Interest in winter sports surges as COVID-19 pandemic lingers

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Some groups and businesses that specialize in outdoor activities say they're noticing a surge of interest in winter sports, especially cross-country skiing, as the pandemic drags on.

It seems more and more people are looking for outdoor recreation this winter, especially as COVID-19 continues to put travel plans on hold for many people.

Paul Chiddle, manager of the University of Calgary's Outdoor Centre, says staff have noticed increased inquiries about winter gear rentals.

There has also been a huge jump in winter program registration compared with previous years for activities like cross-country and backcountry skiing, as well as snowshoeing, ice climbing and avalanche safety.

And they're getting inquiries from more newcomers to outdoor winter sports.

"We're seeing an increase in registration and we've actually started putting more programs onto the calendar," he said.

Abom Ski and Board owner Randy Ahl says downhill skiing and snowboarding remains popular, but he has also noticed a surge in sales for sports like snowshoeing and nordic skiing.

He is also seeing a lot of interest from relative beginners.

"Cross-country has been booming for us because just about anybody can do it, it's an easy thing to learn, access to trails is pretty good, so we've been selling more than we ever have," he said.

Ahl says cross-country gear is becoming harder to find in stores because of the increased demand.

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