Cross country ski club sees sharp increase in memberships

Many local groups and organizations have endured difficult times due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but the Good Spirit Cross Country Ski Club has enjoyed a significant increase in interest, according to Darryl Stevenson, club president.

“It's been an exciting and enjoyable ski season at Good Spirit Lake Provincial Park,” said Stevenson. “There are more than double the number of memberships than last season. Right from the start of skiing season the trails have been the busiest we've seen in many years. The ski trails have been in excellent shape even though there was a minimal amount of snow. The condition of the trails survived in spite of a stint of warm melting weather. Many skiers have taken advantage of this winter activity especially when the temperatures held near the freezing mark for much of the season. There were large numbers of skiers over the Christmas and New Year’s holidays with many families utilizing the beautiful skiing conditions.”

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Stevenson said there was adequate snow covering for the skiing season to begin in the last week of November, several weeks earlier than in recent years. After the old warmup shelter was destroyed in a fire last May, a new shelter was erected just in time for the start of the season.

“The Provincial Park's new warmup shelter has been an exciting addition to the skiing experience,” reported Stevenson. “It's interior is completed in a rustic fashion and has been enhanced by donations of bench cushions, paintings, carvings, stuffed animals and wall hangings. The coffee tables are covered in Plexiglas and are designed to display photos and newspaper clippings. Numerous favourable comments have been received from skiers utilizing the new building. There have been over 500 people sign in the visitors’ book already this season. It should be noted that not all visitors to the shelter area enter the shelter or sign in the guest book.” 

In preparation for the new season, a wood splitting bee was held on November 11 with 14 volunteers taking part, including the Provincial Park manager, Brian Dudar, while the shelter construction was happening on the same day. The majority of the new structure was completed by the club work crew on November 14.

Stevenson said the trails were in good shape prior to the beginning of the ski season.

“All the clearing of trees and grass cutting on all trails was completed by the Good Spirit Park staff. A huge thank you to Brian Dudar for his efforts and the maintenance of the trails following the spring fire. Due to the dry summer and fall, this is the first year since 2010 that the park staff members were able to mow all the slough areas.” 

Throughout the ski season, Stevenson and the club executive members monitor and maintain the warmup shelter’s needs.

“Bird seed and peanuts are provided for our flying friends frequenting the site. Basic supplies are kept stocked such as tissue, paper towels, toilet paper, matches, sanitizer and sanitizing wipes,” he said. 

“Ski trails are set by club volunteers, Dana Antonovitch, Derek Sebastian and myself.  This is required after every snowfall or when the trails are damaged by wildlife and snow machines.”

Like just about everyone else in Saskatchewan, the club has been forced to make some changes due to the pandemic. The Provincial Park manager has posted the Provincial Health rules for warmup shelters, which includes social distancing and the wearing of masks while in the shelter.  A fire pit and benches are provided outside for those skiers and snowshoers who do not wish to enter the shelter. 

“Cross-country skiing and snowshoeing are excellent activities to enjoy outdoor exercise during the winter,” enthused Stevenson. “As with any other activity, it is helping people in handling the COVID restrictions.”  

The club has in excess of 80 members this year, including enthusiasts from as far away as Regina, Saskatoon and Kipling.

“The membership fees include $10 to Nordiq Ski Canada and $5 to Sask Cross Country Ski,” explained Stevenson. “These fees automatically provide each skier with injury insurance protection. The remainder of the fees are used by the club to assist the Provincial Park in joint partnership to maintain track setting equipment and maintaining the shelter.”

Ski trail conditions are updated regular on the club’s Facebook and Instagram accounts.

Due to the pandemic, the annual Lamplighter Loppet event has been cancelled for this season. Instead, Stevenson said skiers once again have the opportunity to participate in the Wood Spirit Challenge, “a fun, outdoor contest.”

According to contest, rules, “The Good Spirit Cross Country Ski Club invites you to

ski the trails in search of the six wood spirits hidden along the trails. When you find one, we ask that you take a “selfie” with the wood spirit and send it to woodspiritchallenge@gmail.com. 

For every selfie submitted (up to six) you will be entered to win a special wood spirit created by the carver, Anne Stupak. Draw to be made March 17.”