Future looks bright for Haines Junction ski club

The community of Haines Junction has had ski clubs appear and disappear over the last few decades. But the town's St. Elias Cross Country Ski Club looks like it's here to stay. The club, founded a year-and-a-half ago, is finishing the season with over 70 members.

The community of Haines Junction has had ski clubs appear and disappear over the last few decades. But the town’s St. Elias Cross Country Ski Club looks like it’s here to stay.

The club, founded a year-and-a-half ago, is finishing the season with over 70 members and recently acquired equipment to make its trail system better than ever.

“There have been several incarnations of ski clubs in Haines Junction over the last 40 years or so,” said club president Meghann Willard. “I guess the last one was probably the Golf and Ski Society, but that became defunct around 2010 sometime. But there has been one community member who has continued on with track-setting ski trails formally and people have been donating money to keep that going for many, many years.

“There has just been a lot of interest in cross-country skiing, and a lot of interest in outdoor recreation in general, over the last few years. So we decided to organize and get together.”

The St. Elias club recently bought an Ace 600 Skandic SWT four-stroke snowmachine and a new groomer made by Tidd Tech, which grooms the snow for skate and classic skiing.

The club will next get a leveller, to level the snow, being made by Duncan’s Limited in Whitehorse.

All this was made possible by an injection of about $24,000 from the Community Development Fund, about $1,800 from Yukon Lotteries through the CPR fund, and other sponsors.

“We have similar stuff to what Mount McIntyre has,” said Willard, referring to the Whitehorse Cross-Country Ski Club.

“As a ski club, we’ve done a lot of work on the ski trails, and done a lot of developing some really nice cross-country ski trails for people to come and use,” she added. “We’ve also done a waxing clinic and cross-country ski clinics. We had a family day called The Function in the Junction on Feb. 3 and we had over 60 people there.

“There were games and introductions to the trails. We had people from Whitehorse and Watson Lake there.”

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The club currently has about 12 kilometres of groomed and track-set ski trails with the trailhead located about five kilometres north of Haines Junction on the Alaska Highway.

There are plans for some expansion of the trails, improved signage and mapping.

“We’re looking to expand the trail network a little bit to connect it to town,” said Willard. “So people who don’t drive, like the younger kids who want to go skiing, can be able to access the trails without driving out to the trailhead.”

The St. Elias club has also made connections with local groups and organizations.

The Junction’s St. Elias Community School has a cross-country ski team that can use the trails and the community’s youth centre has been skiing as well. Bear Creek Logging has been allowing the club to use some equipment for trail work.

Two community members have become certified coaches to help youngsters achieve their potential.

“There are a lot of young families in town. There’s been a change in the population of Haines Junction,” said Willard. “A lot more young families have been moving here and there’s been a lot of building in the last five years.”

The St. Elias ski club isn’t the only outdoor recreation group to rise from ashes recently in Haines Junction. Last month saw the return of competitive dog sledding and skijoring to Haines Junction with a pair of races organized by the Silver Sled Race Committee. The 100-mile Silver Sled race will be held next season for the first time in seven years.

“We want to encourage people to come out here and enjoy the natural beauty,” said Willard. “I think people in the town have sort of lost sight of what a great tourist attraction we are … I think a lot of the time people think of Haines Junction as just a truck stop of a town, but there’s so much more to it.”

“So you don’t necessarily have to be a member to come and enjoy the trails,” she added. “There will be maps up in the winter time for people to come and see.”

For more information or to get on the mailing list, with trail updates and grooming schedules next season, contact the club at steliasskiclub@gmail.com.

Contact Tom Patrick at

tomp@yukon-news.com

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