Turtle Mountain Nordic Ski Club is providing programs and activities for athletes of all skill levels to help grow the local cross-country skiing community.
Casey Gunther, a co-chair of the club, said it is an exciting time at Turtle Mountain Provincial Park because there is already a fair amount of snow in the park and skiers are eager to hit the trails.
The sport has been growing in popularity, he said, and the fresh snow on the ground encourages people to think of new ways to get active and explore the great outdoors.
“We’ve had a lot of people in the area skiing for a lot of years and took the jump to organize,” Gunther said. “We thought it would be beneficial to provide some programming for the kids and for us adults as well.”
Gunther did not grow up cross-country skiing but loved being out in the woods and on the trails. He appreciates participating in a sport that can be done with all ages of children and help them gain a love of nature.
“It’s a great way to be active because winters can potentially be pretty long if you’re not finding something to do. It’s a great sport for getting outside and keeping active during the winter months.”
This passion for the outdoors inspired the launch of the Turtle Mountain Nordic Ski Club about three years ago.
The creation of the organization was driven by people who had children who were getting into the age of wanting to ski, he said, and people in general looking to enjoy the sport together.
The Turtle Mountain Nordic Ski Club is a member of the Cross-Country Ski Association of Manitoba. Through this membership, it can access youth programming, along with books, toques, neck warmers and other perks. The Cross-Country Ski Association of Manitoba is also able to provide training for any interested instructors.
The club also works closely with the community of Boissevain to provide access to the sport. This includes providing access to a large supply of rental skis that are available for those looking to try out the sport.
Currently, the club is aiming to grow the adult program offerings.
The club has been able to bring together cross-country skiers of all ability levels and ages — some are three years old while others are in their 70s.
The organization is just starting to ramp up its membership after seeing snowfall. Gunther said over the years it has averaged around 50 to 60 members and they are hoping to see that many people sign up this year.
The club is also committed to helping Canadian newcomers explore Turtle Mountain Provincial Park on skis. It has been a rewarding experience helping those living through their first Canadian winter find joy in the coldest time of the year, Gunther said.
“It’s a good challenge when you’re coming from a warm climate.
“It’s a great activity to do and to see the joy in people when they get out in the woods and on the trails, it’s a wonderful thing.”
The Turtle Mountains have a vast and diverse network of trails that are maintained by provincial park staff. There is a huge range of slopes available from short loops, to trails spanning more than 20 kilometres, to other spaces that even allow for overnight trips.
There are also various warmup shelters along the trails, including the backcountry James Lake Cabin.
“They do an amazing job of keeping the trails groomed and we have a good relationship with them,” Gunther said.
The club was limited in the activities it was able to take on in the winter of 2020-21 due to COVID-19. Many people were skiing and there was growth in trail usage, but the club was unable to offer any programming under public health measures at the time.
“It was great to see people out, but we definitely missed the social side of it, like most sports and activities did,” Gunther said.
In 2019, the club hosted a cross-country ski and fat-tire bike race. Gunther said it was a lot of fun and they’re looking to try to run it again in February.
For those interested in joining the club, visit the online booking platform through zone4.ca and search for Turtle Mountain Nordic Ski Club to register. The club can also be contacted via Facebook or Instagram.
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Chelsea Kemp, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Brandon Sun