PEOPLE MAKE THE WORLD GO ROUND: Black Jack Ski Club could use your help...this weekend!
Continuing my focus on some of the volunteers who make Rossland such a great place to live, earlier in the summer I sat down with Matt Tonner, who is the President of Black Jack Ski Club. Rossland is so fortunate to have fantastic facilities for both downhill and Nordic skiing, and the Black Jack Ski Club is a the organization that keeps our world class Nordic trails in great shape, organizes Nordic events and plays a significant role in young skier development.
Black Jack is run by a thirteen-person executive with a President, Vice President, Treasurer and Secretary. The other directors fulfill multiple other important roles such as trail and building maintenance, fundraising, and skier development. While there is a maximum term on some of the positions, many of the Directors, such as Wannes Luppens, Trevor Houlden, Andrea McKay, and Ian Reid have been active volunteers on the executive for almost ten years. Al Fisher, a familiar face on the trails for most Black Jack members, has served on the executive for even longer.
“There is a really important core of volunteers,” Tonner noted. In addition to the executive, there is a race committee that organizes the events that Black Jack hosts, including the Nor Am and Kootenay Cup, the coaches who are part of the skier development program, and a race crew of wax technicians who help out at races.
There are also lots of other more casual volunteering opportunities including the trail work parties in the fall, and helping out by cooking for races. The first work party of the fall is coming up on Saturday, September 13.
People can volunteer just in the morning or afternoon if they prefer, although Tonner notes, “some people stay all day.” The work during trail parties includes brushing, doing sign work, and cleaning up cabins. “People are assigned to bring food and the day is generally pretty fun.” The trail parties spend most of their time on trails, such as Gibbards, that can operate with the least amount of snow, so they can be opened as early as possible in the season.
When people buy their passes to Black Jack, there is a checklist that enables them to indicate what they are interested and able to volunteer for. These people are emailed when a volunteer opportunity is coming up and Tonner indicates, “usually ten to twenty people show up.”
The time requirements of various volunteer positions with Black Jack vary. Some positions, such being on the executive, require an ongoing commitment throughout the year, whereas others require a significant commitment at certain times of the year. The race committee, for example, is usually very busy during the week or two leading up to Nor Ams.
When asked about what motivates some of the volunteers, Tonner observed, “The people who come out genuinely love the facility and the club, and they’re willing to put the hours in because they love it. The people who we hire and the people on the executive are typically skiers.” He further observed, “We also have a really great executive. Everyone is very courteous and we can all pitch ideas and discuss them openly.”
Tonner indicated that the race committee and other race volunteers are often big fans of the sport. “They get a kick out of seeing the best skiers in Canada competing and seeing some of the competitors that Black Jack has developed over the years.”
Skiing for recreation and fun are also a big part of the club. Tonner noted that Black Jack also has a lot of events focused on making sure people have a great time on the trails.
“Last year we had the Mountain FM Tour de Soup, which was organized by Peggy Graham-Morel. Ninety people showed up despite some less than great skiing conditions, and it was a super fun day. We also had Super Hero Day, and skiing with Santa. It is all those kinds of things that keep the volunteers coming back.”
The club set a new record last year, with 727 season-pass members. The vast majority are recreational skiers who love the fact that the trails are only a few minutes away and that they can ski any day of the week, even before or after work. Members range in age from infants being pulled in chariots to seniors well into their eighties.
But Black Jack always welcomes new volunteers. Tonner noted, “We generally have enough volunteers, but it can tend to be the same people. It’s easy to go to the reliables, and sometimes they can get burned out.” So, if you love skiing at Black Jack, consider helping out at one of the events, or showing up for one of the trails work parties, like the one this coming weekend. You’ll meet some fun people and help keep one of Rossland’s much-loved facilities in great shape.
Jennifer Ellis is a local writer and consultant. Her second novel, In the Shadows of the Mosquito Constellation, explores a climate changed future, and is available on Amazon, at Café Books West and at Otter Books.