CANMORE – Nordic skiing is on track for a huge winter season in the Bow Valley with a record number of adults and youth eagerly making preparations to spread out and get active in the great snowy outdoors.
With the white stuff flying, the Canmore Nordic Ski Club is forming a game plan for an anticipated season that's already seen approximately 20 per cent more registrations for its biathlon and cross-country skiing programs than last year – and there are still more programs to come.
“We don’t have a complete picture yet, except that there is a high demand and our programs are filling up more than any other year,” said Alain Parent, program director for the local ski club. “I’m anticipating it will continue with the opening of the kids program on Friday (Oct. 23) and some new adult programming and we’ve got a lot of people inquiring.”
Parent added the ski club has been challenged with servicing all the extra registrations and bringing in more coaches to teach smaller cohort groups that will be utilized for safety measures.
The club's program director thinks the increased desire to ski and skate the snow trails is a combination of what activities people can do with COVID-19 and the growing popularity of the club over the past few seasons.
The club trains at the Canmore Nordic Centre, which has also experienced a bump in regular season ski pass sales, with preliminary numbers showing more passes having been sold so far on Tuesday (Oct. 20) than all of October last year, said Robin Mazenc, the nordic centre's acting visitor experience and marketing supervisor.
In an area where Nordic skiing is already a beloved activity, the pandemic has made it into an even hotter commodity and more marketable with local businesses, which anticipate an upturn in equipment sales and rentals.
“All indicators from the snow sport industry is that there will be a demand, a higher demand for some things like this,” said Neil Orchard, owner of GearUp Mountain Sport and Rental in Canmore.
Orchard predicts an increase in cross-country ski rentals, especially on weekends for spur of the moment recreationalists, and the store has increased inventory for backcountry skis, avalanche gear and kids skis.
At Strides Canmore, the run and Nordic ski store, the ski equipment for kids' and winter running shoes have been “flying off the shelves.”
"There has definitely been a much earlier rush this year to get gear and it’s way, way busier especially in the Nordic ski world this year. They are saying it’s the new bikes,” said Kylie McKendrick, owner of Strides Canmore.
McKendrick added that the surge in youth registration at the Canmore Nordic Ski Club, plus the annual ski-swap being cancelled contributed to higher sales in store.
With the sudden large snowfall in the Bow Valley the last few weeks and COVID causing international shipping delays, McKendrick said demand is high for equipment, but the supply has taken longer to arrive.
"It's been such a hard and stressful year for so many, but I guess the silver-lining is that people are staying outside and prioritizing an active lifestyle," McKendrick said.
With a demand for Nordic skiing, keen skiers will soon turn to spots where they can recreate. Currently, proposals are in front of the Alberta government to maintain and groom nearly 120-kilometres worth of trails in Kananaskis Country this winter. It would cost around $200,000 to do so. However, there is currently no decision as to what direction the province will take.