Glacier Gymnastics opened its doors on April 29 and already has a waiting list for a few of its classes.
The new gymnastics training center, located on U.S. 93 north of Kalispell, is owned and operated by veteran instructors Joann Distler and her mother, Annie Rose.
‘We felt there was room for another gym here,” Distler said. “We’ve had a great response, and are enjoying getting to know the families of the Flathead.”
Distler’s parents founded ISG Gymnastics in Harrison, New York, in 1975. The gym was her second home growing up and she developed into a college-level competitive gymnast. She later taught at her parents’ facility long enough to see multiple generations of students coming through the doors.
“It was a great business,” Distler said. “We had 500 students registered at a time, we were a big part of the community and did a lot of community service.”
Distler said she and her mother thought they were done with gymnastics two years ago when they moved to the Flathead Valley to be near Distler’s daughter and her family, but they missed the energy of the students and the rewards of seeing children progress and decided to offer their skills and experience to budding gymnasts in the Flathead Valley. After searching about a year for the right space, Distler said she came across an advertisement on Craigslist seeking renters for a spacious building under construction in the middle of the valley, behind the Humane Society of Northwest Montana.
“One week later, we signed the lease,” she said.
They chose a start date that allowed them only two weeks to get the equipment installed, but they met the deadline.
‘We had many 12-hour days setting up,” she said.
The 5,500-square-foot facility has room for everything found in a full-service gymnastics facility — a springy Tumble Trak runway, uneven parallel bars, balance beams, vaulting horse, and large mat for floor exercises. The gym also has equipment for the smallest tumblers, such as tunnels, balls and slides.
The facility and all instructors on staff are safety certified with USA Gymnastics.
Kids can begin gymnastics at age 1 with a parent-tot class that goes up to age 3. Two sessions for ages 3 to 5 are on the schedule, including a two-hour Lunch Bunch featuring gymnastics and games. Recreational gymnastics classes for children over 5 are split into age groups.
“A handful of the classes are already closed,” Distler said. “A couple of the kids are on waiting lists. For opening at the end of the school year I think we’re doing great.”
Glacier Gymnastics also offers Avalanche Cheer, a competitive gymnastics program, and the Glacier Gymnastics competitive team for ages 6 and over.
The gym is also a franchise of NinjaZone, a mixture of obstacle training, gymnastics, freestyle movement and martial arts for ages 3 to 11.
The gym will continue its current class schedule until June 22, and summer day camps begin June 24.
Birthday parties were a big part of the New York business, Distler said, and they’re bringing that service to Glacier Gymnastics on Saturdays and Sundays. Party guests participate in a loosely guided hour of activities in the tumbling area before gathering for cake and opening presents in the parent viewing room.
Children don’t have to be competitive or even particularly skilled to benefit from gymnastics training, Distler said.
“Not everyone is going to be an Olympian or a college athlete,” she said. “Gymnastics gives self-esteem, helps kids know spatially where they are for other sports. If they’re in competition, they’re learning how to do something one-on-one, like public speaking. It relates to other things as they grow up and get into the outside world. It gives them confidence.”
For more information, visit https://glaciergymnasticsmt.com
Business reporter Heidi Gaiser may be reached at 758-4438 or firstname.lastname@example.org.