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Gaining Momentum

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Written by
Lauren Hunsberger

Photography by
Michael Matti

Like many successful endeavors, Momentum Northwest—a local, budding junior Nordic ski development program—was designed to fill a specific void.

“Courtney and I moved back here in 2007, and our kids were growing up, and we said, ‘Where are the Nordic programs?’ They had all gone away,” says Coert Voorhees, a Bellevue native, accomplished collegiate and World Cup Nordic skier and cofounder of the program. “We got our kids going in the sport, but after a while they got tired of dad coaching them. And I noticed other kids were interested in the sport. I saw an opportunity; I saw there was a big gap.”

Coert and Courtney, his wife and cofounder, agree that a lack of programming for their own kids—Blair, 14, and Elise, 9—was the impetus for starting the nonprofit organization. But they say the idea soon expanded and became about creating a supportive culture for the sport, often called cross-country skiing, as a whole in the greater Seattle area.

“We didn’t do it just for our kids,” says Courtney, also a Pacific Northwest native and accomplished skier. “We were blown away after meeting all these people involved with the sport in the Methow Valley, and they had no idea there was cross-country skiing at Snoqualmie.

"Much of what also pushed us to start Momentum was the lack of ski programs at the local private and public schools," she says. "When Coert started racing, he skied with his school, Overlake. Back then many of the schools had ski teams. Offering an alternative for kids that wanted to be outdoors but maybe not downhill skiing was a factor as well." Equipped with the desire and experience, the Voorhees knew there was only one more detail.

Enter Sam Naney, a retired professional Nordic skier whose athletic successes began as a young child in the Methow Valley, where trails started just five minutes from his backyard. Naney then went to Dartmouth University, where he raced varsity all four years.

“Then I decided I wanted to keep doing it. I couldn’t let it go,” Naney says. “I spent enough of my life competing and seeing enough success that I had the confidence to try and make the next step: compete on a national level and qualify for the Olympics. So I spent eight years after college racing on the professional circuit.”

After an earnest try and near miss at making the Sochi 2014 Olympic team, Naney made the decision to retire, start a family with his wife, Alison, and turn his focus to coaching.

“I’d always envisioned myself as a coach. I didn’t know where, and honestly, Seattle wasn’t even on my radar. There hadn’t been a program in a long time, and I didn’t know there was a need for it,” Naney says.

“Then I started talking with Coert and other people and uncovered there was a real richness to the Nordic scene here. I’d seen it growing up and racing, but it was exciting to hear there was a thirst for it again."

Naney, the head coach and program director for Momentum Northwest, and the Voorhees are now officially headed into their second season, and they are excited by the opportunity to share their love for the sport with other outdoor and snow-sport enthusiasts.

“What I saw was Coert and Courtney were a linchpin for that community, and that’s what I thought was exciting. Beyond the opportunity to coach kids, it was also breaking raw ground in many cases. We have an opportunity to revitalize it, pull people back together, and it started happening almost immediately,” Naney says.

Now, with the support of the community and their inaugural year behind them, Naney and the Voorhees are figuring out how to educate others about the program and the many benefits of Nordic skiing in general. They say the most obvious value is that it offers an opportunity for young kids to continue outdoor physical activity in the winter. Known for its incredible cardiovascular, strength- and endurance-building effects, they all agree the sport can stand alone or be an excellent source of cross training for other activities.

“It dovetails nicely with other sports like running cross-country or track. Alpine skiers also chose to train with us because it generates so much power,” Coert says. “I know it also helped me throughout adolescence because it provides a lot of stability, something you can believe in, something to be committed to outside of school. It is a terrific way of life and a culture that doesn’t go away when the season is over.”

Together, the three have created a development program that makes this mountain-based culture as accessible as possible. Complete with local dry-land conditioning sessions and affordable van transportation to the cross-country trails of Snoqualmie, which can be reached in as little as 50 minutes from the Eastside, athletes enjoy a variety of options and teams, guaranteeing something for everyone interested.

    “We encourage people to give it a shot, we do everything we can to facilitate it, give as much as possible,” Naney says. 

➸ For more information, visit momentumnorthwest.org

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