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THE GLIDE By John Kinmonth

The world's most popular winter sport has nothing to do with flying tomatoes or triple axels. Instead, it's all about quiet forest trails and lung capacity. It's inexpensive and accessible.

Coert Voorhees knows this to be true. After all, the longtime Bellevue Club member and sustainable investment fund manager spent 10 years as a professional cross-country skier in the 1970s and 1980s.

Traveling the world through his teens and early 20s, Coert skied with the sport's top athletes on the World Cup circuit. He was a member of the dominant University of Utah ski team.

5 Reflections"I was the token American on the team. It was all Norwegians and one Swede," he says.

While the United States tends to favor high-flying halfpipe riders or blisteringly fast downhill skiers, the rest of the frozen world pays close attention to the grueling physical achievements of the hyperfit cross-country skiers.

"The Nordic skiers consistently test with higher VO2 max than any other athlete," he says.

Growing up in Bellevue, Coert was introduced to the sport by his seventhgrade homeroom teacher at the Overlake School. His teacher, Nat Brown, went on to coach some of America's top crosscountry ski talents.

By the time Coert hit 10th grade, he was already training seriously for regional and national competitions.

"I was skiing three times a week and traveling to British Columbia for extended training," he says. "The 30-kilometer classic was my favorite event."

Although the Cascades are among the snowiest mountains in the world, cross-country skiing is still an anomaly in Western Washington.

"It was tough to be a racer from the Northwest," he says. "If you lived in Colorado or Vermont, you were taken a lot more seriously."

Now 50, Coert is hoping to help change that. He sits on the Mountains to Sound Greenway Advisory Committee and the Washington State Winter Recreation Advisory Committee with the goal of providing more trails for skiers, envisioning a 30-kilometer-network of trails on both sides of I-90. He also volunteers as a coach at the Cabin Creek Sno-Park for more than 50 kids from Seattle, Ellensburg and Cle Elum.

Far beyond racing, he sees cross-country skiing as a lifestyle sport for all ages.

"It's a great gateway sport to the outdoors," he says.

Coert still skis three times a week in the winter, including a weekly evening session at Cabin Creek guided by headlamp and moonlight.

Coert and his wife Courtney have encouraged their young children to follow in their ski tracks.

"This is our 4-year-old daughter Elise's third year on skis," he says. "From the moment she could stand and walk, we put her on some skis to shuffle around on."

Coert's 9-year-old son, Blair, has also taken to the sport.

"He loves to race and loves to be outside," Coert says. Blair participated in the Issaquah Kids Triathlon this past year with several Bellevue Club junior members and triathlon coach Mark Nicholson.

As far as more Bellevue Club members hitting the cross-country trails, Coert says it's a natural fit for the extremely active membership.

"With all the triathletes, runners and cyclists here, cross-country skiing would blow their minds," he says.

On any given day, Coert and his family can be found kicking and gliding across the idyllic trails of Cabin Creek.

"Look around, it's like the old world here," he says. "People out enjoying themselves. Freerange kids. It's paradise."

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