Caption: Cross-country skiing is one of the many activities that the Maine-based Outdoor Sport Institute teaches about through their in-person and online programs. Credit: Daryn Slover / Sun Journal via AP

The Maine-based Outdoor Sport Institute recently launched a series of free online programs and resources to help people increase opportunities for outdoor recreation in their communities.

“I think now more than ever we’re seeing the need for this as people are trying to get outside and stay closer to home,” said Mike Smith, the institute’s executive director. “It’s been our message all along — that the outdoors doesn’t need to be way out there, it can be right here, right out your backdoor, and you don’t need to be an expert to get involved.”

The monthly online roundtable series was launched this summer as a way for OSI to continue its mission to support outdoor sports in rural communities during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Upcoming online OSI programs include a free roundtable in which participants discuss the question “What challenges does your community face with outdoor sports in the winter?” from 4 to 5 p.m. on Nov. 18, and the free webinar “Managing Risk and Improving Community Outdoor Programs” scheduled for 6-7 p.m. on Dec. 15.

In addition, if you sign up to become a member of the OSI community (which is free), you gain access to a wealth of online resources including sport curriculum guides and recordings of past roundtables and interviews with outdoor sport experts. And if looking for more extensive learning experiences, the institute began offering virtual weeklong courses that are tuition based this fall.

To create these online resources, OSI is teaming up with outdoor experts throughout Maine and beyond. For example, in early October, OSI partnered with the International Mountain Bicycling Association to offer a weeklong online trail school, teaching people how to plan, design and build trails in their communities.

“In some ways, place is no longer the barrier because everyone is thinking of [learning] online,” Smith said. “We have a vast network of colleagues and experts in outdoor work. It’s exciting to think of ways to engage them and get them involved.”

To learn more about OSI and joining the community, visit The organization plans to add more resources and features to the website in the months ahead.

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Aislinn Sarnacki

Aislinn Sarnacki is a Maine outdoors writer and the author of three Maine hiking guidebooks including “Family Friendly Hikes in Maine.” Find her on Twitter and Facebook @1minhikegirl. You can also...