The Red Deer Nordic and Parkland Ski Club welcomed 306 cross country ski racers and coaches both Saturday and Sunday for Alberta Cup ski racing last year. Here, the mini-midget girls participate in a classic sprint heat Saturday morning at River Bend Golf and Recreation Area. (Photo by Jeff Stokoe/Advocate staff)

The Red Deer Nordic and Parkland Ski Club welcomed 306 cross country ski racers and coaches both Saturday and Sunday for Alberta Cup ski racing last year. Here, the mini-midget girls participate in a classic sprint heat Saturday morning at River Bend Golf and Recreation Area. (Photo by Jeff Stokoe/Advocate staff)

NorAm Western Canadian Cross Country Ski Championships coming to Red Deer in January

Close to 400 elite cross-country skiers will be in Red Deer from Jan. 19-21

With just over a year before the 2019 Canada Winter Games, the River Bend Golf and Recreation Area is set for an even bigger cross-country skiing stage.

From Jan. 19-21 it will play host to the Haywood NorAm Western Canadian Cross Country Ski Championships and Peavey Mart Alberta Cup 5/6, which will feature elite skiers from Canada and the United States and will also serve as a test event for the games.

“This will probably be the highest level and largest in terms of athletes cross-country ski event that’s been held in Red Deer,” said Tom Marr-Laing, president of the Parkland Cross-Country Ski Club and also the Chief of Competition for the event.

“Over the last four years we’ve held three Alberta Cups and we had 400 athletes at one point. Majority of those are a younger focus.”

Some top local skiers will race at the event that could feature more than 400 athletes when all the entries are finalized.

The event will feature sprint races on Friday, followed by 15 km classic mass start races on Saturday and Sunday will be relay races.

“We’ll have the little tykes, as young as five and six and all the way up to the senior folks, the really elite people as well as a masters category and para-nordic. There’s a wide community of skiers that will be involved,” he said.

“We nurture that opportunity, we want the little guys to rub shoulders with the really fast, big guys. Some lights will go on and some kids will say, ‘Hey, I want to do that’ or I’ve seen that person on TV. It’s pretty cool.”

Local names to look out for include, Anna Zimmerman with the Alberta Ski Team, Owen Pimm with the Alberta Development team and Ethan McDonald with Alberta Sport Development Centre-Central, who are all vying for a spot on Team Alberta for the 2019 games.

While those athletes will get a chance to compete on their home track, the trails they will race have undergone a massive transformation over the last 24 months including about $1 million dollars worth of infrastructure and technology upgrades.

One major change that was made in the summer was the widening of the trails at River Bend in order to meet the Canada Winter Games standards.

“The trails at River Bend were built in the 80s and the sport has changed a lot in that 40 year period, particularly with the classic style technique– skate skiing,” Marr-Laing said.

“That required us to create wider trails. The stadium that is there now is about twice the size of what we used to have and we’re going to need every square inch of that.”

That’s why it’s important to host a test event, according to Marr-Laing, so the organizers can pinpoint any potential problems with the course or track and have time to fix it.

While the weekend will serve as a “test event” for the Canada Winter Games, in reality, numbers wise it will be more than double the amount of competitors that participate in the games.

“We have to manage 400 or 500 athletes this January, in 2019 it will be about 160 athletes,” he said.

“This is the reason why Canada Winter Games does test events, you learn a lot and we’re learning a tremendous amount.”

Cross-country ski events are always highly reliant on weather and it will be no different at Westerns later this month. With very little snow falling to start the winter, they’ve had an unanticipated challenge: making snow.

Snowmaking has been a big part of the process in the last month, including getting a snow gun functioning all day and night since Dec. 26. There was very little base before that point, but after several good days of snowmaking, all systems appear to be a go for the race. Volunteers from the Parkland Cross-Country Ski Club have put in plenty of hours to make sure the course will be ready next month.

“In cold weather, the guns are really productive. It pumps out tons of snow. We just have to move it,” Marr-Laing said.

“All this is new for this community and the club, but it’s coming together and we’ll have the event. We’re all looking forward to hosting it.”



Email sports tips to Byron Hackett

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

The future of Westerner Park continues to be plagued by many unknowns, including when city council will make a decision about financing its operations. (File photo by Advocate staff).
Red Deer city council delays making decision on Westerner Park financing

It will mean missing the next opportunity to apply for a provincial loan

Nineteen-year-old Amanda enjoys a ride during a visit to Spirit’s Respite Ranch near Stettler. photo submitted
Busy days at Spirit’s Respite Ranch near Stettler

The ranch, which launched operations last summer, provides support through animal interaction

Red Deer Mayor Tara Veer at the announcement that the city will be getting a drug treatment court Thursday. Jason Luan, associate minister of mental health and addictions, looks on.
Photo by PAUL COWLEY/Advocate staff
Veer concerned about rising COVID-19 cases in Red Deer

The City of Red Deer is reminding citizens to protect themselves against… Continue reading

Rode
Volunteering played major role in RDC awards

Under normal circumstances, the RDC Red Deer Bottling Athlete of the Year… Continue reading

Alberta chief medical officer of health Dr. Deena Hinshaw said on Thursday that the province has seen its first case of the B.1.617 variant. (Photography by Chris Schwarz/Government of Alberta)
Red Deer nears record number of active COVID-19 cases

Alberta reports 1,857 new cases of COVID-19, 1,326 new variants

Curtis Labelle (second from left) and his band are planning a cross-Canada tour in 2022. Meanwhile, Labelle is continuing to host his weekly livestreamed talk show, Chattin 88. (Contributed photo).
Red Deer rock pianist takes on a talk show role

Curtis Labelle’s Chattin 88 gets views from around the globe

Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady passes under pressure from Kansas City Chiefs defensive end Alex Okafor during the second half of the NFL Super Bowl 55 football game, Sunday, Feb. 7, 2021, in Tampa, Fla. Lawmakers are debating legislation to legalize single-event betting as a bill reaches final reading in the House of Commons. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP/Mark Humphrey
Bill on single-game sports betting on cusp of passing — but not for first time

Bill on single-game sports betting on cusp of passing — but not for first time

Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland holds a press conference in Ottawa on Tuesday, April 20, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
More supply needed to ease housing price crunch, but always more to do, Freeland says

More supply needed to ease housing price crunch, but always more to do, Freeland says

Letisha Reimer is shown in a photo, part of a memorial to her outside Abbotsford Senior Secondary School in Abbotsford, B.C., Monday, Nov.7, 2016. A B.C. Supreme Court judge is expected to deliver her decision today over whether a man who stabbed two high school students is not criminally responsible because he had a mental disorder. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Geordon Omand
Man who stabbed two students in Abbotsford, B.C., found criminally responsible

Man who stabbed two students in Abbotsford, B.C., found criminally responsible

Light from the sunset hits the skyline in Toronto, Ont., on Tuesday October 31, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Mark Blinch
Hate crimes jumped 51 per cent in part spurred by pandemic, Toronto police report

Hate crimes jumped 51 per cent in part spurred by pandemic, Toronto police report

A passenger from Air India flight 187 from New Delhi arrives at Pearson Airport in Toronto on Wednesday April 21, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn
Canada to suspend flights from India and Pakistan for 30 days

Canada to suspend flights from India and Pakistan for 30 days

Inter Pipeline's Heartland Petrochemical Complex in Fort Saskatchewan, Alta. is shown in this undated handout photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO, Inter Pipeline *MANDATORY CREDIT*
Hostile takeover target Inter Pipeline reports 60% of Heartland plant is contracted

Hostile takeover target Inter Pipeline reports 60% of Heartland plant is contracted

Smoke pours from the stacks at the Portlands Energy Centre in Toronto on Thursday January 15, 2009. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn
Risk experts say climate change to take big chunk of Canadian economy by 2050

Risk experts say climate change to take big chunk of Canadian economy by 2050

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and United States President Joe Biden smile as they say farewell following a virtual joint statement in Ottawa, Tuesday, February 23, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Trudeau pledges to cut emissions by 40 to 45 per cent by 2030, short of U.S. goal

Trudeau pledges to cut emissions by 40 to 45 per cent by 2030, short of U.S. goal

Most Read