Excitement is building for this year’s cross-country ski season. While winter is still a way off, dedicated volunteers have been busy readying the Ski Vent Clic trails and grooming equipment ahead of what is expected to be another good year for snow.

Trail clearing consists of removing overgrown brush and fallen trees and branches along the 18-kilometre network of ski trails which circumnavigate Vankleek Hill. Where necessary, bridges are built and maintained to allow safe passage over streams and ditches.

This year, the combination of frequent and heavy rains and hot weather has resulted in the phenomenal growth of the underbrush, reaching over two meters in height in many areas.

“While this has made trail clearing challenging, with the help of enthusiastic volunteers, the annual work is complete”, Ski Vent Clic Club President Ross Gourlay.

For safety reasons, the club’s board decided to create a by-pass for the section of trail that previously ran alongside the Prescott-Russell Recreation Trail. This new, one-half-kilometre section will allow skiers to avoid having to ski in close proximity to snowmobiles that use the recreation trail.

The project entailed about 45 hours of work, and promises to be a great addition to the existing trail network.

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This fall, 171 volunteer hours have already been put into trail clearing. Additional volunteer work is required for updating the ski trail map, posting signs and trail markers, maintaining trail clearing and grooming equipment, updating the website, and obtaining permission from landowners to traverse their land, etc., which will be finished in plenty of time for the new ski season.

“The ski trails could not exist without the many volunteers who generously give of their time and energy to assist with trail clearing each year,” said Gourlay.

“My thanks go out to them all, as well as to Champlain Township for its ongoing financial support of the club by way of grants,” he added.

Gourlay described the network of groomed ski trails, which traverses gently undulating terrain, as a wonderful asset to the community and attracts skiers from as far as Ottawa and Montréal. The trails are also an officially designated training site for the prestigious Canadian Ski Marathon. Local residents are particularly fond of the fact the ski trail is so accessible and close to home; within walking distance, in fact, of town residents.

To cover increased fuel costs for trail maintenance and grooming equipment, and insurance, the cost of season passes will increase to $45 in 2023, so purchase your season pass by December 25 to take advantage of the $35 early bird special! Children 16 and under ski for free.

Ski Vent Clic is a non-profit, cross-country ski club, formed in Vankleek Hill in the 1970s by a group of keen skiers and has remained in operation, continuously, for more than 50 years. 

For more information on the ski club and trail, readers can consult the Ski Vent Clic website https://skivankleekhill.ca, the club’s Facebook page, or the Champlain Township website https://www.champlain.ca/en/recreation-and-leisure/cross-country-skiing.aspx .

Cathy Barr, Romain Boisvenue, and Ross Gourlay working on the new by-pass. Submitted photo