Ski Race successful on thin snow

Dan Brisbin, Cross Country Saskatchewan (CCS) technical delegate leaving the Don Allen Trails after the Sask Cup #2 race, Sunday, Dec. 17. Photo by Valerie G. Barnes Connell Jordan.

Sask Cup races draw skiers from across Saskatchewan to the north

The La Ronge Nordic Ski Club hosted the Sask Cup Races 1 and 2, in December with thin snow conditions.

“This is amazing…This is probably the least snow we’ve ever run a race on, and they were really great races both days,” said Dan Brisbin, the technical delegate representing Cross Country Saskatchewan (CCS) for the event.

“They were really well done and saw people had lot of fun.”

“I represent Cross Country Saskatchewan to make sure the races are run by the rules and help all the organizers – Gabe Andrews and his crew- making sure rules are followed and [event] run correctly.”

Although he is a recreational skier, Brisbin does not participate in the races. however, he skied the La Ronge course for inspection before the cup began.  

A change he’s seeing is more and more communities are participating in the races, which are held in different parts of the province. He said the La Ronge races are drawing plenty of competitors and crowds.

“It was a really good competitive group of teenagers, both boys and girls, so like there’s kind of critical mass driving each other, competing with each other, which is good to see,” he said.

The races Sask Cup No. 1 and Sask Cup No. 2 were held on two separate days. Saturday, Dec. 16 and Sunday, Dec. 17.

There were 66 competitors in the first race and 72 in the second race, Gabe Andrews, organizer for the races, said, in an interview with the Northern Advocate.

Sask Cup 1 was made up of a free-technique sprint races, he said.

”It entails a shorter race that the skiers do an individual qualifying race anywhere from 480 metres to 1.2 kms, depending on their age,” he explained. “From there, after their qualifiers, they get grouped in what’s called King’s Court format to race a course three more times against competitors. At the end, they are ranked based upon how they finished amongst their age and gender.”

Sask Cup 2 was a “distance free-technique race, mass starts. So, that one is a longer distance so anywhere from 1 km up to 8 kms depending on age and category. They just either distanced once all starting against their age and gender. They’re mass starts,” Andrews said.

Andrews said the trails were in “pretty good shape considering the low snowpack. We had a bunch of volunteers out leading into the days of the races, cutting the willows that were still poking out above the height of the snowpack. Sask Parks had already mowed the willows down.”

Enthusiastic skiers hit the trails for the female mass start of the CCS Sask Cup #2 Race at the Don Allen Trails north of La Ronge. Photo by Valerie G. Barnes Connell Jordan

There still were some willows not covered by the snow. Andrews thanked volunteers for getting the course ready.

“We had a lot of volunteers out cutting brush with hand clippers,” he said. “We had to modify the course a little where we only used the shorter loops in and around the stadium.”

The 5-k loop, normally used, was not used this year as it would mean more preparations for the races to have it cleared.

Racers came from across the province, Andrews said.

“We had racers from Regina, Saskatoon, Preeceville, we had a racer from Lloydminster, a number of families from la Ronge of course. It attracts all CCS members from across Saskatchewan for racers for these races.”

CCS hosts 10 Sask Cup races all together throughout the winter in different communities, which are scheduled across the province.

“The next one is in Humboldt in January and then there’s Sask Cup No. 4 and No. 5 in Saskatoon and then there’s two in Flin Flon and then there’s two in Regina which is hosting provincials and then we host one more back in March for the School Ski Championship, Sask Cup No. 10.

The rest of the races throughout 2024 winter season depend on the snowfall, whether they will happen or not, Andrews said.

The prospect was “not looking too great” in the south during the holiday season.

“There’s zero snow in Saskatoon – Regina. They’re not skiing on trails at all.”

“We’re one of the only places in the province that has groomed ski trails right now,” he said.

The ski club also hosted their traditional Solstice Ski Dec. 21.