‘Jack Rabbit’ program off to brisk start

Bone-chilling temperatures failed to stop 15 young people from coming out to the Fort Frances Children’s Complex on Saturday to sign up for a new recreational program being offered by the Rainy Lake Nordic Ski Club.
The “Jack Rabbit” program is now up and running here to teach youngsters aged five-15- the skills and fun of one of the fastest-growing sports in Canada—cross-country skiing.
The program has been operating in Kenora for several years, but now a group of local instructors—headed by Jim Martindale and Dr. Cam Moorhouse—is bringing it to Borderland.
And it’s not just for the kids, either. “We are looking forward to having the parents involved, too,” said Martindale.
In all, eight certified instructors will be conducting classes on Saturdays for the next eight weeks, with the first formal classes beginning Jan. 10 at 11 a.m.
Martindale said the program will go ahead regardless of the weather, but assured the youngsters and their parents that the instructors were well prepared to deal with whatever Mother Nature might throw at them.
“The instructors will be in tune with the cold and will adapt accordingly,” he pledged.
Dr. Moorhouse then took over and his enthusiasm soon began to rub off on those attending.
“I can promise you, you will not be bored,” Dr. Moorhouse stressed. “This is designed to give children a lifetime activity.”
The program will be divided into three parts. The first two lessons essentially will be an evaluation of the skills the youths already possess.
Those who demonstrate the ability will be fast-tracked through the initial lessons—which will take place at the Children’s Complex—and move on to more advanced work on the trails off Eighth Street.
Eventually, the goal is to move everyone out to Rocky Inlet, where the local club has more than 12 km of well-groomed trails already prepared. The club has spent $45,000 on the site, of which $15,000 came through a Trillium grant.
But the first priorities are fun and safety. That’s why Dr. Moorhouse spent half-an-hour Saturday describing the equipment being used and, more importantly, how to dress.
“Believe it or not, most people over-dress for this,” he remarked. “This is hard physical exercise and you will generate a lot of heat. That’s why it’s important to dress in layers so you can peel stuff off if you get too hot.”
Dr. Moorhouse suggested people start with long cotton underwear and then add things such as sweat pants and sweaters. A wind-proof nylon outer suit was recommended, but not snowmobile suits, since they likely will be far too warm for such vigorous activity.
He also stressed the importance of a hat or toque. “You will lose a lot of heat through your head,” he explained.
He also recommended mitts as opposed to gloves unless the weather was mild.
Dr. Moorhouse then went over the kind of equipment options available, noting that skis and bindings come in a variety of styles and sizes.
For children just starting out, he suggested the new waxless skis provide simplicity and ease of maintenance. But for more advanced skiers, waxed skis are the way to go since they can be adapted to different temperatures and snow conditions.
He also pointed out the importance of size.
Classical skis should be of a length whereby the tip comes to the skier’s wrist when the arm is held straight up. Ski poles should come up to the armpits.
Skating skis generally are shorter, but the poles are longer.
Modern skis are constructed of laminated layers of fibreglass and wood, sometimes incorporating layers of foam or carbon fibres. Formerly, skis were made of wood, which Dr. Moorhouse said is generally inferior, though they do tend to hold wax better.
Initially, the club was planning to rent equipment to the kids, but found it would not be possible this year. However, Martindale assured equipment would be available through donations and the efforts of the Voyageurs Lions Club.
As the season progresses, there will be additional activities to keep things interesting.
For instance, Feb. 28 has been designated as Becky Scott Day after the Canadian cross-country racer whose bronze medal at the 2002 Olympic Games in Salt Lake City was upgraded to silver and then gold when the two Russian skiers who finished ahead of her were stripped of their medals for using performance-enhancing drugs.
On that day, the “Jack Rabbits” will be going to Kenora for a five-km fun race. Also, a Blueberry Cider Day is planned for mid-February at Rocky Inlet.
It’s not too late to sign up for this year’s program. To register or for more information, contact Martindale (274-7829) or Dr. Moorhouse (274-2030).