© Submitted photo
Graham Oliver prepares to announce the start of the Snowy Owl Classic cross-country ski race at Whaleback Nordic Ski Club in Stephenville on Jan. 25.
There are many ski clubs in the province to visit that have great facilities with well-groomed trails.
In the summer it is nice to hike on new and different trails and the same holds true in the winter while cross-country skiing. The Whaleback Nordic Ski Club in Stephenville is one of our favourite clubs to visit.
Its facility is conveniently located on the Cold Brook Road which makes it easy to get to from the Trans-Canada Highway.
We were in Stephenville to take part in one of the club’s longstanding events called the Snowy Owl Classic which was held on Jan. 25.
Graham Oliver was the organizer and told us that more than 120 people skied in the event this year.
“Our aim with this event is to encourage participation,” Graham said. “We ask people to be part of a team and the more people on your team the better chance you have to win.
“This year we had each team leader total up all the lengths of their participant’s skis and then factor in the price of gas for visitors from out of town to calculate the winning team.”
After the Snowy Owl Classic people returned to the cozy clubhouse to get a snack at the canteen and warm up by the wood stove.
We chatted with Oliver about the ski club and learned that it began in 1968 on Radio Hill in Stephenville and even had a rope tow.
The downhill ski club was eventually abandoned and the current cross-country trail system began in the early 1980s.
The club gradually developed from a 2.5-kilometre trail that members originally cut to the current 22 km of trails for skiing and snowshoeing.
Graham told us that their membership continues to grow and they are have close to 370 members, including 40 young skiers, known as Jackrabbits.
Oliver also mentioned the club couldn’t operate without a crowd of volunteers who look after the chalet during the week from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m.
The Whaleback Nordic Ski club regularly hosts ski events and its biggest race was the Canadian Masters Championships in 2005. For this event the club was successful in obtaining a large groomer which has greatly improved skiing on the trails. Besides the Snowy Owl Classic the club will put on the provincial masters on Feb. 14-15, the Whaleback Loppet on March 1 and the Newfoundland Labrador Marathon on March 8.
We recommend that anyone interested in trying some varied cross-country skiing should check out the trails at the Whaleback Nordic Ski Club.
The club’s friendly atmosphere is well known and visitors are always welcome.
Contributors Keith and Heather Nicol live in Corner Brook and are avid explorers of Newfoundland. Keith can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org