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Nordic skiers on west coast embrace early start to winter

The Merrigan siblings, Isaac, Jamie, Alex and Daley, head out on the trails at Blow Me Down Trails in Corner Brook in this 2017 file photo.
The Merrigan siblings, Isaac, Jamie, Alex and Daley, head out on the trails at Blow Me Down Trails in Corner Brook in this 2017 file photo. - Star file photo

Blow Me Down Trails had its first skier hit the snow on Oct. 27 and it was the earliest start to a season since 1996, according to general manager Shawn Leamon.

There hasn’t been continuous skiing since Oct. 27, but there has been a beehive of activity since November rolled in, so Leamon has every reason to smile.

There are 19 trails open now, covering a distance of 10 kilometres of a trail network system that spreads out over 42 kilometres at the Corner Brook nordic ski facility.

It’s the most snow Leamon has seen in a number of years. He believes it was four years ago that every trail was open on the target opening day of Boxing Day. 

Membership numbers have increased this year and the early arrival of winter is getting the credit for it.

“People are saying, ‘Well, it’s going to be a long winter. I may as well get out and enjoy it,’” Leamon said.

Leamon and his staff are trying to prepare the trail system for the first competition of the year — the Ye Old Christmas Races — which are being used as a selection race to decide who earns a spot on the provincial team representing Newfoundland and Labrador at the 2019 Canada Winter Games in Red Deer, Alta.

Whaleback Nordic in Stephenville

All of the trails on the 20-kilometre cross-country ski network at Whaleback Nordic were open before rain and warm temperatures took away a lot of the white stuff, but there are still eight kilometres open and people have been hitting the trails for both classic and skating styles.

Whaleback past-president Graham Oliver, despite nursing a bad back, has been on the trails several times over the holidays, sharing the great outdoors with his three daughters home for the holidays.

He was heading to the ski park Friday afternoon to enjoy another beautiful day. He said conditions are really good and he’s enjoyed the early arrival of winter.

“This is the earliest season on record for skiing at Whaleback on groomed trails in mid-November,” Oliver said.

He said it’s great to have an early start, but he admits a lot of people are busy during the festive season, so it usually means the die-hards are out in full force early in the game and there may be an odd person who picks up the sport after giving it a try.

Pasadena Ski and Nature Park

Chalet manager Lynn Applin says people have been hitting the trails at Pasadena Ski and Nature Park with an early winter, but the ski facility won’t officially open until Jan. 2.

The facility, which offers night skiing five nights per week, offers skiers and snow-shoers an opportunity to enjoy 18 kilometres of picturesque trails.

Applin said the base has been laid for the trail system and a daily grooming schedule will be maintained when the park opens.

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