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Tunisia Jenkins, a fifth-grader at Cummings Elementary School on Misawa Air Base, Japan, leads a group of Nordic skiers Tuesday on Gosser Memorial Golf Course. Every day after school, a small group of students skis on the course. Two fresh sets of ski tracks are groomed daily around the course perimeter.
Tunisia Jenkins, a fifth-grader at Cummings Elementary School on Misawa Air Base, Japan, leads a group of Nordic skiers Tuesday on Gosser Memorial Golf Course. Every day after school, a small group of students skis on the course. Two fresh sets of ski tracks are groomed daily around the course perimeter. (Jennifer H. Svan / S&S)
Tunisia Jenkins, a fifth-grader at Cummings Elementary School on Misawa Air Base, Japan, leads a group of Nordic skiers Tuesday on Gosser Memorial Golf Course. Every day after school, a small group of students skis on the course. Two fresh sets of ski tracks are groomed daily around the course perimeter.
Tunisia Jenkins, a fifth-grader at Cummings Elementary School on Misawa Air Base, Japan, leads a group of Nordic skiers Tuesday on Gosser Memorial Golf Course. Every day after school, a small group of students skis on the course. Two fresh sets of ski tracks are groomed daily around the course perimeter. (Jennifer H. Svan / S&S)
Cummings Elementary School students Jordyn Young, left, and Josh Bennett ski Tuesday at Gosser Memorial Golf Course at Misawa Air Base.
Cummings Elementary School students Jordyn Young, left, and Josh Bennett ski Tuesday at Gosser Memorial Golf Course at Misawa Air Base. (Jennifer H. Svan / S&S)

MISAWA AIR BASE, Japan — It didn’t matter that a recent spate of dry, sunny days had slicked the golf course into a crusty snow-ice mix.

Just as they do almost every day after the final bell, about 20 Cummings Elementary School students snapped on their skis and slid out the door Tuesday.

Cross-country skiing for this group of mostly fifth- and sixth-graders beats cartoons and video games, hands down. Bring on the snow, they say: Winter is their favorite season since they discovered the thrill of flying downhill on two skinny sticks.

Yes, Nordic skiing generally is associated with flat terrain. But most of the 10-and-younger crowd flock to the white bumps on the 18-hole Gosser Memorial Golf Course next to school grounds.

Sure, they tumble sometimes — well, a lot — but usually a fresh layer of northern Japan powder cushions their fall.

Tuesday was one of the few exceptions in this winter of abundant snowfall.

“It hurts more when you fall” on hard snow, fifth-grader Josh Bennett remarked on the day’s conditions, after taking a few spills.

But he and other kids continued trekking back and forth up a south-facing slope. A few students headed for the course perimeter, where two fresh sets of ski tracks are groomed daily, while another ventured solo through a patch of trees.

Jim Moody, a Department of Defense Dependents Schools-Pacific educational technologist at Cummings, who helped get skiing off the ground last year and goes out with the kids every day, said the program has blossomed.

“It’s a unique opportunity that’s only available at Misawa,” he said. “At no other school in Japan that I know of can you ski right outside your door.”

Edgren High School loaned about 25 sets of skis, boots and poles to Cummings in 2005, Moody said. He started taking fifth- and sixth-graders cross-country skiing that February.

With the larger skis from the high school, and now smaller ones bought by a recent Parent Teacher Organization donation worth $2,700, Moody hopes to get more fourth-graders, even third-graders, interested.

“With cross-country skiing, there’s not too much to teach,” he said. “You need to know how to step in, step out of the bindings, how to get up if you fall down. … It’s just basically moving. With kids, they’re almost naturals at it.”

Moody, a Nordic skier since age 19, said he loves the sport because it’s a fun workout.

Nia Allen, 10, agreed that it’s good exercise but said she likes most “that you go downhill. Whenever I have the time, I go.”

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