Play Makers: Gearing Up for the Cross Country Ski Season

If the recent ski swap at the Mount McIntyre Centre is any indication the 2010/11 Whitehorse cross country ski season should be one of the most popular yet.

Terms such as “flying elbows,” “aggressive mothers” and “super intense” were used by swap-goers to describe the annual event.

The ski swap has taken place every October in Whitehorse for more than two decades and sees cross-country skiing enthusiasts young and old, veteran and new, vie for the best bargains on used gear.

“This is a social event, a recycling event, a community event and a great fundraiser,” said Whitehorse Cross Country Ski Club President Tom Ullyett. “It caters to all levels of skiers: newbies, veterans, kids and mothers. That’s why it’s always so popular.”

Hundreds showed early at this year’s swap hoping to grab the best bargains on not only ski gear but a variety of other winter sports gear as well.

A couple of years ago organizers decided to widen the spectrum of what was offered at the swap and the move to include other winter sports equipment has only added to the event’s popularity.

Some Yukoners were lined up more than an hour before the doors even opened, despite a dumping of snow the night before and the subsequent slick road conditions in the morning.

“The elbows were definitely up and I was actually elbowed by a mom in the kids section,” smiled long time swap attendee Colin Mackenzie who this year volunteered at the event. “It was nuts. It always is.”

Despite the intensity by some overzealous bargain hunters the event has become a must-do for Yukoners of all ages, be it families, competitive athletes, retirees or just those curious to see what the buzz is all about.

“I’ve been coming to this every year for more than 20 years,” said Mackenzie’s older brother Ian, while shopping with his daughter.

Ullyett says the number of attendees at the swap is usually a great indication of what the ski season may look like and if that is the case the expectations should be high for the club.

“We still have people coming in and it’s almost noon,” enthused Ullyett. “And despite the variety of gear here the cross country ski equipment has by far been the most popular.”

The ski club president says the swap not only serves up great deals on equipment but gets Yukoners in tune that the start of the ski season is near or already upon us.

“We had people on the trails three weeks ago after that first big dump of snow,” smiles Ullyett. “People are hitting the trail today right from the swap and with the snow falling it’s been great advertising for us.”

Ullyett says the number of people cross country skiing in Whitehorse continues to swell with over 1,000 members for the past five years and more than 1,500 last year alone.

With the trails at Mount Mac now groomed, close to $6,000 dollars raised via this year’s swap and Mother Nature doing her part, it looks to be a long and successful year on the Whitehorse trails.

And just to prove the winter fun really is at hand, the season’s first Wax and Wine event, sponsored by Coast Mountain Sports, takes place Friday, October 29 at the Mt. McIntyre recreation centre, starting at 7 p.m.

The presenter will be Bill Parry. Admission is free and everyone is welcome.

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