Spring Skiing (and Racing)
Top Nordic Skiers Compete in Thunder Bay This Month
By Bonnie Schiedel
The cross-country skiers are coming! The 2023 Nordiq Canada Ski Nationals, Canadian College and University Nordic Championships (CCUNC), and Para Nordic Championships are taking place in Thunder Bay at the Lappe Ski Centre from March 11 to 17. About 700 exceptional athletes and support teams will be taking part and there will be junior, senior, and Para Nordic skiers competing in sprints, team sprints, and distance races. The event is hosted by the Lakehead Superior Nordic Association (LSNA), a partnership between Lappe Nordic Ski Club and Big Thunder Ski Club that was created to bid for and host provincial and national-level cross-country ski races and competitions. “It’s a great opportunity for our local athletes,” says Werner Schwar, one of the organizing committee chairs. “In Thunder Bay, we basically travel everywhere to go to high-level competition. And to have that high level of competition at home is a great opportunity, not only for the youth who are competing, but also those who are younger, who get to see high-level events happen in their hometown and aspire to one day be in that event.” About 200 local volunteers are involved, and about 70 athletes from Big Thunder, Lappe Nordic, and National Team Development Centre Thunder Bay will be competing. “We try not to make this an event just about the athletes, but about the community,” says competition secretary Stephanie Marler, pointing out that young skiers taking recreational ski lessons through the Jackrabbit program are leading the opening ceremonies. “The community, the volunteers, the kids—everybody loves it, and they get so behind it.” The public is welcome to come to Lappe to watch the races, which will also be streamed and have live audio commentary. “We’re trying to create a festival environment. So there’ll be good ski racing and also other things to do, including the opening ceremonies and vendor tents,” says Marler. “The [Lappe] chalet has been fully renovated. It’s pretty much a brand-new chalet downstairs and now it’s fully accessible. And the food services are great.” As well, skiers will be able to attend a mid-week athlete festival at Fort William Historical Park. “It is going to include traditional games, a ceilidh, and just an immersion in local culture,” says Marler. Overall, she says that organizers want the competition and visit to be memorable for the athletes so that in 10 years, they’re still talking about their trip to Thunder Bay. The event “is a real showcase of our community,” says Schwar. “Come out and see what ski racing is all about.” For more information and a schedule of events, visit canadianskinationals2023.ca.