Last season was challenging for the Whistler Nordics cross-country skiing club, to say the least.
After a strong start to the season, a pineapple express melted all the snow in Whistler Valley. The Lost Lake Cross Country Trails were open for just 22 days, forcing the relocation of a Coast Cup event, the cancellation of the clubs annual loppet, and generally disrupting club programs.
The Nordics made the best of the situation, sending teams to events around the province and coaching the Jackrabbits youth program on a track created on Whistler Mountain. They also offered dryland training programs to skiers.
"We did get a lot accomplished, so there was some continuity for the club and the kids in our programs," said Whistler Nordics president Tom Barratt. "The weather challenged us, but were always at the mercy of weather and we made sure that it wasnt a total loss."
The cross-country ski conditions did set back the clubs goal of increasing membership through the bi-weekly Loonie Races, modeled after the successful weekly race series hosted by the Whistler Off Road Cycling Association. In fact, Barratts goal is to promote the race series to mountain bikers as a way to stay in shape during the winter.
The Whistler Nordics are hoping to launch the series again this year, in partnership with Whistler Cross-Country Connection, offering Thursday night clinics and races to members. They are also looking for additional sponsors to help organize the event.
"What we need to do is to pick up our membership numbers," said Barratt.
Not only will that improve the clubs standing in the community, it will also increase the clubs resources when it comes to organizing and hosting events.
When the Whistler Nordic Centre is completed in the Callaghan Valley, the Whistler Nordics and clubs from Vancouver will host various test events for the 2010 Winter Games, including national and international events as early as the fall of 2007 and a World Cup in 2008. As the nearest local club, the Nordics will also play a role in the ongoing management and planning for the Nordic centre.
"We could sit and do nothing, but there will be an awesome facility there with competition trails, recreational trails, and all the facilities that an Olympic site requires. We need to look ahead, and look at all the ways that we can be a part of this facility," he said.
This Saturday, Nov. 19, John Aalberg, the Vancouver Organizing Committees director of Nordic sport, will be giving an update on the planning and construction of the Nordic centre in a presentation at Spring Creek Community School. He will also be talking about the events that Whistler can expect to host, as well as how the club can be involved.
"These are big events, they require volunteers, they have big budgets, and theyre coming in the next few years whether were ready or not," said Barratt.
In addition to increasing the number of members taking part, the club also has to rebuild its youth program after last season. So far only five kids aged 9 to 13 are committed to the Whistler Nordics team, the Junior Nordic Racers, but coach Jeannette Callaghan hopes that will improve.
The Jackrabbits program for kids 5-12, which has been renamed Ski League by Cross Country B.C., will get more kids into racing, as will the introductory program at the elementary schools. The Thursday night events will also help, with parents introducing their kids to cross-country skiing and racing in a fun and social way.
"We definitely lost some momentum from last year because of the lack of snow," said Callaghan. "If kids see a better winter this year, I think we will get more kids."
Another obstacle is the sheer number of activities available. Cross country is competing against hockey, figure skating, alpine skiing, snowboarding and other activities.
"Kids want to do be with their friends at that age, which is why the social aspect of the club is as important as skills and competitions," said Callaghan.
The race program is optional for Ski Leaguers, and the team will accept kids that want to train but not necessarily enter races. The program has coached sessions on Wednesday from 4 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 11:30 a.m., and racers are asked to train on their own at least once a week.
Kids wishing to join the Ski League can contact Lorraine Vollmer at 604-938-1165. Kids wishing to join the Junior Nordic Racers should contact Callaghan at 6040932-5101.
Saturday, Nov. 19 Schedule
4:30 p.m. Whistler Nordics Ski Swap: Buy, sell or swap used gear.
6:30 p.m. Whistler Nordics reception
7 p.m. Presentation by John Aalberg, VANOC Director of Nordic Sport
8 p.m. (approximate) Whistler Nordics annual general meeting
All events take place at Spring Creek Community School.