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Karen Wall, the new president of the Hay River Ski Club, hopes that more people in the community will experience the trails for skiing, snowshoeing or walking.
Paul Bickford/NNSL photo

Karen Wall is the new president of the Hay River Ski Club, and she wants everyone to know about the great recreational opportunities it has to offer.

Wall said some people in Hay River don’t really understand the variety of trails at the club – for all levels of skiing, for snowshoeing and for walking.

“I just don’t think they know how good the trails are. I think that might be it,” she said. “I think a lot of people take it for granted that there’s a ski club out here and they never, ever decide to come out. If you don’t ski, you kind of don’t come out.”

However, Wall said the ski club – just 15 minutes from downtown Hay River – makes people feel like they’re in nature, and it is a quiet place where they can brighten their day with exercise, fresh air and family time.

“This is like Hay River’s hidden gem,” she said.

Wall became president at the club’s annual general meeting on Oct. 15.

She had previously been on the executive for three years as events co-ordinator.

The new executive also consists of vice-president Kathleen Groenewegen, who had been president for three years; secretary David MacDonald; treasurer Drew Queen; biathlon liaison Simon Lepage; trails supervisor Chuck Lirette; events co-ordinator Julia Gyapay; and Ashley Coombs, the co-ordinator of the Jackrabbit and Bunny programs for young children.

Lirette echoed Wall’s goal of making the ski club better known to residents of Hay River.

“I think as an executive we’re trying to tell people that you don’t have to be a skier to come here,” he said. “You can snowshoe. You can walk. I think we’re really trying to appeal to families, as well.”

Wall, a teacher at Ecole Boreale, said she loves the ski club.

“I feel like this is part of my family, honestly,” she said. “It does sound corny, but it’s the truth that there’s a real family feeling at this place and we’re all kind of close.”

There are also some new or relatively new things at the club that not everyone may have yet discovered.

One new feature is a tobogganing hill next to the clubhouse.

“We’ve never had that before,” said Lirette, noting parents can bring their children to enjoy some sliding.

The club also has a brand-new maintenance garage, which is big enough for biathletes to practise their rifle skills inside, without actually shooting, if it gets too cold outside.

Wall and Lirette also want to promote other aspects of the ski club, including a popular walking trail that was built several years ago and a cabin for family outings on the other side of the Hay River.

“Winter is long in the North and we really just want people to come out and enjoy winter,” said Wall. “We’re going to have lots of snow. We’re going to have lots of cold weather. We might as well get out and enjoy it together.”

The new president noted that Julia Gyapay, the events co-ordinator, has also updated the club’s website so people can learn more about it, including its history.

Last year, the club had about 130 members.

Lirette noted that members have access to skis, poles and ski boots, along with snowshoes that can be strapped onto boots.

Wall said that the cost of yearly membership in the club is more than reasonable.

Socially-distanced skiing, snowshoeing or walking in the outdoors can also help people during this time of Covid-19, she noted. “This is a mental health break right here.”

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Paul Bickford

Paul Bickford is the reporter for Hay River Hub.

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