STANSKI on track for great skiing

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Riverlot and Liberton trails in pristine condition

Cross-country skiers are getting their snow fix this winter on trails groomed by the St. Albert Nordic Ski Club.

“Thanks to Mother Nature the quality of the trails is top notch,” said club president Ken Chin.

An early winter put the club on track to prepare its 10-kilometre trail system.

“After the first snowfall we had the ability to start packing and setting the tracks,” Chin said. “We’ve been skiing since the first week in November and all the trails in the Kingswood area, both the upper and lower lots, are groomed and are in pristine condition. As well we’re grooming the Liberton hill again and it’s well used by the junior development team for their practices. It’s a popular location and obviously it’s open to the public as well.”

It’s shaping up to be a banner season for Nordic enthusiasts after last winter’s average snowfall.

“We’re excited,” Chin said. “Last year, considering the snow condition wasn’t ideal, we still managed to pull off a successful season in terms of offering the programs for the youth as well as the adult lessons. We only had to cancel I believe one adult lesson but the rest proceeded as scheduled.”

Membership is approaching the 250 mark.

“There seems to be some renewed interest in the club this year,” Chin said. “We have a very dedicated group of volunteers and executive members so it’s just going to continue to get better.”

More than 65 youths are involved in the I Can Ski (ages three to 11) and cross-country team (ages nine to 18) programs.

“One is the recreation side for health and fitness and the other is the racing or the competition side,” Chin said. “Typically towards the end of December we’re going to get a few more participants to the I Can Ski program so that should easily top it up close to 100 in total.”

The race component of the youth program is designed to motivate skiers while advancing their skills.

“The youth team has been dryland training since September so pretty much after the first snowfall they were able to transition to skis,” Chin said. “Our high level of coaching has also helped the quality and the skill level of the skiers overall.”

Chin describes cross-country skiing as a sport for all ages and levels of ability to enjoy.

“It’s definitely a family orientated activity,” he said. “We tend to gel those people with like interests and like minds so it keeps the club’s level of enthusiasm going.”

It’s also cost friendly. The club offers a ski equipment rental program for youth and adult participants at minimal costs.

“We rely so much on our volunteers and if a member is volunteering it will offset their cost of the program. We offer discounts to our volunteers so if you look at a value standpoint it’s very financially feasible to participate in these programs and you get a lot more bang for the buck,” Chin said.

After a couple of busy winters of staging the Nordic component of the 2011 Alberta 55-Plus Games and serving as the host club for the 2012 Special Olympics Canada Winter Games, STANSKI will devote its energies to club activities and the annual Family Fun Loppet in February.

“We’re focusing on the club member programs rather than spreading out the resources a bit thin as we have the past couple of years,” Chin said.

Unfortunately, unseasonably warm weather and a lack of snow on the eve of the Games forced organizers of the Special Olympics to move 87 skiers from 10 provinces and the Yukon in the cross-country event to Strathcona County.

“It still worked out OK because all the volunteers and club members were pretty excited to have the opportunity to participate or help out with the Special Olympics and by switching the venue all it did was move our manpower resources to the Strathcona Wilderness Centre,” Chin said. “The enthusiasm was still there so it worked out quite well. Every member who volunteered that we talked to afterwards expressed it was one of the greatest experiences they ever had.”

For more information on what STANSKI has to offer, visit www.stanski.ca.

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Jeff Hansen

Jeff Hansen joined the St. Albert Gazette in 1991. He writes about sports, athletes and teams from St. Albert and area.