Compiled by: Paul E Boisvert
The Lakeland X-C Ski Club had a very long incubation period. When I arrived in this area in 1946, there were people, my brother and I included who had skis which they used primarily for skiing down some of the large hills found in the area. While most trappers preferred snowshoes, some did also use skis. The braver (or maybe more foolhardy) were also known to enjoy being towed behind a vehicle along a country road whizzing along at 20-25 mph and trying to stay in the softer snow in the ditches. However, few did anything that resembles the x-c skiing activity as we know it today. I suspect that the reason for that was no one knew anything how wood-skis with a proper wax application could make travel in the snow so easy, plus the fact that snowmobiles and track-setters were unheard of.
X-C skiing did not come alive in this area until the late 1960’s when the Servold Brothers from Camrose began importing wood skis and proper waxes from Norway and Finland. Though they were Olympic ski- jumpers, they had been exposed to x-c skiing and saw its potential in Canada. By the start of the 1970’s, a significant group of people had purchased the proper x-c ski equipment and participation in the sport grew rapidly. Racette School was the first to receive special funding to purchase 20 pairs of skis along with the proper footwear. By then, snowmobiles if used properly could pack the snow in such a manner as to make x-c skiing much easier. I remember that in 1974 we had a lot of snow and it was a real challenge to ski in the wooded areas as all track was set simply by a lead skier.
Then 3 skiers, Maurice Mandin, Dr, Cressy and Ted Yeomans decided to build a track setter which could be pulled by a skier! The design was such that the track setter could be pulled on a set of sled runners to pack the snow on the first pass. Then the apparatus would be turned over and two hard-wood blocks carve a set of parallel tracks on the second pass over the packed snow. This was used for a number of years when tracks were maintained south of 3-Mile Lake (Lower Therien Lake). By the early 1980’s, someone got the idea that a snowmobile would make the task of track-setting a lot easier. So for the next few years we begged and borrowed snowmobiles for this purpose. At this same time, a group of the skiers had erected a cabin south of 3-Mile Lake which was destroyed by arsonists who travelled to it by snowmobles. It was later rebuilt and then taken over by the snowmobile club when x-c skiers abandoned the area as we could not maintain proper tracks because snowmobiles ran rampant through the area.
In the meantime, all the Provincial Parks in the area had track setting equipment and on weekends, the St. Paulites travelled to Garner, Whitney, Moose Lake or Vermilion Provincial Parks to ski on groomed trails. No formal club had been organized yet. Also the Garnier family were setting tracks on the golf course they had developed so along with the availability of the golf club house, through each season a
number of activities were organized and we held x-c ski clinics as well. Sometime in the latter part of the 1980’s, we found out that if we formed a club, we could apply for grants to get better track-setting equipment and even more skis to replenish the originals bought by
Racette and shared by all schools in St. Paul. At this time, our club had been endowed with an older Arctic Cat snowmobile which we used to set track. Shorly after forming the Lakeland X-C Ski Club, we learned that Elk Island Park were going to cease grooming x-c ski trails and had equipment for sale on a tender basis. Once we were able to confirm grants we would receive, we were successful in acquiring
the Elk Island Park equipment which consisted of a twin-track single ski Alpen Skidoo and a track setter.
As far as snowmobiles go this was the ultimate for track-setting. It was truly a work-beast as it could in low gear pull the 8 foot roller packer and the track setter all in one pass. At the same time we had come to an agreement with Ed Cooknell that allowed us to post a parcel of land which he owned just a few kilometres north of the Town of St. Paul. It was a perfect fit for him and the ski club. He wanted to preserve the land in a manner that the wildlife would not be constantly harassed by snowmobiles and we wanted them to stay off our trails. This arrangement has continued to this day.
Every year, for a very modest membership fee, The Lakeland X-C Ski Club continues to maintain a safe ski areas for its members and visitors to the area. It also has yearly clinics to introduce this great activity to people who may be experiencing X-C skiing for the first time. Members not only enjoy the companionship of other skiers, but also the tremendous cardio-vascular benefits derived from x-c skiing.
Over the years many people have volunteered countless hours to assure x-c skiers from St. Paul and area that they could enjoy skiing in a safety and entertaining manner. Thanks to our early leaders, Maurice Mandin, Dr. Cressy and Ted Yeomans, to Paul Emile Boisvert who for more than 20 years was the lead track setter, to Wayne Krekoski, Pierre Lamoureux and the new generation of volunteers.
If anyone has pictures from early days of skiing to add to this article please send them to email@example.com