The hidden gem that people in Souris wish wasn’t quite so hidden

Becky Townsend can’t figure out why more Islanders don’t come out and see what the Souris Striders ski club has to offer.

“We can’t seem to get the word out,” said Townsent, the president of the club.

“Some days it’s frustrating, but usually I just put on my skis and go for a ski and then it’s all worth it.”

Membership shrinking

The Souris Striders Ski Club has been around for several decades, but membership hasn’t been going well recently.

In 1991, about 500 people were part of the club. Lately, membership is down to about 100.

“The members we have are very passionate and lots of them you see them out there every day, they ski their brains out,” said Townsend.

“I just wish we could encourage a few more people.”

Souris Striders Ski Club

A lone skier on snowy trails tucked in the woods in January 2016. (Souris Striders Ski Club/Facebook)

‘Very affordable’

Townsend points out that there are even three kilometres of lit trails available for skiing and snowshoeing after the sun sets.

“I think it’s an amazing facility and I get a lot of personal use and enjoyment out of it in the winter,” said Townsend.

“I think it’s a huge bonus to have in the Souris area.”

She also considers the ski club to be very affordable, both for members and visitors.

“It’s $85 for a membership  and you can ski as much as you like,” she said.

“If you have your own skis, the trail fee is $8, or $8 to rent skis,” said Townsend, who adds that they can “cut deals” for families.

Snowshoes are $10 to rent and use the trails, and the club recently purchased some new snowshoes to build up the stockpile.

Souris striders ski club lights

Three kilometres of the trails have street lights so skiers and snowshoers can stay out after sunset. (Souris Striders Ski Club/Facebook)

A piece of heaven

Reta O’Brien has been a member since the facility opened.

“It’s a beautiful spot, it’s just like you died and went to heaven out there,” said O’Brien.

“It’s peaceful and it’s well-maintained and you’re out of the wind.”

Souris Striders ski club 2

Some of the ‘heavenly’ scenery on the trails of the Souris Striders Ski Club. (Souris Striders Ski Club/Facebook)

The Souris Striders started a youth biathlon club a couple of years back to try to attract more young people.

“That has brought some new fresh energy to the club which is great,” said Townsend.

Souris striders biathlon club

The Souris Striders Ski Club started a youth biathlon program called the Biathlon Bears to attract more young people to the facility. (Souris Striders Ski Club/Facebook)

Financial challenge

The decline in membership has been tough on the bottom line for the Souris Striders Ski Club.

“Financially, it’s a struggle, it’s a challenge,” said Townsend.

Souris striders ski club 5

Some of the club’s youth biathlon program getting their first taste of the sport. (Souris Striders Ski Club/Facebook)

The club installed a heat pump to help cut heating costs and rents out lower part of the lodge to the local watershed group.

They also do a lot of fundraising, with another one coming up in February.

“That’s what really keeps the fuel in the groomer and the trails trimmed,” said Townsend.

Souris Striders Ski Club 4

Eric Deveau, with a tree trimmer, is one of the many volunteers who maintain the trails for the Souris Striders Ski Club. (Souris Striders Ski Club/Facebook)

Visitors more than welcome

The club has one employee, through a funding program, that rents out the skis and snowshoes. All of the rest of the work, including hours of grooming trails, is done by volunteers.

A couple of weekends ago, the trails at Brookvale Ski Park weren’t available, and a bunch of new faces landed at the Souris Striders clubhouse.

“We welcomed them with open arms,” said Townsend. “We were saying to them, it’s not that far from town.”

“It’s a hidden gem, yeah, that’s what we are.”

Souris striders ski club

The Souris Striders Ski Club trails are maintained by volunteers. (Submitted by Rodger Primmer)



Article Source: CBC

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