Menihek Nordic Ski Club A Center of Excellence
Menihek, in Montagnais, means, "challenging path" or "challenging trail," an appropriate appellation for one of Newfoundland and Labradors oldest, most active, and best developed Nordic ski clubs. March 2010 marked our 35th anniversary, a milestone made possible in equal part by our early founders and a vibrant membership that caries on their enthusiasm.
The originators of the club were an eclectic mix of nationalities: Finnish, Estonian, Norwegian, English, South African and of course, Canadians from all regions. Karl Krats, a former Canadian Junior Champion, was a founding member; now, his son, Eddie, serves our club as a Level III official. Darrell Frank, a former NST (National Ski Team) coach was instrumental in our early Junior Development Programs. Vello Arumets of Estonia worked hard to develop trails and club equipment. Geroge Lefeuvre, now a world-class track setter, who gets invited to most Winter Olympics for his expertise, cut his wisdom teeth at Menihek Nordic. The families of Dave Thomas, Joe Smith and Bill Dwyer all contributed greatly to the success of the club. However, it was left to Colin Jardine to put Menihek Nordic on the world scene.
In 1981, Mr. Jardine engaged Bill Koch, famous USA World Cup Champion, to design a world class trial system in Labrador City, He then acquired the assistance of Al Merrill, a renowned American ski consultant form New Hampshire, to assist in lining up events for the newly developed Menihek Nordic facility. This was accomplished with vitality and flair, resulting in a number of key events coming to Menihek:
- 1981 - US and Canadian skier training in Labrador
- 1982 - North American Championships and Shell Cup events
- 1983 - World Cup Final
- 1984 - Designation as a national Training Center
- 1985 - opening Season World Cup
Jackrabbit Johannsen, when 107 years old, served as honorary chairman of the 1985 World Cup at Menihek Nordic and people like Angela Schmidt-Foster, Pierre Harvey, Bill Koch, Vladamir Smirnoff and Gunde Svan were familiar faces on our trails.
Menihek Nordic still hosts quality events. There were ten days of great skiing to help celebrate the 500th Anniversary of John Cabot's discovery of Newfoundland. The participants were entertained by an unexpected treat, a perfect view of the comet Hale-Bopp passing though a spectacular display of northern lights!
Menihek Nordic now boasts a beautiful A-Frame Chalet, designed by local artisan James Hoskins, and an expanded trail system to compliment the world class Koch Trail. President, Gerry Rideout says, "It's great to have the contrasting types of skiing and terrain developed here. You can attack the infamous 'Koch's Delight' or even 'The Hole' or simply enjoy a leisurely ski around the lake on the 'Dumbell Tour' or 'The Birches'. Sunset doesn't end the skiing either as the longest lit trail in the province, 'Vello's Trail', fondly known as the 401 locally, still awaits the avid skier."
Snow, snow, snow! Neige! That's what Menihek is all about and we get lots of it, from as early as October, allowing early fall training camps and providing locals with a season that can last well into May.
Youth programs are big at the club with over 115 young skiers this past season, an impressive number for any club and more impressive when you remember that the population of Labrador City - Wabush is a mere 12,000. In 1985, the club started a "Ski Mode" program for children 4-8 years (pre-Jackrabbit) and brought the Jackrabbit program from the elementary schools into the club. Track Attackers is another popular program at Menihek and the club has produced more and more provincial team members. This past season, three of our young skiers went to national events: Nations Juniors, Eastern Championships, and National Biathlons. Our club provides all the equipment for all three programs, stored and maintained in a modern waxing facility. While our young skiers provide the growth and energy, the other heroes of our youth programs are Level II coaches Alf Parsons and Rhonda Lawrence and the twenty or more volunteer leaders, some having Level I coaching certification and others with Jackrabbit Leader courses.
The Jackrabbit Ski League is fun-based with skills development, games, and socials. Sprints for racing Rabbits, Christmas parties, Easter Egg Hunts, and sleepovers for all groups help promote the social aspect of our programs.
In 1986, Menihek Nordic started a School Ski Program for Grade Five Students in our elementary schools. Children and teachers are bussed to the ski club. Club coaches and leaders run the program and the club provides ski equipment, which is professionally fitted. These students get four, three-hour sessions of skiing followed by warm-up around the fireplace at the chalet. This program involves over 700 ski visits and includes over 300 children, many of whom become full club members.
One of the feathers in the hat of Menihek is the availability of volunteers. The club counts upon hundreds of volunteers for major ski events. In addition to the Volunteer Appreciation Night sponsored by the Towns of Labrador City and Wabush, the club also has its own volunteer get-togethers where certificates, plaques, and letters of thanks are awarded. This season will see the creation of a 'Volunteer of the Month' award. In addition to duties on the ski trails, volunteer's help out with 90-100 catered events at the Menihek Chalet each year. The money raised at these events helps employ a coach, chalet manager and provides support to our youth programs.
Family and community are guiding philosophies at Menihek, a fact reflected in our events and facilities. Family BBQs are regular events at the chalet - one-featured four generations of skiers around the grill! Five towing baby slides, polks, allow young parents and even grandparents to enjoy the trails with their children. A sit-ski for physically challenged skiers is in almost constant use and modern, well-maintained rental equipment allows newcomers to the sport to join in without incurring exorbitant costs in purchasing start-up equipment. Family and senior's rates on season passes make nordic skiing financially feasible for everyone and Menihek's membership list continues to include skiers of every age and numbers over 400 active members.
Wax clinics by champion skiers provide educational opportunities, as do ski lessons, which are available for groups or individual on demand. A well-stocked shop on the premises is run by a skier with several decades experience under his skis and many titles to his credit who is quick to pass that knowledge on to members. News from the club is funneled back to the community through the efforts of a publicity person who arranges media interview and provides "Nordic Notes" to the local paper. A comprehensive web presence and e-mail connect the club to those outside the local area. Level 1 Coaching clinics and CANSI courses are held regularly. The Club boasts over fifty Level I and II officials and one Level III official. One of the best events of the season at Menihek Nordic is the annual Air Nova Great Labrador Loppet. Skiers can participate in one of three events (10, 27, and 54k) held on a 27-kilometer groomed trail extending from Fermont, Quebec, to Labrador City, a course used only for the Great Labrador loppet and is open to both classic and skating skiers. To add to the fun, skiers are encouraged to participate in teams, and to dress up in costumes. The trail provides several feeding stations and periodic rest stops. Last year, the 25th running of the Loppet saw over 70 non-resident skiers arriving to join the fun. Each participant is eligible to win a trip for two between any two points in Atlantic Canada.
Club president Gerry Rideout says, "Going into the next millennium, the future of Menihek Nordic is very bright. We are constantly bidding for national and provincial events, and re currently attempting to acquire a Continental Cup in Lab-West on a regular basis. We are in the midst of acquiring a new Piston Bully PB-100 groomer and building cabins at the facility for a total ski experience. The club has plans to offer six-week Fall and Spring Training Camps, allowing youth to continue schools via the Internet, the College of the North Atlantic, and Keyin Technical College. This coming season we're introducing a Certificate Touring Program where members log there trail kilometers and compare them to various distances across Labrador. You'll be able to ski Labrador without leaving Menihek Nordic's trails!"
Come see us in Labrador and experience you won't soon forget!