The winter of 2020-2021 was a breakthrough year for the sport of cross-country skiing.
In our first Covid winter, people were looking to get some exercise while keeping a safe distance from each other. The weather last winter was relatively merciful, and so many people of all ages discovered—or rediscovered—the joys of gliding along the trails.
Local ski clubs are seeing that attitude carry over into this winter. “Merciful” might not be the most apt description of our winter so far, but lately temperatures are getting milder. And there’s no shortage of snow.
The Lakleand Cross Country Ski Club, based in St. Paul, had its first “Seniors On Skis” outing at the town’s golf course on Saturday. About a dozen of the 55-and-older crowd came out to enjoy the beautiful sunshine and fresh snow.
“This is a project that that we created,” said the club’s volunteer coordinator Joanne Lamoureux. “We were in dire, dire need to get money to buy a second snow machine because we track-set two sites.”
In addition to the golf course, the club grooms trails at its West Cove rural site. Attempts to find grant money from the province last year were fruitless either because proposals were outright rejected or funding programs were suspended due to Covid-19.
The club was finally able to land a $25,000 federal New Horizons For Seniors grant, of which they were able to spend $15,000 on a snowmobile to set track.
Lamoureux says the seniors programming offers the benefits of fresh air and exercise, intergenerational teaching and learning opportunities, and all kinds of ways to get involved as a volunteer.
But the snow machine was the key.
“If you have no trails, you don’t have anything really,” Lamoureux said.
“We’ve got a whole programming thing going up. One of these is ‘Ski and Tea.’ We have people coming once a week to ski with others if they need lessons or a little support.”
Club members will be on hand to guide and ski with people and offer lessons or advice. Lamoureux said skiers from outside of the St. Paul area are welcome to join in. In fact, the whole point of the programming is to bring people together.
“The Seniors on Skis project is all about connecting people,” Lamoureux said. “We have events often where you’re getting the seniors to come and volunteer and they’re working with the youth.
“We have 16-year-olds teaching, we’ve got parents that are good teachers. We have seniors that come unaccompanied and ski, maybe with the kids that are a little more timid, and they’ll try to ski along with them,” she said.
Cross-country skiing can be a vigorous sport with an intense cardiovascular workout. But it can also be an easy and pleasant way to take a winter “walk” in the countryside. Above all it’s a great activity for all ages, even at a beginner level.
“Cross-country skiing is a great sport for the whole family,” Lamoureux said. “I’m getting more and more families that are joining up saying ‘I’m tired of sitting in the stands, it doesn’t matter what sport, and just watching my child play.’
“This is very inexpensive for them, and the whole family gets out—even the grandparents,” she said.
The club also hosts events at its West Cove site, a joint venture with the County of St. Paul. The trails are kept in great shape, and the club is putting on some finishing touches including new signage.
“We’re just trying to create opportunities for people of all generations to connect,” Lamoureux said. “This particular grant is allowing me to get seniors to have access to skis for free, and then to have access to a little bit of lessons and support.”
She finds seniors are also eager to help out where they can. “I think retired people are the busiest people I know,” she said, “but they’re always happy to give a hand.”
For more information, visit the club’s Facebook page, their website (www.lakelandxcski.com), or email firstname.lastname@example.org.Story