mt-washington.com) for more information.

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