Cross-country skiing: a “sport for life”
Cross-country skiing (also known as Nordic skiing) is a vibrant and growing sport in Alberta and across Canada. It offers a unique form of exercise that is extremely beneficial in developing a skier’s balance, coordination and muscular and aerobic strength. As a low-impact, outdoor, winter recreational pursuit, Nordic skiing also provides ample opportunities for social and community development through shared enjoyment of the natural environment in any eco-region of Alberta. The relatively low cost of equipment purchase and often free access to facilities offers a lower economic barrier for families to participate in comparison to many other sports. Accessible to people of all ages and abilities, it truly serves as a “sport for life”.
Red Deer: An active center for skiing
Red Deer is a community that enthusiastically supports cross-country skiing. Organizations active in providing leadership in the sport include the Parkland Cross-Country Ski Club, Red Deer Nordic ski racing team, Red Deer Nordic Recreational Program, Track Attack and the Red Deer Jackrabbits program.
The Nordics ski club and Jackrabbit programs operate as self-organizing and self-funding sub-groups within the legal societal structure of the Parkland Cross-country Ski Club, an incorporated Society under the Alberta Societies Act. Sharing a common interest in promoting Nordic skiing opportunities to all members of their community, the organizers from both groups work closely together in a collaborative and constructive manner.
Examples of community participation include:
- Each January to March, the Red Deer Jackrabbit program provides children (aged 5-14) opportunities to learn to cross-country ski as an extra-curricular activity. This last season, more than 80 children were enrolled in this program.
- Many Red Deer schools offer introductory Nordic ski training to elementary school children as part of their Physical Education program.
- Each February, the Red Deer School Loppet attracts over 400 City of Red Deer school kids (from Grades 4-12).
- The Red Deer Nordics Ski Club, formed in 2006, offers all kids aged 12-17 with an interest in the sport an opportunity to participate in ski racing in an environment that is fun and challenging. The Club provides leadership and training that results in the successful participation of over many young athletes in the Alberta Winter Games, Alberta Cups, Western and National level races.
- The Parkland Cross-Country Ski Club (Parkland) was formed by outdoor enthusiasts in 1972. Since then it has provided a means for skiing enthusiasts to enjoy back-country tours in the Rockies, as well as numerous day tours to the many great cross-country skiing sites in Central Alberta. The Club’s mission is to enjoy, enhance, facilitate and promote cross country skiing in all of its various forms.
- Parkland offers adult “learn-to-ski” lessons each January. These lessons provide an opportunity for new skiers to develop the skills and knowledge that allow them to better enjoy this sport. This last season, more than 40 adults participated in this program.
- For many years, Parkland has hosted Red Deer’s annual Bob Johnstone Loppet, a ski race that attracts competitors from across the province.
- In addition to organized groups and events, many other residents of Red Deer participate in skiing as part of their personal commitment to a healthy lifestyle.
Organizing and delivering on these programs (including coaching) is provided almost entirely by volunteers who contribute hundreds of hours of time, skills, and energy every year.