Hayden Young voices carry far on packed snow.
The shouts of third-graders could easily be heard Thursday afternoon from any point on the groomed ski track looping for nearly a mile around a sunny Hayden field. Indistinguishable at first, the voices grew louder and clearer as the Hayden Valley Elementary School students rounded a curve, gliding on new Fischer skis purchased with help from the Steamboat Ski Touring Center.
"Mrs. Wilkie, I can't take any more!" said a smiling Clayton Moon, 8, as he flopped onto the snowy ground.
"They usually do about one lap per class," physical education teacher Michelle Wilkie said before giving several tired skiers another option.
"You guys can take your skis off and go make snow angels," she said. "Not headfirst though."
Clayton and his classmates were participating in the final week of a three-week cross-country ski program. Students from all grades have taken part in relay races, balloon games and countless laps around the track, which is maintained by the town of Hayden.
Wilkie said the program would not have been possible without help from numerous members of the Routt County community. Parents Tammie Delaney and Tracey Rogalski wrote grants and asked local businesses for donations to buy skis that would replace the school's 25-year-old equipment, she said.
Birgitta Lindgren, owner of the touring center, said she was happy to let the school purchase equipment at cost.
"We made nothing on it -- we just love to see the kids out skiing," Lindgren said.
Wilkie, who also teaches music at the elementary school, said Lindgren took trips to Frisco and Silverthorne to pick up the skis.
"(Lindgren) has been a cherub," Wilkie said.
Wilkie also expressed gratitude for the help of volunteers Joyce Baker, Bonnie Carrico, Billee Harris, Con--nie Hahn, Kathy Hockett and Cindy Wright, who took part in classes along with teachers, including Kathy Deepe and Rudy Wertenberger.
Wilkie even got help from the clouds, which took a break from weeks of dumping snow.
"The weather has been fabulous," she said. "We haven't had to make up a day."
For the students, that meant a lot of exercise and more than enough time on skis to get their fill of the sport, Wilkie said.
"They've had so much fun, but I think they're ready to move on to something else," Wilkie said, blowing three long blasts on her whistle to bring the children in from around the track.
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