Students Take to the Trails in Pursuit of the Joy of Skiing

Kenora students were breaking records Wednesday before they even hit ski trails. Over 500 skiers from elementary schools around Kenora and Sioux Narrows descended on the Kenora Nordic Trails Association facility at Mount Evergreen for an event dubbed Partners Two 2010.


It's an effort by  Cross Country Canada to increase the grassroots participation of the sport and its the second year in a row Kenora has been involved in the event.


Kenora had the largest participation last year for a Partners Two 2010 race and event organizer Ursula Wehner is sure they've met that target again. "We're by far the biggest in Canada," event organizer Ursula Wehner said. "We think it's the largest school ski event in the world."


That's just what the club hopes to prove next year as they plan to petition the Guinness Book of World Records to find out just big the record really is. Wehner said there is still some room for the one-day event to grow because some schools on brought 40 students. "We can handle 150 per time slot so we could do 600," Wehner said. The only challenge might just be finding enough skis to put on the racers.


The skiers do a loop ranging from one to two kilometres and are timed by volunteers. The school with the lowest average clocking wins a trophy, but results won't be known until next week.


"It's just fantastic to see this many kids involved in recreation and healthy activity. That's what we want to promote," Wehner said.


Putting together the event is no small undertaking. Close to 40 volunteers helped with everything from handing out racing numbers to manning the concessions to timing the skiers. "I have an amazing crew of volunteers here," Wehner said. "They've just done a great job."


Wednesday's event is only one example of how the sport of nordic skiing has taken off in Kenora in the past two years. Competitively the junior development program has grown to more children and is paying dividends on the course and off. Coach Nadene McBride said the young people that take part in the training regime don't just become better skiers, they become better all round athletes. "The fitness you get from cross-country skiing is better than any other sport," McBride said, noting rowing and swimming follow close behind. She said some of her athletes are able to use their skiing experience as cross training for other sports like soccer.


The junior development team was started to give children who had completed the jackrabbits program a place to continue skiing. Now it's attracting new skiers who want to learn how to race. Families have also got into the act. Parents of junior development team members have taken up the sport with the whole family training together.


In the past three years the membership in the Kenora Nordic Trails Association has increased from only 25 to over 340. "We received a trail grant to do new trails and that really brought the adults out," she said. "They're looking around and they're wanting kids to partake as well. Skiing is one of those events that you can do for a lifetime."