The Inuvik Ski Club hosted the 50th annual Top of the World Loppet April 6-8.
While the loppet no longer draws international ski champions as competitors, four-time Olympian Sharon Firth, who hails from Aklavik, participated in the spring ski event.
“It was really fun, but skiing is different things to different people,” said Firth. “For me, when I put on my first pair of skis, I absolutely loved the sport, and it offered me a way out to explore the world and represent Indigenous people on a global scale.”
Firth said she was happy to be taking part in the 50th anniversary celebrations.
“Anniversaries are always exciting, and for the loppet to last 50 years, that’s a long time,” said Firth. “Coming up here, as I was sitting on the plane, thinking about the Top of the World Loppet, and the legacy, the history. I thought of how I started when I was 12 years old, that’s 52 years ago, and I’m still active in sports. I try to live as healthy of a lifestyle as I can to set an example for the kids and to inspire and motivate the youth.”
Inuvik Ski Club vice-president Holly Jones said 79 participants registered for the loppet.
“A long time ago, it used to be the Top of the World Championships, and it was an international race with people from Japan, Sweden and Norway,” said Jones. “Probably in the past 20 years, it’s been a lot more low-key, and involves a lot more local people.”
Jones said the loppet still drew skiers from out of town, just not from quite as far away as before.
“We’ve got people from New Brunswick, Ontario, B.C., a couple people from Whitehorse and Yellowknifers, and a crew of high performance skiers who came in from Yellowknife who are participating as well,” said Jones. “It’s the annual spring visit, and everyone gets to see [Sharon Firth] and ski with an Olympian.”
She said the loppet has a complex history that is important to know.
“The history of skiing here is so tied to residential schools, but there’s also a lot of skiers who have come from the Beaufort Delta and skiing has really changed their lives,” she said. “I think it’s pretty formational of how sport in Inuvik has developed.”
Jones said one of the amazing things about the loppet today is how it connects people from different places.
“Right between the morning event and the relay, all the kids from Tsiigehtchic and Tuk were hanging out in the main hall, and they just started playing hand games together,” she said. “They may have never met, but that’s something they could do together. Then they all came outside, and were asking each other lots of questions about how to get around this corner or take this hill. That, to me, is what skiing is about.
“It’s so social, you should be able to play off other people and learn lots from skiing with a group, so I was so happy to see that happening.”