While the snow has been sticking to the ground for months now, Sunday was the real start to the skiing season, according to long-time ski club member and organizer Bob White.
“The start flag has been waved today,” he said at the Hay River Ski Club’s World Snow Day event, which doubled as an open house for the group.
“Between the cold weather and our commitment to host the Arctic Winter Game trials before Christmas, it meant that people maybe didn’t get the message that we were open and ready to go.”
But White said the new year is bringing new energy to the club and he has seen a growing number of young families coming out to make use of the trails. He said primarily young mothers have been coming out with their kids and are interested in signing them up for ongoing activities.
“It’s really great to see the young families coming out,” White said. “It means a lot for the sport.”
The club has snowshoes on offer for people who may not have their own, as well as small skis for kids that don’t require special boots. White said the goal is to promote youth programming that will lead to more young people on the trails and was hoping to see them start soon in the new year.
Anne-Marie Bourgeois said she is looking forward to helping run some of those programs and spent the afternoon gauging interest and getting contact details for parents inclined to sign their kids up for the Jackrabbit program, a national skiing level that fosters a love of the sport as well as healthy habits in children.
“I grew up in a ski club back in Newfoundland,” said Bourgeois, adding that she hadn’t skied regularly since then until moving here.
“It’s the first time in a while since I’ve been part of a club and coming out a few times a week. It feels a lot like coming home.”
Taking pride in being the home club for two-time Olympic biathlete Brendan Green, the Hay River Ski Club nonetheless is open to all who want to join. Membership for the season is $50 for an individual and $85 for a family, the cost of which goes to maintain the trails among other things.
While hockey may be the traditional Canadian game, White said skiing is deeply embedded in Northern tradition. He remembers an Olympic cross-country skier from the North who competed in the 1988 Winter Olympics saying that skiing wasn’t about the competition, but instead more akin to a long, slow dance through the undergrowth.
“It’s just a great way to connect,” said White. “We’re looking to get everybody out here.”