Valerie G. Barnes Connell Jordan
After a one-year hiatus during the Pandemic the La Ronge Nordic Ski Club’s Don Allen Saskaloppet is back. The event starts at noon on Friday, March 4 with the Kapesewin overnight skiers leaving the La Ronge Legion Hall at noon.
The Kapesewin Lite, a shorter version, will be 50 kms, while the full Kapesewin will be 75 kms over the two days.
Participants in the Loppet ski to the Summit, some carry their gear with them, while the equipment its transported to the Summit for other skiers. They set up camp outdoors for overnight and ski back to La Ronge the next morning. Don Allen is one of the only Loppets that has the overnight element.
Other events will be held on Sat. March 5 and include two and five kilometres for children; 20, 35 and 55 kms for other skiers.
Skiers can pick up their bibs at the Legion hall.
Registration for the Loppet is online on Zone4, which can be found by going to the club’s website at: larongeskiclub.ca
“We’re requiring everybody be double vaccinated. All the participants and actually the volunteers,” Sid Robinson, chair of the Don Allen Saskaloppet committee, said.
Also, another change – there will be an awards ceremony at 5 p.m. on Saturday. The banquet will not be held due to COVID, he said.
Food will not be served in the Legion, but the traditional chilli will be available outside, probably in a tent, Robinson said.
It’s been a seven-year initiative to bring the La Ronge Nordic Ski Club trails back to former splendour. With the opening of the Hornet Bay Trail recently, the last of the trails damaged in the 2015 wildfires opened.
A bit of history – The Hornet Bay Trail is the first trail created and developed by Don Allen, who, with his family started the trails in the early 1980s. The Saskaloppet is named after Don Allen.
The trails, most of which are within the bounds of Lac La Ronge Provincial Park, were heavily damaged in various areas by the wildfires and have required much to bring them back. Park staff have done much to rehabilitate the ski trails over the past seven years.
“Due to an enormous amount of effort from club volunteers and Provincial Park staff … we can see the light at the end of the tunnel,” Heather Bernardin, president of the La Ronge Nordic Ski Club, said in an interview with the Northern Advocate.
In the fall of 2015, the Ski Club organized two chainsaw trainings, resulting in 16 people with the expertise to work on clearing the trails. Protective clothing was also purchased so volunteers could be safely protected. Park staff and volunteers spent many hours over the intervening years on the trails. In the years since then, much has been done to bring the ski trails back.
One change to the Nut Point trails, Loops 3 and 4 continue to be part of the ski trails, while Loops 1 and 2 are now walking trails accessible from the lake front parking area.
That change was made last year in February 2021 and that was [cause] more people were looking for outdoor activities during the height of the COVID and stuff, so to provide more opportunities recreational activities to all of our users we started offering the first two loops at Nut Point as multi-use trails,” Natasha Merriman, Lac La Ronge Park’s manager, said.
People can now walk, snowshoe, fat bike and dogs are welcome.
“We installed a dog-waste bag dispenser at the head of the trail. There really hasn’t been, like I go on those pretty often; there’s no issues with dog waste … all pets have to be on a leash,” she said.
There is new signage at the head of the trail and skiing on Loops 3 and 4 with no interruptions in the trail system that still runs through the yellow gate at the park.
The La Ronge Nordic Ski club hosts several programs and events during the winter months including, their programs: High Performance Race Team; Bunny Rabbits/Jack Rabbits for younger children; adult ski lessons; School Ski and SaskCup races; Solstice Ski to the Summit; along with the annual Don Allen Saskaloppet.
Comprehensive information about the Club can be found on the website: larongeskiclub.ca and on Facebook at La Ronge Nordic Ski Club.