Rossland hosted the Haywood NorAm, Buff Sprints Mini Tour over the weekend and Rossland’s own Black Jack skiers made a few trips up to the podium.
Friday was stage 1 of the Haywood NorAm Mini Tour, with interval start skate races. Jasmine Drolet placed fourth in the juvenile girls 5-km race with at a time of 18:09.2 and Michaela McLean placed sixth in the junior girls 5-km race with a time of 18:14.5.
Saturday, Julien Locke, who is on the National Ski Team, placed second in the finals for the open men’s Buff Sprint free heats with a time of 2:51.25 and Remi Drolet placed fourth in the finals for the junior men’s with a time of 3:10.35. His sister, Jasmine, made her second trip to the podium, placing fifth in the juvenile girls interval start 2.8-km race with a time of 9:01.8.
On Sunday, the final day of the event, Jasmine took the podium a third and final time, placing second in the juvenile girls 6.6-km mass start classic with a final time of 24:42.0, and Remi placed third in the junior men’s 15-km handicapped start classic with a final time of 46:57.3.
An estimated 230 athletes from 37 ski clubs from the US, Brazil, Portugal and across Canada participated. With so many skiers attending, it made for a competitive event.
“With all the other kids from all the other clubs, it’s really challenging,” said Radek Krampl, a Black Jack skier who competed in the midget boy category.
“It was a good weekend for the club for sure,” said Fred Bushell, Black Jack’s Track Attack coach. “Lots of best efforts. Some of the kids were skiing up — they were younger and they were skiing … against older kids — so it was a challenge for them, but they rose to it and they performed really well and had fun doing it.”
Jasmine, 14, was one of the athletes skiing up, having just moved up to juvenile girls from midget girls.
“I just came up from midget to juvenile, so it’s a little bit harder, but I think I’m doing pretty good,” she said.
Though it was cold over the weekend, snow conditions were good and athletes reported good skiing.
“We were kind of wondering if we were going to have to do it up at biathlon, because there wasn’t going to be enough snow and stuff, but it turned out to be quite good skiing,” said Remi, 16.
The cold had more of an impact on coaches and event volunteers.
“I think for us, for racing, [the cold]’s not such a big deal, but it’s more the volunteers and everyone else,” said Daniel Merlo, 19, a Black Jack skier who competed in the junior men category alongside Remi.
Community effort makes for successful event
Approximately 80 volunteers worked to make the event a success.
“It’s a big effort to make one of these happen,” said Ian Sibbald, chief of competition. “We’ve been working on it now — well, it started about three months ago, and it’s been very successful. We’ve had good races; we’ve had good reports from coaches and athletes from other places.”
Asked about the cold, Sibbald said, “It’s been cold, but people have dressed warm and I don’t think it’s interfered with the racing or anything like that. So I think people have managed it well, and our volunteers have had to dress warm, and John [Snelgrove] from the [Alpine] Grind has given us coffee.”
A lot of volunteers also worked to make sure the course was in good condition for the event. Andy Morel, who was grooming the runs over the weekend, came out at 3 a.m. each morning.
“We’ve got the new 5 km that we built three years ago. It’s supposed to be the hardest 5-km course in Canada and the athletes really enjoyed it, and they really like it,” said Sibbald, who also wanted to thank all the volunteers that came out.
Ottawa youth skiers in Rossland and Nelson on exchange
As part of an exchange organized through Experiences Canada, 27 youth skiers from Ottawa’s Nakkertok Nordic Cross Country Ski Club spent a week with 13 Black Jack Ski Club and seven Nelson Nordic Ski Club skiers beginning last Wednesday.
“[The local skiers] are between the age of 12 and 15 years old, and it’s part of a program called Experiences Canada, which is partly funded through Heritage Canda,” explained Nathalie Levasseur, a Black Jack volunteer who helped organize the exchange.
“It’s really fun racing with them because they’ve got a big ski club and it’s a high level of competition,” said Lukas Pigot, a Black Jack skier participating in the exchange.
The Nakkertok Nordic skiers, who are all 13 years old, not only participated in the Haywood NorAm, Buff Springs Mini Tour while they were in the West Kootenay, but also visited historical sites.
“They’re here for one week and … it’s a cultural and heritage exchange, so we went to different places in the Kootenays around Nelson and Rossland,” said Levasseur. “So they were going to Rossland Museum. Yesterday we had a talk with the old timers … Al Fisher and Richie Mann. They gave the kids a nice long talk, and on Friday they went to the Doukhobor Museum in Castlegar.”
“The museums are all really sweet, and they’re all kind of more local than in Ottawa, so I like them a lot,” said Lilli Thomas, a Nakkertok Nordic skier who was visiting BC for the first time.
“Yesterday we talked with some old folks and they told us about how skiing was a while ago and they showed us skis, and [what] the races were like, so that was really cool,” said Georgia Boldt, another of the Nakkertok Nordic skiers.
The skiers also visited Touchstones Nelson Museum of Art and History, skied at Nelson Nordic and went to Ainsworth Hot Springs early on during their visit.
West Kootenay skiers will be visiting Ottawa in early February for the other half of the exchange, and they’re looking forward to it.
“I’m really looking forward to skating on the Rideau Canal,” said Johann Taylor-Gregg, one of the Black Jack skiers bound for Ottawa in 2017.