On Saturday, January 14th, the Wasi Cross Country Ski Club is opening their trails for free, to give people a taste of what the Astorville club has to offer. It’s going to be a crisp one—the forecast calls for a high of around minus 20—but the expected full sun might counteract some of the chills.
So, you might want to add another layer as you prepare for a day on the trails. The club has trails for snowshoers and cross-country skiers, and all are welcome to enjoy a day out, courtesy of the club. And although all are welcome, the invite doesn’t extend to dogs, so please keep them at home, or find somewhere else for them to ski.
The club is located at 907 Lake Nosbonsing Road, in Astorville, about 20 minutes south of North Bay. There are 43 kilometers of ski trails and 8 kilometres of snowshoe trails. The ski trails are groomed regularly, and for around 8 kilometers, the trail is double track, so you can ski side by side to enjoy some company.
There’s a lot of space out on those trails, and even when the club is busy on weekends, “it’s still pretty rare to see someone else on the trails,” noted Kerry Somerville, a board member with the club. Somerville has been with the board for close to 15 years, and was president for six.
She mentioned how the club “officially started in the 80s” by John Ducharme and Phil Brown who began clearing the trails for the purpose. There was a small chalet in those days—“we called it the glorified fish hut”—Somerville said.
But that hut served them well, until around 12 years ago “we built a bigger chalet heated by wood,” and four years after that, the club built a garage to hold its equipment. The club is run solely by volunteers, many of whom have been involved for years, like Somerville. Currently, Susan Weiskopf serves as club president.
The club leases Crown Land for the operation. Where the chalet and parking lot are located is a long-term lease, whereas the land where the trails cut through is leased seasonally, “then it reverts back to Crown Land” once the snow goes.
All ski trails are designed for classic cross-country skiing, as opposed to the skating style. There are no lessons available at the club, indeed, the place is more for those who already know how to ski, at least at an intermediate range. The club has some serious skiers, Somerville said, mentioning there are a few members who come out daily, and put in about 30 kilometres before heading home.
Usually, the club hovers around 275 members per season, but when Covid had us all locked down and shut out, memberships hit 510. “There was almost nothing you could do except go ice fishing or cross-country skiing,” Somerville recalled, and many chose Wasi for their outdoor experience.
“We try to keep our rates low,” she said. A year’s membership is $75, and a day pass is $10 for adults and $5 for kids. That goes for both the ski and snowshoe trails. However, this Saturday you can keep your cash for another run around the trails because it’s on the house.
“We’re a very friendly and welcoming club,” Somerville said. For more information and to keep track of future events, visit the Wasi Cross Country Ski Club’s website.
David Briggs is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter who works out of BayToday, a publication of Village Media. The Local Journalism Initiative is funded by the Government of Canada.