The Toby Creek Nordic Ski Club is preparing for another exciting ski season and invites the community to come along for the glide.
The club launches the 2018/19 season next Thursday, November 15th with a world-class special guest. Two-time Olympic speed skater Ingrid Liepa attended the Lillehammer Winter Olympics in 1994 and then Nagano four years later for long track speed skating. Her story begins with a surprise late-entry into the world of speed skating, beginning to speed skate just for fun at the age of 24. Two and a half years later she qualified for Canada’s 1994 Olympic team. Ms. Liepa spent six years on the national and World Cup circuit team, competed in four World Championships and two Olympics.
Cam Gillies, Skill Development Coordinator with the Toby Creek Nordic Club, invites anyone in the community who is interested to come and listen to her presentation. He says youth, especially those involved in sports, will likely enjoy her talk and walk away inspired to push more in their own respective sports. Ms. Liepa will be the guest of honour at the event, which includes the nordic club’s AGM.
The 2018/19 season is like a well-groomed trail for the club: the dedicated club members have figured out some key components to making the club operate well over many years of practice, says Mr. Gillies. One is having their head coach, Ted Bigelow, stay on. That consistency has helped build up the number of kids staying year after year, especially with older club members looking to build on their skills season after season.
“We’re growing every year, with a really good retention of kids sticking around,” reports Mr. Gillies.
They have a dedicated team of volunteer coaches, all of which are nationally certified, training up the next generation of cross country skiers in the Valley.
The club sees great benefit in stockpiling nordic gear for rent, making it a far more affordable winter activity for families. The club bought its first set of rental gear around 2010 at a time when there were about 10 kids in the program. Now eight years later, they have more than 60 kids in the program from ages 3-16.
The Toby Creek Nordic Club is always open to new members, who can join at any skill and interest level. It is more about the desire than the skills, comments Mr. Gillies.
“We’d love to see more kids skiing. We want them to be able to ski now and ski for life,” says Mr. Gillies.
The nordic club will even have some international students this year who have never been on skis before. So literally, anyone interested between the ages of 3 and 16 is welcome to come try it out. But it is up to the students themselves for how much they want to put into the club; for some, they want to take part in a couple fun events and the local loppet at Nipika Mountain Resort. Others travel for races throughout the season.
“There’s a whole gradient of engagement,” says Mr. Gillies.
So why the passion to get kids on skis?
“It’s a really great activity for kids,” comments Mr. Gillies. “It’s good in terms of building them as people: building their self-esteem and having success on the snow or in fun competitions.”
For Mr. Gillies personally, it’s a matter of paying it forward.
“There were lots of adults that put a ton of energy into my outdoor activities as a kid and that’s very much a part of who I am now,” says Mr. Gillies. “I’m happy to put energy in to create a really great experience for these kids.”
The Whiteway, Lake Windermere’s winter gem, is operated and maintained by the Toby Creek Nordic Club. An annual membership to the club ($60 for an individual, $140 for a family pass) gets you access to the Whiteway as well as the trails on Lake Lillian, as well as discounted ticket prices for the best of the Banff film festival that comes to Invermere every year. Membership rates go up after the AGM November 15, so buy soon to avoid the price hike.
Mr. Gillies says for those who are curious why it costs to use the Whiteway, he explains the 30-km long trail system is operated by the nordic club, which puts in a great deal of money to build and maintain the system.
“Because it’s run by our club, we charge the day-use fees to try and recover some of those costs,” he explains.
To buy your annual membership or to learn more about the Toby Creek Nordic Club, visit www.tobycreeknordic.com.