Canadian Ski Marathon celebrates 55th anniversary with virtual event

·2 min read

This weekend, ski enthusiasts from across the country would normally be gathering in Quebec for the 55th anniversary of the Canadian Ski Marathon.

But with all outdoor gatherings prohibited, the marathon's organizers have had to find another way to bring people together.

"Because of the pandemic we've had to reinvent our event," said Sylvain Parent, president of the board of the ski marathon.

Instead of gathering all together for the marathon, athletes are being asked to participate from their own neck of the woods, logging their time and posting it online.

"We ask people to register their outings via their smartwatch or their smartphone, or via the honour system," said Parent.

He said those taking part should take and post photos of their outing to share with other marathoners online.

Parent said for many participants, the sense of community is what keeps people coming back year after year.

"My favourite part of the ski marathon is the stories that come out of it," he said.

This year, some 1,300 people have registered to take part in the virtual event, from all around North America and as far away as Switzerland. With the event being held online, people can join in from anywhere, said Parent.

They also have the added bonus of a flexible schedule. Unlike the usual weekend, the virtual event is open from February 6 to March 7.

There are several routes skiers can choose from depending on experience level, from a 15-kilometre tour to a 45-kilometre half-marathon and the toughest two-day ski covering 50 kilometres each day and camping out overnight in between.

"Tonight I'm going to camp out in my backyard with a bale of hay here in Sainte-Anne-de-Bellevue and simulate a [gold-level] camp, but I'll be by myself," said Parent.

Whatever the skier's level, Parent said the virtual marathon gives people an excuse to spend time outdoors and lift their spirits.

Parent started participating in the marathon 10 years ago with his son.

He said after the first year, he was hooked: "The ski marathon is contagious. Once you touch it, it's hard to leave it."