While some winter sports have not been possible this winter due to the COVID-19 pandemic, others have become more popular.  Locally, interest in cross-country skiing has grown significantly.

Ski-Vent-Clic maintains 17 kilometres of cross-country ski trails that form a circuit with various loops around Vankleek Hill.  All the trails are maintained by volunteers and the trails are almost entirely on private land that property owners have given permission to the club to use.

“People have suddenly woken up to the fact that cross-country skiing is the perfect COVID-compatible activity,” said Ross Gourlay, one of Ski-Vent-Clic’s directors.

Cross-country skiers can say hello to others they pass on the trail, and they can chat from a distance if they stop along the way.

“We can have social interactions, we can have conversations,” Gourlay said.

Cross-country skiing not only allows physical fitness and safe socializing in a time where both are not always easy, but Gourlay noted it is also good for peoples’ mental health because they can get outside and get exercise.  He said that the popularity of the sport this year has led to a shortage of cross-country skis and related products in stores.

“Everything’s sold out!”

Gourlay also noted that cross-country skiing is one of the least expensive winter sports.

Ski-Vent-Clic encourages trail users to purchase yearly memberships for $50.00.  They used to issue buttons and tags for members to wear as proof of membership, but this year, the organization decided that skiers pay by using their cellular phones by scanning a QR code using PayPal that is printed on selected signs along the trails.  Ski-Vent-Clic decided to switch to the new system to save money.  The old system of issuing buttons and tags was costing up to $500 for the organization each season.  Skiers may also pay for their yearly membership at Depanneur Lalonde in Vankleek Hill, Dr. Dominique Charbonneau’s chiropractic office in Hawkesbury, or at Sports Experts in Hawkesbury.  Skiers who want to just use the trails for a day are encouraged to donate using their phones via PayPal by scanning the QR code on the signage.

“It’s an honour system,” said Director Glen Bates.

This season, 75 families and 95 individuals purchased Ski-Vent-Clic memberships.  There have also been 35 day users.  Last year, 21 families and 100 individuals purchased memberships.

All financial support for Ski-Vent-Clic comes from donations, grants from the Ontario Trillium Foundation, and small contributions from Champlain Township.

Ski-Vent-Clic has existed for more than 50 years.  Each fall, volunteers go out and clear brush to get trail routes ready for winter.

Snowmobiles and other off-road vehicles are not permitted on the trails.  Gourlay and Bates said that the Ski-Vent-Clic trails are a success because of cooperation from landowners and the organization is thankful for their support.