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Helen Kalvak Elihakvik teacher brings skiing to Ulukhaktok

Wyatt Joss and Blaine Inuktalik pose next to a stand of skis in anticipation of the launch of Ulukhaktok's ski club. Cross Country NWT is collecting lone ski poles and other used equipment to donate to the club, which has already signed up a quarter of the student population.

Students at Helen Kalvak Elihakvik school are bombing for skiing after a teacher at brought out his skis for a spin.

"The kids got super excited," said teacher Bryan Stone, who added he has been cross country skiing since the start of high school. "We have the skis that the Yellowknife team sent us. We build a carrier for them and put them out in the lobby and the kids are in awe.

Stone said interest in the sport was huge, with 27 students from Grades 7-12 signing on to join a ski club if it is established. That's over a quarter of the school's population of 101 students.

"When the students are that excited about something, across the board, you get pretty motivated to make it happen."

So he started poking around for information on how to get equipment together to start a club and began applying for grants around the Christmas holiday.

Now, with a few of the grants coming through, Stone now has 20 pairs of skis and 10 pairs of boots, with more gear on the way thanks to Aboriginal Sport Circle and Nordiq Canada. By the time everything comes in, Stone estimated he would have 24 complete sets.

"I was just blown away by how much work the people in Yellowknife were willing to do to get us all the stuff we needed to start up a team," he said. "Before I knew it, we had skis coming."

Aside from ensuring the club can operate in a Covid-19-safe environment, there's only one thing left on his checklist — ski poles.

Enter Cross Country NWT, who are on the hunt for anyone in Yellowknife with a lone ski pole, or an old set no longer in use, to donate their old gear to the new club. CCNWT is also accepting ski equipment on behalf of the club.

Stone said he was matching poles up based on height, noting ski poles tend to be the most breakable part of the skier's equipment so having more on hand for the new students to experiment on.

"If you're not falling, you're not learning to ski," said Stone. "And if you're falling, you risk breaking some equipment. These things happen. So it's one of those 'the more the merrier' situations."

No firm start date for the ski club has been set, though Stone said he hoped to have the organization up and running as soon as it was safe to do so.

Initially, the plan is to get people out and practicing in a fun, social environment. Stone noted several students had inquired about a regular fitness program and a few are even curious about racing, which he is happy to oblige.

"Getting people active is the big goal," he said. ""A lot of people have said they want fitness goals they want to meet and skiing is perfect for that. It works every muscle in your body and is a good cardio workout, and it doesn't have any hard impacts on your joints so it's something you can do your entire life.

"I had a couple of kids express an interesting in racing, which is my background, so eventually I imagine the kids will get to a place where they're really interested in racing."

If you have old ski equipment you would like to donate to the club, contact NWT Cross Country at by Feb. 21.

About the Author: Eric Bowling

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