Wednesday, December 9, 2020

Nordic skiing a natural lifelong sport

By Darren Steinke
Gordie Howe Sports Complex

A young skier works her way up an incline.
When Alison Meinert sees the youngsters she coaches in Nordic skiing, she hopes they realize the sport can truly be a lifelong love.

Meinert is one of the coaches for the youth high performance program at the Saskatoon Nordic Ski Club. During some practice sessions that take place on the trails and hills that run through the Gordie Howe Sports Complex and neighbouring Holiday Park Golf Course, there are times the club’s young skiers will share those trials with competitive and recreational skiers from all ages.

While the Saskatoon Nordic Ski Club coaches try to instill a love of the sport into their athletes, Meinert said it great for the young skiers to see a variety of adult skiers at various skill levels enjoy the sport, which is best known as cross-country skiing.

“We hope that we’ve instilled in them that it is a sport for life,” said Meinert. “A lot of the new long term athlete development, all those models across sport have an active for life section.

“I think cross-country skiing is probably one of the best sports for being active for life. We have kids from three-years-old and probably in the same park at the same time we might have an 80-year-old out skiing. It is for all ages, and that I think appeals to a lot of people and families that you can ski your whole life.

“I hope that the kids see it that way too. There is a future for them whether they want to ski race, whether they just want to recreationally ski, whether they want to be an official at a race, or whether they want to be a coach. There is lots of options.”

Ivan English, who is vice-president of the Saskatoon Nordic Ski Club, said Nordic Skiing is just like the cross-country skiing you see on television when a Winter Olympics is on. On the trails, you can encounter all sorts of terrain.

“Cross-country skiing is basically up and down skiing,” said English. “You climb hills.

A young skier takes on a downhill part of a trail.
“You get a good workout that way, but you also want hills for going down as well, because that is fun. The sport is huge in Europe, especially Norway and Sweden and Finland. It is quite a popular sport.”

Within Nordic skiing, there are two different types of skiing in classic skiing and skate skiing.

Classic skiing is what most people think of for cross-country skiing. A person’s skis are parallel in a track, and you do a parallel or a diagonal stride so that the skis are in the track. It looks a bit like running with your arms moving diagonally with your legs.

In skate skiing, the track is wider and it is packed. You glide on your skies by pushing off at an angle similar to the skating stride of a long track speed skater. A skier pushed off at an angle and glides on their skies and uses poles.

English said the coaches try to get the Saskatoon Nordic Ski Club members to try both techniques.

“You will have a race for classic skiing, and you will also have races for skate skiing,” said English. “For instance, some races you might have on a Saturday you might do a classic race and then the Sunday you will do a skate race.”

As for competitions themselves, Nordic skiing has a lot of options. Young children will do races anywhere from one to four kilometres in length.

Teenagers and young adults will take part in races 10 to 15-kilometres in length. Adults might take part in races anywhere from five-kilometres in length all the way up to 50-kilometres in length.

While those race lengths are used for traditional Nordic skiing competition, the sport also had sprint races, where racers go all out to finish first in a one-or-two-kilometre loop and there is a lot of jockeying for position. Sprint racers are very spectator friendly.

Besides the traditional and sprint races, Nordic skiing offers loppet ski races. Loppet ski races are conducted in a similar style to marathon or fun run races.

Those races can be anywhere from five to 10-kilometres in length and can run as long to 50 to 60-kilometres in length.

A coach, right, instructs a Saskatoon Nordic Ski Club skier.
Skiers take off in a mass start, and those races can attract skiers who want to compete and those that are there just to participate. There is usually a social gathering after those races.

“Skiing tries to offer something for everybody from the recreation skier up to those who want to race and have a sport and train hard at it,” said English.

The Saskatoon Nordic Ski Club has a pretty lengthy history in “the Bridge City” too. Back in 1928, Nordic skiing was first offered when the Saskatoon Ski Club was established.

In 1968, the Saskatoon Ski Club’s Nordic and Alpine disciplines were split up which saw the creation of the Nordic Ski Club of Saskatoon, which officially took on the Saskatoon Nordic Ski Club name in 2011.

In the youth high performance programs, Meinert said they have a group of 30 skiers that come out and train multiple times a week.

“We’re pretty passionate about skiing and getting kids active and enjoying and loving the outdoors,” said Meinert. “We get exercise too, while we are out here.

“The kids have been really improving over the last couple of years. We’ve really made an effort to try and train more times a week, work on our technique. There is a provincial race series that we attend, and we’ve gotten some great results there.

“We’re just at the age with some of our older kids, our 14, 15 and 16-year-olds to try to get them to race a bit out of province and see what that competition is like in other places, because it is pretty steep. It gives them an idea of how hard they need to train here in Saskatoon to be able to compete out of province. They are great kids, and we always have lots of fun out here.”

English said the Saskatoon Nordic Ski Club is looking forward to growing the sport at the Gordie Howe Sports Complex, where the club will benefit from a new Multi-sport Centre that is currently under construction along with a timing hut and storage garage.

Nordic skiing is a sport that can be enjoyed for life.
“We’re super excited,” said English. “Our club for being around so long we’ve actually run youth programs basically out of very limited facilities.

“We had to bring in hot chocolate for the kids on a little sled just trying to make due. With the Gordie Howe Sports Complex, we are really excited that we’ll actually have a facility to call home to share with speed skating in the winter and other sports in the summer. We are actually going to have a place for kids to come in and warm up and bathrooms and change rooms and access to a canteen and be able to grow our sport.

“We’re going to have this great new home where we can really have a lot more amenities for all of our skiers.”

For more information about the Saskatoon Nordic Ski Club, feel free to check out their website at

Johnny’s sweet construction photos - a collection

By Gordie Howe Sports Complex staff
Gordie Howe Sports Complex

Protective fencing goes up at the ball diamonds.
Construction action has hit another high gear here at the Gordie Howe Sports Complex in 2020 starting in August.

Crews have been building new buildings and working on improvements to the facility.

Since August, our Operations Manager Johnny Marciniuk has gone on a number of tours collecting photos of the construction action and improvements to the facility. We’ve featured the photos on our social media Facebook, Instagram and Twitter lines along with creating picture round up posts for our main website.

Johnny’s photos have proven to be popular. He has captured some sweet images, and they have all come from the camera on his mobile phone.

For the December upload of new content for Howe Happenings, we figured we’d show a collection of some of the coolest and sweetest photos Johnny took on his tours.

The lead photo for this post shows fencing that was installed at a diamond facility to help secure the site and protect athletes and spectators from errant balls for adjacent facilities.

Anyways without further ado, here is a selection of seven pictures from Johnny’s tours. We hope you enjoy.

More artificial turf goes in

In this early November tour photo, artificial turf is completed on both the north and south side of the track and field track to provide a level surface for the Clarence Downey Speed Skating Oval along with being a comfortable surface for track athletes to enjoy during their track meets.

Perimeter fencing up at track and field facility

This photo from early October shows the perimeter fence that was installed at the track and field track that doubles as the Clarence Downey Speed Skating Oval in the winter months.

Trees arrive on truck

Near the middle of October, trees that were locally sourced from Zoset and Pleasantdale arrived. They were planted around the new track facility a short time afterwards.

We should add Lakeshore Tree Farms from Saskatoon is also a major supplier of greenery for landscaping, and our landscaping architects in Crosby Hanna have been terrific to work with.

Leakos Field ready for bleachers

In this photo taken near the end of August, it shows an area at Leakos Field that has been mapped out to receive bleachers that will be relocated from Cairns Field.

Leakos Field gets bleachers

This photo taken on November 7 shows the bleachers installed a Leakos Field that were transferred over from Cairns Field.

Tournament building sits near completion

The Nordic Ski/Softball Tournament Building sits nearly complete in this photo taken on November 7.

Speed skating tiles sit ready

The Clarence Downey Speed Skating Oval tiles sit installed in this picture taken near the start of November. The oval ice is flooded and put in place on top of these tiles.