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Indoor recreational athletes may be turning to skiing this winter to stay safe

Hundred’s of people attended the annual Ski and Snowboard Exchange at the Fur Harvesters Building, looking for deals on new and used equipment, hosted by the North Bay Antoine Ski Racers.

It may be a busy season at the local ski hills, as people looking for exercise abandon arenas and other indoor facilities in favour of the great outdoors.

It was evident this past weekend as hundreds of people attended the annual Ski and Snowboard Exchange at the Fur Harvesters Building, looking for deals on new and used equipment, hosted by the North Bay Antoine Ski Racers.

Genna Danis took advantage of the opportunity to outfit some of the youngsters in her family.   

“We’re just getting the kids into skiing. I think it is a great family sport for all ages. We can all get out and enjoy the weather, enjoy the outdoors and stay active. It is great to get the kids involved, and bring them along with us,” shared Danis.

“It is more challenging to get active these days. You’ve got to be more creative as far as what you can do outside. We want to get the kids on board and get them coming out with us which is what I am looking forward to.”

Danis says outfitting an entire family can be costly.  

“Especially when they’re starting out. This program is awesome, a fraction of the cost. If they enjoy the sport, great. Because they’re kids and they grow so fast, the shoe sizes are always changing, the heights are changing you have to keep up with the equipment. We have five kids, so it is quite expensive to get the whole family set up. So this is great. This is our second year here. It is awesome. It is the best bang for your buck when you are wanting to get new people into the sport.”

Fourteen-year-old Chloe Chemery is anxious to get back on the ski hill this season.

“I’m very excited. We haven’t done much since ski season ended. I’m looking forward to getting outside and skiing with people. It’s just about having fun skiing. You don’t have to worry about much when you’re out there. It will be nice.”

Mom Melanie had bought skis for her son earlier in the day and was back with daughter Chloe to find skis for her.

“I think it is really important this year, especially for the kids. Their season got cut really short earlier this year. They were really looking forward to March Break and friends and being outside,” said Chemery.

“So now with other activities being decreased like hockey, I see them being at the hill a lot. It will be really good for them this winter. The ski hill along with everybody else has safety measures in place. I think I’m more concerned with my kids being inside and not being active.”

Bryan Moore is president of the North Bay Ski Racing Club.

Putting to together this annual event during a pandemic wasn’t without its challenges, including limiting the exchange to residents of the district only.

“The current situation with COVID played the biggest part in it. We spent almost as much time planning how we were going to deal with COVID than we did planning the actual ski exchange itself in its traditional sense. So really it just came down to doing everything everyone else is doing; putting up the barriers at the cash registers, having markings on the floor, having facemask and COVID signs all over the place. We also made sure we were doing contact tracing. So everyone who came in the building had to give us their name and phone number,” said Moore.

“We sprayed down all the equipment before. And when people tried on the equipment, we sprayed them again.”

Another concern was whether people would even show up.

“There were many meetings even as early as September where we contemplated calling off the event altogether. We eventually decided to push forward and do it in as safe a way as we could, which I think we have accomplished,” said Moore.

At the end of the day, people flocked to the event hoping to score a deal on new and used equipment.

“We’re actually up from last year. There are a lot of hockey families and a lot of families that are used to doing other things in the winter who are now looking at skiing which is great. There is a lot of families who haven’t skied before and have decided they are all going to do it as a family and we are glad we can provide them with the equipment.”  

This year produced more snowboarding equipment than ever before, with most of it sold.

“The proceeds from this event go to support our programs. North Bay Ski Racing has been around for a long time. This is our 52nd year and the vast majority of the funds here go to coaching, which is our biggest single expense, paying our coaches who are great. Good coaching costs money.”

As with so many other sports, this year will see big changes when it comes to competition and travel for the North Bay Antoine Ski Racers.

“As it stands right now, and this is something that changes weekly, there will be no travel. I think of myself as a parent who has three kids in the program. Do I want to venture forth to Sudbury? Or do I want to venture to Sault Ste. Marie? Personally, my answer is no,” said Moore.

“There is not going to be any travel for races this year, much like other sports have done. What we’re going to do is try and make it more of an in-house event. So we’re going to do a lot of in-house races where we actually run a real race with timing and everything to try and make sure the athletes are still staying in that mindset but it will just be our club.”

Moore says the club is fortunate to run programs out of both Laurentian Ski Hill and Antoine Mountain.

“Parents can make the decision to send their kids to Antoine, to Laurentian, or a combination of both. So that gives them the opportunity to get experience at Laurentian which is nice and close, or a bigger hill which is not that far away. We want to stay within our health district.”

The youngest racers are in the U6 Division which can be as young as four years old for those who are extremely advanced, but typically that division is for five and six-year-olds.

“We go right from five, all the way to 16 in different age categories,” explained Moore.

“Registration has been good. A lot of the registrations for skiing typically come in once the snow falls. That is when people really start thinking about skiing. Last year we had about 64 athletes and I think we’re going to have about the same, or even approaching 70. The older racers fade off once they get into high school and then you pick up other families.”

Moore says there is no doubt this will be a different year, and everyone will have to be open to change.