A perfect storm of success: Black Jack opens biggest season ever

Andrew Zwicker
By Andrew Zwicker
December 8th, 2010

There’s a storm brewing up at the Black Jack ski club and not just a tempest of the falling white flake variety. A veritable perfect storm of events if have set the non-profit ski club up for what is already a record breaking year. The combination great early snow conditions, a new groomer, the relocation of the continent’s best ski coach to Rossland coupled with an all-time record number of members has the club excited about the ski season ahead.


Although skiers have been out walking, jogging and skiing the trails for weeks now, the club officially opened for operations this past Saturday.


 Over the last two weeks the process of getting the trails in race shape have taken place, starting with the packing footsteps of eager skiers and walkers taking in the early season powder. The first grooming work started with ski-doos pulling rollers packing out the snow followed by several passes of the ski-doo-pulled Ginsu groomer. On Tuesday, November 20th the club’s new cat got its first run of the season in setting tracks and grooming most of the clubs trails.


So far open trails include Gibbards, Jeldness, everything in the stadium area, Tim’s Trail, Fisher’s Loop, the biathlon range and Loggers. Only Hemlock, Boomer and Rawhide have yet to be opened.


“I’ve been skiing four times up there already and it’s awesome skiing for sure,” commented an excited Wannes Lupens, Black Jack’s president.


While the snow has been early this year, the season is actually a week or so later than last year’s opening.


“Last year our first cat groom was on November 21st so we’re a little bit later. Anytime we’re open in November, though, that’s considered early so we’ve had two really good openings in a row,” added Lupens.


The big story of the year, however, has been the all time record set in club memberships. In a town known for its downhill skiing history, Nordic has been steadily growing–literally in the shadow of Red. So far over 630 season passes have been sold this year.


The continual growth of the sport and the spike in memberships this season may be attributable to a few key marketing and promotion efforts by the club. It started with the typically high energy ski swap that ignites the excitement each fall and which saw a bigger-than-average turnout this year. A high-end prize draw incentive also helped boost membership.


“The new thing this year was giving our members an incentive to sign up a friend,” explained Lupens. ”That was with the Vancouver getaway trip we’re giving away. We have two flights with Pacific Coastal and a two night stay at the Fairmont Waterfront. To get in the draw you just have to tell a friend and sign up a new member or [re-sign a lapsed] member. The chances of winning right now are still pretty good. 1 in 60 or so.”


The young racers out there who had their first race of the season this past weekend in Canmore area already seeing the benefits of having one of the top Nordic ski coaches in North America relocate to Black Jack. Dave Wood, former national team coach, made the move last spring and judging by the junior racers first results this past weekend, his experience is already paying dividends.


In the Canmore Nordic Kickstart Distance Classic, Peter Locke of Black Jack finished 4th and Shawn deGroot finished 8th. deGroot had been leading the race before snapping a pole and falling back to 8th spot. In the sprint finals Black Jack racers again had a good showing as Geoffrey Richards finished 4th, Julien Locke finished 6th and Peter Lock 8th.


If you aspire to the racing success of Black Jack’s juniors and alumni – including George Grey who will be on hand for the Black Jack Nor Am on the weekend of the 18th and 19th – or just want to pick up a new sport to stay active and have fun, this weekend is the perfect opportunity to get out on the skinny skis for the first time.


In cooperation with Gerrick’s, Black Jack is hosting a free ski day on Sunday December 12th. Gerrick’s will be providing free rentals and lessons on a first-come-first-serve basis and day passes for the day will be on the house. It’s a deal that can’t be beat.

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