Saskatchewan River racers

Marathon paddlers Keith and John Laliberty discuss the best route to Rocky Mountain House, Alta. with Fresh Air Experience owner Ron Horn (from left) shortly before leaving to take part in the three-province 2017 Voyageur Rendezvous. (Josef Jacobson/Daily Herald)

PA paddler leads Cumberland House team in 1,600-kilometre race

This month the Saskatchewan River is once again the highway of the Prairies.

On Canada Day a fleet of canoes embarked from Rocky Mountain House, Alta., for a 23-day, 1,600-kilometre race to The Pas, Man. with about $160,000 in prize money on the line.

The race commemorates not only the Canadian sesquicentennial, but also the participants of the Centennial Voyageur Canoe Pageant, who followed a 5,283-kilometre fur trade route from Rocky Mountain House to Montreal for Expo ’67.

Contestants in this year’s 2017 Voyageur Rendezvous will be carrying symbolic Rupert’ s Land mailbags in their canoes as a tribute to the fur traders and explorers who travelled Canada’s waterways and mapped the continent.

Prince Albert’s John Lalibery is captaining a crew of Cumberland House paddlers. He’s been canoeing for 30 years and last took part in a race from La Loche to Cumberland House in 2010 where he finished near the top of the standings. He’s hoping to finish strong this year.

“It’s our passion. We love paddling. We like seeing the country. It’s beautiful out there, the old voyageur highway. It sure opened up our eyes,” Laliberty said before driving out to Rocky Mountain House with his nephew and fellow paddler Keith Laliberty.

“You have to have endurance and stamina. If you don’t have those, you’re S.O.L.”

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