A  cross-country ski race in Tawatina, Alta. on Friday introduced 100 children from nearby First Nations to competitive skiing.

The race was hosted by Ski Fit North, an organization with which three-time Olympian Beckie Scott is a program director.

"This event came about as an idea to help bridge the gap between a real competition where the kids may have been racing for many years or are very experienced in racing," Scott said. 

"It's an opportunity for our Indigenous students in the program to try racing in a really fun, low-key, supportive environment to see if they like it. We'd then assist for the next level of competitions."

To participated in Friday's event, children were bussed from Kikino Metis Settlement, Beaver Lake First Nation, Heart Lake First Nation, Goodfish First Nation, Saddle Lake Cree Nation and Buffalo Lake Metis Settlement.

Kian Bishop

Kian Bishop,12, prepares before a cross-country ski race in Tawatinaw, Alta. (Travis McEwan/CBC)

'They get up. That's what life's about.' - Laurie Thompson

Kian Bishop, 12, started skiing six years ago when he moved to a foster home on the Kikino Metis Settlement. He finished second in a three-kilometre race in Tawatinaw.

He's one of the more experienced skiers in this group, which includes students from Grades 1 through 12.

"It gives all these little kids a chance to ski and get better as the years go on," Bishop said. "It's a pretty big moment for them. It's kind of special."

Bishop attends Kikino School, which started a ski club three years ago with less than 10 skiers. Now, it has 110 skiers. Before the ski club formed, hockey and baseball were the only recreational sports available on the settlement.

Principal Laurie Thompson says skiing helps students deal with stress and boosts confidence.

"Our kids deal with some tough things. When they're out on their skis, they love it," Thompson said. "They're happy. They're smiling."

Laurie Thompson

Laurie Thompson, principal of Kikino school, helped organize Friday's cross-country ski race to introduce Indigenous youth to competitive skiing. (Travis McEwan/CBC)

One of the races started with a pileup. Snow flew through the air as many of the young skiers tumbled. 

Thompson said those falls teach the students a lesson in determination.

"They get up. That's what life's about. When you fall down you get up. You still keep going," she said. "You put that next ski in front of the other. You be proud that you got from here to there."