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The “Conserve Kortelopet”
Rebecca Rand and Paul Lovaas

Rebecca Rand, Outdoor Skills Teacher, and Paul Lovaas, Director of Recreational Programming, provided key support to students as they organized the "Conserve Kortelopet."

This semester, on the same weekend as the annual American Birkebeiner and Kortelopet – the largest cross-country ski race in North America – CS20 (Spring 2020) students chose to organize and host their own race at Lowenwood.  The first annual “Conserve Kortelopet” involved many of the same elements that make the nearby race in Hayward, Wisconsin, so special. This student-led weekend event featured a festive group start, hours of skiing on groomed trails, friendly aid stations, and of course, Jessie-Diggins-inspired face glitter for extra speed!

As the Director of Recreational Programs, and as the Outdoor Skills Teacher, one of our favorite school-wide learning goals to collaborate on is goal #7 wherein students will “frequently take time for outdoor play and reflection” during and beyond their Conserve School experience. Usually, we as staff, strive to facilitate classes and extracurriculars that serve this goal, but occasionally students take it upon themselves. CS20 students did just that with this exceptional student-organized and student-led weekend activity.

The “Conserve Korte,” however, featured aspects that the official American Birkebeiner and Kortelopet could not offer. For instance, the Conserve School race course contained far more fox, hare, and wolf tracks for skiers to enjoy as well as flexible race distance options for students to choose from based on their own goals and experience level. While some students opted to race a full 29+ kilometers to mimic the Kortelopet in Hayward, others challenged themselves to ski every trail on campus, or to simply to “ski for longer than they ever had before.” Beginners and experienced skiers alike shared the joy of a “race day” atmosphere with the support of their peers. 

Perhaps our favorite part of the Conserve Kortelopet this semester (after the face glitter, of course) was the new sense of gratitude the event inspired in students and staff. Indeed, student-driven and place-based recreational activities like this weekend’s race have the power to inspire the entire community. The final school-wide learning goal at Conserve School is to “come to know Lowenwood, develop gratitude for this gift from James R. Lowenstine, and, through their deepening love of this place, become inspired to be a caretaker of the natural world.” As we look back on the first annual Conserve Kortelopet, it seems clear that this event, filled with outdoor play, indeed inspired some reflection, sincere gratitude, as well as love and appreciation for the gift of our winter trails. With this gratitude in the forefront of our minds, we cannot wait to see and support future events and student-organized community activities this semester. 

Photos contributed by Rebecca Rand and Paul Lovaas.