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Olympian Tim Burke plays snow games with Tupper youth Nordic club

From left, Olympic biathlete Tim Burke and Tupper Lake Youth Nordic Ski Club students Emma Gnann, Chelsea Kohan, Ella Tice and Lacey Pickering play Moose Juice, a popular cross-country ski game, all while wearing one ski. Pickering was a “moose” and tagged Burke almost immediately after this photo was taken. (Enterprise photo — Aaron Cerbone)

TUPPER LAKE — As a duck call carried over the rolling hills of the Tupper Lake Golf Club’s cross-country ski trails on Tuesday, four-time Olympic biathlon competitor Tim Burke and 20 kids slapped their ski poles into the snow and hopped.

The duck call had been blown by ski instructor Ken Kalil, who invited Burke to visit the young skiers in the Tupper Lake Youth Nordic Ski Club. The kids are preparing for a ski race on Saturday.

The group played a classic ski game called Moose Juice, a mixture of tag and sharks and minnows that Burke remembered from his childhood. He started as the “moose,” and when Kalil blew the duck call, he took one hop and charged toward the wave of oncoming children, tagging as many as he could.

After three rounds, Burke said the kids were tiring him out and that he would be intimidated to compete against them Saturday.

Burke talked with the kids, who are all between 6 and 12 years old, about his career as a biathlete and what it took to get there. Biathlon mixes target shooting with ski racing.

“For 16 years of my life, biathlon and cross-country skiing were my job,” Burke said. “It was a really, really fun thing to do. I’m very happy and fortunate that I got to do that.”

He said after the 2018 Winter Olympics, “I was getting a little too old, and it was time to get a real job.”

He found a job with U.S. Biathlon and is now its director of development. He said he travels the country working with groups of kids, usually a bit older than the ones he met with Tuesday. He lives in Lake Placid, and in between his trips around the country and abroad, Kalil brought him to the James C. Frenette trails at the Tupper Lake Golf Course. Burke said it was his first time on the Tupper Lake trails.

Growing up in Paul Smiths, he said he mostly learned to ski and race on the trails at Dewey Mountain in Saranac Lake and Mount Van Hoevenberg in Lake Placid. He said he started skiing around the same age as the youngest kids there, around 5 years old. He started biathlon when he was 13.

“At first it was really all about being out there with my brother and sister and my friends, just out there having a good time,” Burke said. “Not much has changed for the rest of my career.”

At some point, he said, he started to realize he was good at skiing.

“I always loved to compete when I was really young,” Burke said.

Out on the trails he chatted with kids and volunteers, sharing stories of his ski career and answering the younger ones’ questions.

He said when he’s not skiing, he likes to go fishing, and all the kids told him about the fish they’ve caught.

Sliding down a hill, he deftly swooped up a girl’s jacket that had fallen off her shoulders and without missing a beat delivered it back to her.

As a gift for visiting his class, Kalil gave Burke a duck call of his own, and the kids told him how to hop when he hears it.

Photos of Tim Burke and the Tupper Lake Youth Nordic Ski Club are available to browse and buy at our CU gallery: http://cu.adirondackdailyenterprise.com/Kids-ski-with-Tim-B-880.html.