By Wannes Luppens
The Black Jack Ski Club has been having a great year so far and is looking forward to another 70 days of fantastic skiing.
We have been grooming consistently since Nov 3, and if all goes well, expect to groom into late April or early May. That means cross-country skiing for exactly half the year.
We have 701 members this year, our second highest ever, and it’s now our fifth year in a row with more than 600 members. In fact, our three biggest membership years on record have all come in the last four years.
Members are generally from within a two-hour radius of the club, including Nelson, Grand Forks, Creston, Kaslo, Winlaw and Spokane. Approximately one third of our members are less than 35, another one third are over 50, and the rest are in between.
Of note, we have 52 members that are 70 years and older. Now that’s a lifetime sport.
We also have thousands of day-pass visitors per year from far and wide, many trying cross-country skiing for the first time this year.
It is now our second year offering ski rentals at the trailhead, allowing newcomers to give this fantastic sport a try. We rent both skate ski gear and classic ski gear.
The kids Skier Development Program, including the Bunnies, Rabbits, Track Attack, and Junior Racers, has more than 80 participants this year, and is supported by dozens of volunteer coaches and helpers.
The Junior Racers (a.k.a. Black Jack Race Team) have a number of out-of-town athletes that are living and training in Rossland on a full-time year-round basis (this year from Revelstoke, Nelson, Kimberley and Japan.)
The Haywood NorAm and Buff Sprints, World U23 Junior Championship Trials and the Kootenay Cup were a huge success this past December.
Over 250 athletes from all over North America were in attendance, including Olympic athletes, Olympic hopefuls, national champions and the best under-23 and junior athletes on the continent.
Athletes came from Alberta, B.C., Ontario, Quebec, Yukon, Alaska, Colorado, Idaho, Maine, Minnesota, Montana, New Hampshire, Oregon, Vermont and Washington.
This early-season event substantially increased occupancy levels for local accommodators at a time when occupancy levels are usually near zero.
In addition to the athletes, visitors included coaches, wax technicians, support staff, family members, technical delegates and Cross Country Canada staff. Approximately 150 volunteers dedicated their time and effort to successfully pull off this event.
Of note, of the 13 cross-country skiers that Canada has sent to Sochi, five competed here at the NorAm, and a further five have competed in previous NorAms at Black Jack, including medal hopeful and 2011 World Champion Alex Harvey.
A number of the current US Olympians have also competed here in Rossland, including medal hopeful and 2013 World Champion Jessie Diggins.
Other events at Black Jack
The club has hosted the Golden City Grind trail run, XC Skiing Community Coaching workshop, Snow Show and Ski Swap, Decorate a Tree Week, Bring a Friend to Ski for Free/Black Jack orientation day, Ski with Santa, New Year’s Eve bonfire, Mountain FM Tour de Soup, Super Hero Day and the 30th annual Black Jack Loppet (coming up on Feb. 22).
This past summer we were able to undertake extensive maintenance and improvements of our trails, including reopening an old favorite, Ophir Trail.
The trail work allowed us to start the season earlier for our membership and visitors, as well as continue to host high level events.
A big thank you to the following organizations for supporting the trail improvements and the Haywood NorAm: Columbia Basin Trust, RDKB Area B, Southern Interior Development Initiative Trust, CBT Community Initiatives Program, and HostingBC, the Province of BC and viaSport.
NorAm major local sponsors included Teck Trail Operations, Kootenay Savings Community Foundation and Red Mountain.
NorAm local sponsors: Nelson and District Credit Union, Gerick Cycle and Sports, and Big Red Cats.
This past January marked the 31st year of Black Jack as a club. From the early days of dragging a mattress behind a snowmobile for grooming, amazing volunteers and community support have gotten us to where we are today.
Thank you for supporting the club and a lifetime sport. Happy trails.