The forgotten sport
Saskatchewan athletes shine bright at Nordic skiing
Article: PAige Kreutzwieser – Staff Writer
With the 2014 Winter Olympics right around the corner and big names like Mark McMorris taking over the spotlight, Nordic skiing has fallen into the shadows.
However, Saskatchewan has three athletes – Scott Perras (Biathlon), Colette Bourgonje and Brittany Hudak (Para-Nordic Cross Country Ski) – who will be travelling to Sochi, Russia to prove that the lack of hills in our province can still produce amazing skiers.
“You said hills, and there is the giveaway,” said Judy Young, Communications Director for the Regina Ski Club. “When people think skiing they often think downhill skiing. There are 26 ski clubs in the province. Many of them focus on cross country skiing.”
With a yearly average of over 500 members, Young explained that there is a significant increase this season.
“This year we are breaking the 600 mark, which is really surprising because it is so cold,” she said, “Who is thinking of skiing when the wind chill is taking it into the minus 40s?”
Young believes the increase is partly due to the general number of people moving into the city, but said it is may be due to the increasing popularity of the sport.
“We have a pretty good website, and we publicize the thing and I think the word is just out there,” she said.
The Regina Ski Club offers a great display of current information; updated trail conditions is one of the prominent features.
“Because you want to know after it snows the state of the trails and if they have gotten around to grooming a certain place. It is always current,” Young said.
Some of the noted trails include Kinsmen Park and the Science Centre, but the most popular goes to White Butte Trails.
“White Butte is very heavily trafficked,” she said. “Not just by Regina Ski Club members but by the general public and school groups.”
Nordic skiing has trickled into both the public and Catholic school systems.
“Some of the emails I get are from parents saying ‘I skied in grade eight,’ and that is a pattern,” explained Young. “Just getting young kids out in the school environment gives them enough of an interest that they often come back to it as adults.”
Young has been an active member for about 22 years and said that long-time commitment is a natural thing for many of the Regina Ski Club members.
“Like any organization, we have dedicated people,” she said. “Our facilities director, he has been doing this for 10 or 11 years.”
But it is not just the members who are dedicated to making skiing a prominent activity in the prairies.
Young explained that agreements with the City of Regina and the Provincial Government have aided the club in managing their facilities and equipment, but she also knows that the benefits of skiing promotes a healthy lifestyle that these organizations advocate for.
“Nordic skiing is a terrific all-around sport. The benefits are terrific because you are using your whole body,” Young said. “It is a balance and coordination exercise and a cardio workout. And it gets you outside in the winter.”
For a province that focuses largely on winter sports such as hockey, Nordic skiing can often take the backburner. But Young admits it is a very trans-generational sport.
“We’ve got classes for four year olds. And our oldest couple that are skiing everywhere with the club are 80. And we’ve got everything in between.”
So, the next time you are at home and contemplating your boredom – go rent a pair of skis and try out the trails, because maybe one day you could be heading off to the Olympics.Image: ebsadventure.com