Despite having to cancel races on March 29 as a result of cold weather, the 31st annual PTUB races kicked off March 30 in the sun at the Hay River Ski Club.
About 75 participants came out from Fort Smith, Yellowknife, and Hay River to join in the traditional wrap-up to the ski season, complete with final race and banquet event put on by the Ptarmigan Inn.
“Without PTUB, our club wouldn’t be what it is,” said co-organizer Ellie Baxter. “It’s known all over the North and we get skiers in from all over the South Slave.”
As a special added bonus this year, Hay River’s very own Olympian Brendan Green and fellow-Olympian Rosanna Crawford joined the skiers for the weekend. The first day being cancelled may even have been a boon because many of the skiers instead took a turn on the Brendan Green trail – not on the race route – and were overtaken by the namesake himself.
“They got to ski the trail with Brendan, and they wouldn’t have done that if the races had been on,” said Baxter, smiling. “So maybe it turned out to be a good thing. They were all so excited to see him.”
Green and Crawford also signed neckbuffs that were then handed out at the banquet held on the evening of March 29 for all the participants. Normally, there is an awards presentation at the event, but as there were no races, the ceremony was scaled back. Baxter said some parents approached her afterwards and noted that the simple presentation of signed neckbuffs to every participant had been a pleasant solution.
PTUB isn’t a sanctioned event, and as such, participants can have a bit more fun with it, according to co-organizer Doug Swallow.
“There’s nothing really on the line, so everyone just has fun,” he said.
While in some years, he said there have been more than 100 skiers out for the event, Swallow noted that registration has been pretty steady over the 30-year history of the PTUB. He said this year the numbers from the three towns involved were about equal.
“In the past we’ve had clubs come in from Fort Prov and Fort Simpson,” he said, adding that whether clubs come or not largely depends on who is organizing things and if they know about the traditional end-of-season event. “We’re working to bring them back in for future years.”
The longevity of the event has an easy explanation; it’s fun and has a loyal following.
“It’s great to see so many young ones,” said Baxter. “A lot of the skiers are 14 and 15 years old now, but they started coming here when they were four or five. It’s great to see familiar faces coming back every year.”