Friday, February 6, 2009

Ski for Light: Meeting Marion Elmquist

Ok, I've gotten some coffee in me and I'm feeling much better about the world in general. So, on to the real business: Ski for Light.

Last night I had a great conversation with Marion Elmquist who is the President of Ski for Light. We talked about all manner of things from her first time as a SFL guide in 1992 to her impressions on this year's program.

First, a little background. Marion Elmquist first got involved with SFL more than 15 years ago when she signed on as a guide for the 1992 Ski for Light, which was held in Granby, Colorado. It was such an incredible experience that three years later she branched out and began guiding skiers at the Ridderrennet. Since then she has only missed one year at either event, and she told me that she's already getting ready to head over to Norway for this year's event.

It was easy to tell from her voice that she is passionate about cross country skiing and, even moreso, what the Ridderrennet and Ski for Light stand for. I asked her if she would share with me her most memorable moment from the past, but there were too many for her to choose from, so she talked about the thing that keeps her coming back every year: friendship. Marion told me that through Ski for Light she's "made a number of lifelong friends and the event is like a gift that keeps giving from one year to the next."

This led to my next question about the event. You see, in speaking with everyone else over the week, there was one common theme that kept coming up--the idea of Ski for Light being a family. I asked Marion if she agreed with that sentiment and if so, was it an organic thing or was SFL feel like family by design? In her opinion, Ski for Light and all its participants, leaders and volunteers became a family in a very organic way. Marion thought a lot of it was due, in part, to the fact that skiers and guides spend a full week skiing together and a relationship naturally develops over that time.

Next we talked about this year's event and I was told that the SFL was initially concerned about attendance but, even with the current economy in the tank, there are 250-260 skiers and guides at this year's event, which is pretty average for SFL even in better times. To me, this really illustrates how important SFL is to the skiers and guides. Even in a bad economy these folks are coming out on their own dime and participating.

From there we moved on to talking about the future. Next year is the 35th anniversary (aka jade anniversary) of the SFL and Marion will soon be choosing an event chair and start the planning in the weeks to come. Also, I found out that on Saturday there should be a public announcement about where that event will be taking place.

Wow--35 years. That's an impressive history by today's standards. I mentioned that to Marion and her response was that SFL's success over the years was due to early leadership, a good planning manual, strong volunteers and the wonderful support it gets from Sons of Norway. Marion feels that thanks to all these elements SFL runs smoother than many professionally planned events. After talking with a number of participants I'd have to agree that the event is run very, very smoothly.

Also for the future, Marion shared with me, are a couple of goals that are important to SFL. The first is to update the SFL website. Right now is designed to be accessible to people that are visually impaired and must use "screen readers." However its not as visually appealing as the SFL would like. The goal is to make the website moreso, while keeping its high level of readability for the visually impaired.

The second goal Marion told me about is actually a continuation of their current goals. In the future she wants SFL to maintain its vibrance while staying healthy and financially sound. Related to that, she believes SFL needs to attract younger skiers and guides so the organization can continue to regenerate and carry on long into the future. Personally, I think those are great goals to have and I think they'll find ways to meet them.

Overall this was a great conversation and I'm kinda sad to see the week coming to a close. However, there's always next year. That's all for now, but check back over the weekend for more and maybe even a recap of the week.

Happy Friday Everyone!

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