KAMSACK - The 42nd annual Duck Mountain Loppet returned, with people and families attending from all ages and places, with some coming as far as Regina, and some being close to 80 years of age skiing in the loppet.
Kevin Sutton, the organizer of the loppet said, “Many families are out here with their kids. There's a two-year-old getting hauled around. There's mom's pulling sleighs. I think our oldest skier this year is 79 so far as those that are registered, so we got it covered.”
After three years of inactivity due to COVID-19, the loppet returned for its 42nd year. This time it was Kevin Sutton and his wife Cheryl organizing the event, as the Saskatchewan Parks and Recreation Association’s volunteer of the year award-winning Bruno Lemire has retired from the loppet.
Cheryl Sutton said, “So the 40th-anniversary loppet was in 2020. And that was the last year that Bruno Lemire organized.”
Lemire had also been known for creating a nature trail as part of the loppet, a trail decorated with wooden animals and creatures for kids to enjoy as they skied by. Unfortunately, due to the cold temperatures, there were not as many kids registered for the event this year, so the Nature Trail wasn’t hosted.
The loppet hosted five, 10, and 20-kilometre skate trails, five, 10, 20, 25, 30 and 40-kilometre classic trails, and the Jack Rabbit routes and paths for their younger attendees. The Jack Rabbit program is organized by the Nordic Canada Ski program. The Jack Rabbit program tries to introduce kids to cross-country skiing in a safe and comfortable environment with most Jack Rabbit paths only being half-a-kilometre away from a ski shack.
“We have hot dogs there for them and marshmallows that they can roast, fill themselves up and come on back. So Jackrabbit is a Nordic Canada ski program that's offered in larger centres. We have a group from Regina coming out. I think Yorkton is bringing some out. So there's an opportunity for kids to get into a learn-to-ski program in the cities or in smaller communities that are called jackrabbits,” Kevin Sutton said.
The safety of the loppet was unquestioned with the Canadian Ski Patrol helping during the event, with various tents and volunteers patrolling the paths to ensure everyone was safe.
Sutton, reflecting on the safety of the loppet, said, “Well, there are no real safety concerns, everybody progresses at their own rate. The Hills are just very hilly here and that surprises a lot of people. So it takes them by surprise from a fitness point of view and also from a technical skill point of view. Can you take a little corner going downhill? Do you have the technique to go up-hill? And can you check your speed if it's a really steep hill, which there are, do you know how to Snowplow, so it's a progressive type of thing.
“It's kind of like golfing. Sometimes you can golf forever and not get any better. But with skiing you can certainly improve your fitness and, with some tips, you can improve your technique which makes it more efficient for you and makes it safer for you. And our trails are pretty safe trails, they’re technical trails, but we make sure we have appropriate signage up. We make sure that we don't have any traps if they are at the bottom of the hill. We don't want any corners at the bottom of the hill. So we're pretty vigilant about that. And these trails have been here for over four decades so people have skied them both ways and people can tip over on a golf course as easily as they can on a steep up or down hill.
“For those that didn't come out this year because it was on the cold side, we've gotten colder than this. At minus 37 we teed off one time. And it's not as hard as you think, we have 5k to 40k trails. And there's a bit of a mix and match, if you want you can bail earlier since there are bailout routes. And you can always just do short ones and add on another loop. You don't need a ton of fitness, you can gain a bit of confidence and come on out, it's a great lifetime sport.
“We also have a heated outhouse now, a toasty tooshie toilet.”
Anne Stupak, on her 68th birthday attended the event for her 27th year attending the loppet, and said, “The Trails are the cleanest I’ve seen in decades. Without the wind they’re perfect. Kevin did a superb job.”
The event has had a notable amount of organization put towards it, with approximately 30 volunteers helping behind the scenes and out on the trails. The loppet partnered with Jared Ruf of In Good Taste Togo to host a dinner at the Border Mountain House after the skiing closed for the day. The dinner included sausage and perogies, a hearty hot meal after a fun day in the cold snow. The dinner was planned to have the country singer Ryan Keown play following the meal. But unfortunately, due to weather concerns, the singer and his band couldn’t make it, so the performance had to be rescheduled to another night.