There are untold possibilities according to Paul Inden, with the only goal betterment of the community.
“Where there’s a will, there’s a way,” he says as we walk along a trail.
Inden is the head of the Murray Ridge Nordic Ski Club. The what, you ask.
Well, while the club’s presence may have dwindled in recent years, it seems poised for a resurgence, especially if Inden has anything to do with it, after all nordic skiing is great winter exercise, and affordable, because it is virtually free once you own the equipment.
Inden is showing me around a network of trails in a forested area inside what is known as “The Loop” walking path, and it feels like a winter wonderland, a forested world unto itself, but it is right in town.
This year, after discussions amongst members, Inden has initiated a new plan to help make nordic skiing once again a little more accessible to the community.
Inden has been speaking to landowners associated with a network of existing trails on what is mostly Nak’azdli reserve land behind Nak’albun Elementary School.
The trails are used by the school for different cultural and outdoor recreation education, and Inden would like to be able to partner with them in order to open up the trails for nordic skiing for both the school and the community.
“We just thought that it was a good opportunity to make use of that land again,” said Diana Erickson, principal of Nak’albun. She said some parts of the trails are used for cultural programs and some snowshoeing and skiing in the winter, but there is no set track for the skis, which makes it hard for the kids, requiring trail breaking through the snow.
She said the partnership with the ski club could benefit the students and the greater community by opening up more of the existing trails for winter use.
There are a number of different hurdles to overcome, such as dealing with the other private landowners of the properties where the trails are located, as well as finding a balance which allows Inden access to the trails with a track setter, but keeps out recreational snowmobiles, which destroy the track and create ruts and bumps in the trails which are not good for skiing either. But Inden’s enthusiasm is contagious, and it is hard to imagine small obstacles holding him back. he even imagines someone creating a modified plow blade to allow for set tracks through town, so skiers could ski virtually anywhere.
So far, Inden has cleared some of the windfall and a group made up of Nak’albun representatives and the nordic ski club brushed out some sections of trail behind the school to improve them for skier access.
“I think it was a really important day, actually,” said Inden, who had spoken to both Principal Diana Erickson and Nak’azdli Chief Fred Sam, who both supported the project concept, but Inden had not yet met with Mark Prince, a key volunteer who helps out clearing trails whenever the school needs it.
The Nordic Ski Club itself has been around for over 30 years, and used to hold winter triathlons, averaging 50 participants, according to Inden, with plenty of spectators and volunteers each year as well.
The group also held other events, including what was called the Whiskey Jack Challenge, held about 20 times, with an average of 25 participants each year.
Inden, in fact, proposed to his wife on one of the club’s past annual New Year’s Eve ski events.
There also used to be a JackRabbit junior ski program and coaching clinics, with JackRabbits being a bit like Nancy Green for cross country, instructing young skiers on technique and different skills training.
The club developed a small network of trails at Murray Ridge with the help of the Ministry of Forests at the time, and in 1986 the network was again improved, with Inden giving much of the credit for those improvements to past Fort resident Wayne Nedoborski.
There are now around 15 km of trails at Murray Ridge, with the club seeking funding for grooming to be done by the ski hill groomer, so the trails can be utilized more.
Lighting is also in place around one section of the network, the Beaver trail, but the lights have been down due to windfall trees for two winters.
BC Hydro has said they are committed to volunteering the time to put the lines back up for the lit loop, however they have not yet found the time to do so.
The Nordic Ski Club is also considering hosting an event this year, possibly in March, anyone interested in becoming involved with the club, trail work or event planning, can contact Paul Inden at: 996-8226.