Club gliding towards record membership

People crowded to the Onion Lake cross country ski trails over the holidays, and the club is predicting record membership.

Miriam Hoffarth was among the skiers at the Onion Lake trails during the busy open house Jan. 3.

People flocked to the Onion Lake cross country ski trails over the holidays, and the club is predicting record membership, with more than 60 new regular members and jackrabbits already boasting a new record.

“We’ve probably had the best Christmas we’ve had since anyone can really remember,” said Dan McElheron, president of the Snow Valley Nordic Ski Club.

“The amount of traffic we’ve had out there is just incredible.”

McElheron said the club took in $1,900 in just one day, on the stat holiday Dec. 28, with people buying season and day passes, books of 10, renting gear or signing up children for jackrabbits.

“That is phenomenal for us,” he said. “We’ve fallen on some good times economically which is good, because we re-invest everything right back into the club.”

The Onion Lake trails were busy again on Jan. 3 for the free open house, when the glistening trails drew more than 250 skiers, jamming the parking lot with more than 100 vehicles, McElheron said.

Already this year, the club has 320 members, which is 30 per cent more than this time last winter and the same amount they had at the end of the season last year.

“Lots more passes should be  sold… 360 [members] is our record for the club and we may actually beat that this year,” McElheron said.

Cathy Vandenberg, membership coordinator, said 65 of the new members are brand new, and the club is still expecting more members to sign up in the next few weeks, including some regulars and people taking advantage of the late season rate.

Vandenberg said beautiful weather like we have had recently causes people to talk about the club and bring friends more.

“The ski conditions have been extremely good this year… and there has been lots of hype about the new grooming machine,” she said.

New member Noah Timmins, 29, just moved to the area and said the trails and facilities here blew him away: the length and variety of trails, night skiing, and quality trails good for classic and skate skiers.

“And it’s just a very scenic area. You ski by lakes, you’ve got mountain views, a nice lodge…and everyone is so friendly and welcoming.”

McElheron says he believes the growth is largely due to the buzz around the new groomer and the recent article published in The Terrace Standard and The Northern Connector.

“I attribute the buzz and the excitement to that article because I was [at the trails Jan. 3] hearing people say ‘I can’t believe I’ve lived here my whole life and I’ve never been up here.’ Obviously the article really increased the awareness,” McElheron said. “And it’s the weather too. Shames is having a really good run of it too.”

Snow is also a huge factor, because “when the snow is out, the people that love snow want to play in it,” he said, whether it is cross country or downhill skiing, snowboarding, ice skating or snowmobiling.

Jackrabbits set a new record this year with more than 60 children and youths signed up by last Friday, topping the 54-skier record set last year. Vandenberg says the program has grown every year since 2009 when there were 34 in 2009.

The cross country trails have a strong one-foot base, about 2-2.5 feet of snow packed tightly.

“It is great. We were in good shape by about [Dec. 20]… The machine arrived, and two days later enough snow arrived,” said McElheron. “We could use another two or three feet in the next month, that would put us in really good shape…Usually February is the month of snow up there, so hopefully the best is yet to come, but it’s weather so you never know.”

Coming up is the Snow Valley Open Race Jan. 16 and the Women’s Ski Fest Jan. 31, for women of all ages and abilities.