An unprecedented occurrence

Matt Molloy
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Skiers hit trails at Airport Nordic Ski Club earlier than usual

Christmas certainly came early for the skiers who enjoy the services of the Airport Nordic Ski Club (ANSC) in Gander. 

According to Nick Soper, president of the ANSC, the club saw its first skiers significantly earlier this year than previous years, as people were enjoying the trails on Dec. 16.

“That was the first day we had the Bearcat (snowmobile) on the trail and we had it there for a few days, and on the 17th we got the Piston Bully (the club’s groomer) out. The snow was surprisingly deep and so fluffy and light that the skidoo couldn’t even do anything with it…the machine would just sink down,” said Soper. “The Piston Bully did a great job.

“We were able to groom in mid-December, so this is unprecedented. In our time, we’ve never seen the sustained cold and snow. We’ve had snow and we’ve had the cold, but it’s usually mild snow that destroys everything. Where we are now is where we usually are around mid-February.”

With so much snow on the ground and the Piston Bully busy grooming trails, local skiing enthusiasts can get a head start on some quality cross-country skiing.

Not only can skiers visit the many trails at the club, but the younger, beginner skiers now have a place they can call their very own.

According to Soper, a terrain park has been built at the club, where younger skiers can get their feet wet before tackling the more difficult trails.

“We have the first stages of a terrain park created. This was part of the off-season work, and took a fair bit of excavator work,” said Soper. “It’s a little area with a few mounds of snow built up and you can groom it so children can have a few very short runs. It’s a place where the kids can have a bit of fun…it’s largely a playground. Next year, we’re going to develop a few adventure trails.

“We applied for some funding, but it didn’t come through, so we did a little fundraising and had some money left over from the parking lot development, so that gave us some excavator time. It’s mostly for kids, but you might see some adults around there. Kids love anyplace where they can get a bit of downhill, so we’re just talking about tiny mounds so it’s low risk. We can also get the groomer in there, so it’s just a nice spot for the kids to play around.”

As the winter continues, some short trails will be cut through the woods between the terrain park and the Blue Trail so youth can explore the forest on skis.

“We were able to groom in mid-December, so this is unprecedented. In our time, we’ve never seen the sustained cold and snow.” Nick Soper

Along with this new park, the stadium area was widened, which Soper said is particularly useful for larger ski meets, such as the Special Olympics Provincial Cross-Country Skiing and Snowshoeing Championships, which will take place Feb. 22-23.

He said the club did a fair bit of culvert and ditching work on a few trails, but the biggest effort was major upgrading of the Red extension.

“We did a lot of work to level the trail out, to get rid of wet areas, uneven areas, and areas that didn’t hold snow,” said Soper. “We were able to groom that, and usually we’re well into the season before we can groom.”

There’s a lot of work done already, but Soper said there’s always more to do. Along with the manual labour work, Soper said the club is looking for more volunteers for a variety of jobs.

From instructing to selling tickets, Soper said there’s room for anybody who wishes to volunteer.

“We’re looking for volunteers for all sorts of different activities. Indoors, outdoors, on the trails, or at home, we still need a lot of volunteers. Opening and closing the hut, hut maintenance, organizing socials, selling tickets, all sorts of different things,” said Soper.

“We’ve lost some instructors and we need more instructors. We’re looking for instructors at all three levels (Bunny, Jackrabbit, and Track Attack programs).”

Along with the regular programs being offered at the club, Soper said Paul Langdon, who coached Central’s cross-country ski team at the 2010 Newfoundland and Labrador Winter Games in Pasadena, will be coaching the team again this year. Skiers between the ages of 11-18 as of Dec. 31, 2014, can tryout for the team this year, and the qualifying meet is tentatively scheduled for Feb. 8 at the Airport Nordic Ski Club.

The club will also hold the Kidsfest and Midget Cross-Country Championships, Feb. 14-16, and the Gander Invitational will be March 9.

Registration is available online at, and junior skiers can also register for the Bunny, Jackrabbit, and Track Attack programs.

Twitter: @BeaconSports12

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