By Breanne Massey
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

An East Kootenay-based retailer recently announced the decision to provide free rentals to encourage participation in winter sports for Métis citizens in the Columbia Valley.

Inside Edge Boutique and Sports, a retail store located in downtown Invermere, has recently begun offering an incentive that allows card-holding Métis citizens free rentals for sports such as skating, cross-country skiing, snowshoeing and nordic skating this winter.

“This will be the first year,” said Inside Edge co-owner Barry Maybuck. “We’ll see how it goes. There’s probably only a month of skating left, depending on weather, but cross-country skiing could probably continue longer if people wanted to go up to Panorama.” He added, “we probably only have five or six weeks of rentals left for this year.”

When asked about the decision, Maybuck explained that Columbia Valley Métis Association (CVMA) president Monica Fisher had made a request to incentivize members to become more active.

Funding for the free rental program at Inside Edge Boutique and Sports has been provided by the CVMA, according to Fisher.

“We’ve got enough rentals to keep a lot of people happy in this area,” Maybuck told the Pioneer staff, adding the program has been running for roughly a week now.

He clarified nordic skating has been growing in popularity in recent years when the community notices the unique design and comes into the store to ask about the products.

“Nordic skates are almost like a speed skate. They’re much longer, they’re flat. We put our cross country ski boots attached to them so they’re very, very different than a hockey skate or a figure skate,” said Maybuck. “It would be closer to a speed skate than anything else… renting them has become more and more popular every year.”

Fisher remains optimistic that free rentals might encourage Métis citizens to become active during the COVID-19 pandemic amidst the public health and safety restrictions. She added being active could encourage the overall health and wellness of community members.

“It gives people an opportunity for something to do, and hopefully encourages overall wellness and mental health,” said Fisher.

In order to receive rentals at no cost, Métis cardholders are required to provide identification from the Métis Nation of B.C. to prove their citizenship for verification in the program.

If rentals are damaged, Métis cardmembers will be held responsible for lost, stolen or damaged items.

“Conditions over the last week have not been perfect, but we wanted to start it this year and see how it goes,” said Maybuck, noting the program may continue in 2021-22 if it’s popular.

To contact Inside Edge for more information, please phone 250-342-0402.