Black Jack goes from strength to strength in a six month ski season!

By Contributor
February 11th, 2014

The club’s been having a great year so far and is looking forward to another 70+ days of fantastic skiing.

We have been grooming consistently since Nov 3, and if all goes well, expect to groom into late April or early May.  That means cross-country skiing for exactly half the year!

We have 701 members this year, our 2nd highest ever, and it’s now our 5th year in a row with more than 600 members.  In fact, our 3 biggest membership years on record have all come in the last 4 years. 

Members are generally from within a 2hr radius of the club, including Nelson, Grand Forks, Creston, Kaslo, Winlaw, and Spokane.  Approximately 1/3 of our members are less than 35, another 1/3 are 50+, and the rest are in between.  Of note, we have 52 members that are 70 years and older… now that’s a lifetime sport!

We also have thousands of day pass visitors per year from far and wide, many trying cross-country skiing for the first time this year.  It is now our 2nd year offering ski rentals at the trailhead, allowing newcomers to give this fantastic sport a try.  We rent both skate ski gear and classic ski gear.

The kids Skier Development Program, including the Bunnies, Rabbits, Track Attack, and Junior Racers, has more than 80 participants this year, and is supported by dozens of volunteer coaches and helpers.

The Junior Racers (a.k.a. Black Jack Race Team) have a number of out-of-town athletes that are living and training in Rossland on a full-time year-round basis (this year from Revelstoke, Nelson, Kimberley, and Japan.)

The Haywood NorAm & Buff Sprints, World U23/Jr Championship Trials, and Kootenay Cup were a huge success this past December.  Over 250 athletes from all over North America were in attendance, including Olympic athletes, Olympic hopefuls, national champions, and the best U23 and Junior athletes in the continent.  Athletes came from Alberta, BC, Ontario, Quebec, Yukon, Alaska, Colorado, Idaho, Maine, Minnesota, Montana, New Hampshire, Oregon, Vermont, and Washington.    

This early-season event substantially increased occupancy levels for local accommodators at a time when occupancy levels are usually near zero.  In addition to the athletes, visitors included coaches, wax technicians, support staff, family members, technical delegates, and Cross Country Canada staff.  Approximately 150 volunteers dedicated their time and effort to successfully pull off this event.

Of note, of the 13 cross-country skiers that Canada has sent to Sochi, 5 competed here at the NorAm, and a further 5 have competed in previous NorAms at Black Jack, including medal hopeful and 2011 World Champion Alex Harvey.  A number of the current US Olympians have also competed here in Rossland, including medal hopeful and 2013 World Champion Jessie Diggins.

Please see attached for a fantastic article on the NorAm by fasterskier.com, “North America’s leading news source on All Things Nordic across the continent and abroad.”

Other events at Black Jack this season have included: 

  • Golden City Grind trail run
  • XC Skiing Community Coaching Workshop
  • Snow Show & Ski Swap
  • Decorate a Tree Week
  • Bring a Friend to Ski for Free / Black Jack Orientation Day
  • Ski With Santa
  • New Year’s Eve Bonfire
  • Mountain FM Tour de Soup
  • Super Hero Day
  • 30th Annual Black Jack Loppet (coming up on Feb 22)

his past summer we were able to undertake extensive maintenance and improvements of our trails, including reopening an old favorite, Ophir Trail.  The trail work allowed us to start the season earlier for our membership and visitors, as well as continue to host high level events. 

A big thank you to the following organizations for supporting the trail improvements and the Haywood NorAm:

·         Columbia Basin Trust, RDKB Area B, Southern Interior Development Initiative Trust, CBT Community Initiatives Program, and HostingBC, the Province of BC and viaSport. 

·         NorAm Major Local Sponsors: Teck Trail Operations, Kootenay Savings Community Foundation, MountainFM, and Red Mountain

·         NorAm Local Sponsors: Nelson & District Credit Union, Gerick Cycle & Sports, and Big Red Cats

This past January marked our 31st year as a club.  From the early days of dragging a mattress behind a snowmobile for grooming, amazing volunteers and community support have gotten us to where we are today.  Thank you for supporting the club and a lifetime sport.  Happy trails!

Sandau, Fitzgerald Win Black Jack NorAm Classic Races

December 17, 2013 By Katie Bono, fasterskier.com

In the last big North American races before the holiday break, Kevin Sandau of the Alberta World Cup Academy (AWCA) and Canadian National Senior Development Team (NST) and American Kate Fitzgerald of Alaska Pacific University (APU) took top honors on Sunday in the Black Jack NorAm 15- and 10-kilometre classic individual starts in Rossland, B.C.

On a day marked by warmer temperatures, tough waxing conditions and even tougher race courses, racers had only positive things to say about the quality of the race course and the depth of talented racers in the combined Canadian-American field.

In the women’s 10 k, Fitzgerald gritted out the win in 31:53.7 after feeling “super strong.” In an email, she wrote that her coaches nailed the tricky waxing, and it helped to have a strong skier to race against.

“Caitlin Gregg [Team Gregg/Madshus] started right in front of me and I caught up to her and we skied together the whole race after that,” Fitzgerald wrote. “She was awesome! We pushed each other and it was so much fun to have someone to ski with and work together!”

The women’s SuperTour leader, Gregg ended up fourth, and Canadians Emily Nishikawa (AWCA/NST) and Amanda Ammar (Team Ninja) squeezed in for second and third, respectively. After leading the first of two laps by nearly seven seconds over Fitzgerald, Nishikawa finished 13.9 seconds back in second, and Ammar was another 9.9 seconds back in third. Gregg was 30.3 seconds back in fourth, and Zoe Roy finished 47.1 seconds off the winning pace in fifth.

“There was an extremely strong field of women here this weekend, all of which I highly respect, and who are also in great shape,” Ammar wrote in an email. “I have been consistently getting stronger and stronger in each race. I’m right where I want to be.”

Ammar added that the courses were hard, but doable. “These were the kind of trails I was brought up on,” she explained. “Hard steep climbs, and fun windy technical downhills. I had an absolute blast out there!”

Sandau Edges Ellefson

In the men’s 15 k, Sandau echoed the sentiments of the women, adding that it was nice to have warmer-racing temperatures compared to the frigidity of last weekend’s opening NorAm at Sovereign Lake. Although he dealt with some icing on his skis, Sandau did his best to maintain efficiency and came out on top in 42:08.4.

“I’m pretty happy with [Sunday’s] result,” he wrote. “It’s just how I wanted [to] end things going into the holiday break before Olympic trials.”

Sylvan Ellefson (Ski & Snowboard Club Vail/Team HomeGrown) ended up second, just 3.2 seconds behind Sandau, and Graham Nishikawa rounded out the podium in third (+33.2), for his third top-three in over just two NorAm weekends. US Ski Team member Erik Bjornsen (APU) placed fourth (+44.3) and Andy Shields (NDC Thunder Bay) was fifth (+56.0).

Ellefson was also satisfied with his race. In an email, he explained that despite feeling pretty tired midway through the race, he was able to dig deep to pull out a solid race.

“The last 2k had to be the fastest 2k of my life,” Ellefson wrote. “I’m very happy with my results from the weekend and these results definitely help the confidence going into US Nationals in 3 weeks.

“The courses here are amazing,” he added. “Amazingly hard, amazing beautiful. Whoever crafted them was a genius because any kids coming out of that Black Jack program can probably ski anywhere after running those courses. Technical and fun, almost seems like a downhill biker designed them. Up there with the hardest course I have ever skied without a doubt.”

He was right on.

Ethan Meginnes, co-owner of Joyride Bike Parks, wrote in an email that he helped construct the Black Jack course.

“We build the course for the Red Bull Joyride slope style comp at Whistler as well as many other downhill bike trails,” he explained. “Dave Wood, Al Fisher and myself were the primary volunteers supervising the course build with a local contractor, Ed Mayer.”

After this weekend, most of the racers on the circuit are dispersing for the holidays, quality time with friends and family, and local citizens’ races until the recommencement of racing January 8-12 in Canmore, Alberta.

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