The sun shone down on over 130 ski racers at Laurentian Ski Hill in North Bay for day one of the inaugural Laurentian Ski Classic Saturday.
The two-day competition hosted by the North Bay Antoine Ski Racing Club kicked off with a slalom event on Saturday, followed by a giant slalom on Sunday, for U6 and U12 racers.
The Ski Classic attracted competitors from Sault Ste. Marie, Elliot Lake, Timmins, Sudbury, and of course, North Bay.
Duncan Cornthwaite president of the local ski racing club explained that it is a rare opportunity for North Bay to host such an event.
“Probably the last race we had was over five years ago, which is dual city slalom. It was the older kids, the U14’s, the U16’s, the U18’s. There would be a day here, and then a day in Sudbury. So, to have this U6 and U12 race, it’s over ten years I think since we’ve even had a race of that age category,” explained Cornthwaite.
It takes a lot of dedicated volunteers to put on a race of this magnitude.
“A lot of hours goes into getting everything ready behind the scenes,” said Cornthwaite.
“Getting the course set up for safety, all the paperwork that needs to be done with regards to teams submitting their entries, loading that into timing systems, and then all the little things that you need, pens, paper, awards.”
Despite Thursday’s rain, the hill is in good shape for racers.
“Laurentian Ski Hill always does an excellent job with snowmaking and grooming, so we’re very thankful to have them on board.”
Cornthwaite says the challenge with this sport, is keeping the athletes competitive as they get older.
“From all the clubs in northern Ontario, this is the biggest age category. Typical to any sport, as kids get older, they start to fall away from different sports for different reasons. We’ve seen extensive growth in this age category for us, and all the other groups as well. So the key right now is to hold the kids into that U14, U16, “ said Corthwaite.
“For example, I have two U16’s, one U14, five U12’s, and about 20 some odd U6’s. Like anything, it is a process people move through. Some move out, some stay.”
He also points out that there is more to the race than the competitive side.
“Part of this age category is all about having fun, and it really builds friendships. I have a daughter who is a U16, another one who is a U12. They have friends across Ontario. Technology today allows them to stay connected through texting or Facebook. So it is nice when we do go to a southern Ontario race, my daughter has lots of friends that she knows.”
And then there is the added economic spinoff from putting heads in beds.
“We’re working with three local hotels in the city. They have been great to work with. So that helps a bit with the local economy.”
The weekend wraps up with an awards ceremony this afternoon.