Lucy Hill luge and skiing

NEGAUNEE – There were kids skiing, snowshoeing, sledding and even luging last week as North Star Academy took its younger students to Lucy Hill in Negaunee for an afternoon of outdoor activities.

It was a bit of a chaotic scene as volunteers helped kids learn about the different types of snow sports equipment and how to use them, but it was clear the students were having fun.

“We wanted to do something special,” said Jessica Straczowski, a special education teacher who largely coordinated the day of activities.

Straczowski said the school plans a winter event every year and with the Winter Olympics ongoing in Sochi, Russia, she believed it would be timely to take the kids out to the Lucy Hill Naturbahn Luge Track in Negaunee.

“It’s important for the kids to be outside, playing outside and to not just sit in front of the TV and watch the Olympics,” said Straczowski, who has been a member of the Upper Peninsula Luge Club for 20 years.

Students had an opportunity to snowshoe, cross country ski, go sledding, throw snowballs and, of course, luge, although they only attempted to run the bottom section of the track. Only trained lugers are allowed to attempt a run from the top of the hill.

A small bonfire and hot chocolate helped keep the kids warm as the snow fell.

Also volunteering at the event were a group of Boy Scouts, a local youth group, members of the luge club, the parent/teacher organization and Kohl’s employees.

The luge track in Negaunee is a little different from what the students may see in Sochi this year. Most people think of luging as done on a artificial track – an iced-over tube of ice that shoots competitors through tight turns and downhill stretches with speeds upward of 80 mph.

Negaunee’s track, however, is a natural, or “Naturbahn.” Its banks are made of snow and boards, and the hill uses no other refrigeration than that provided by Mother Nature.