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Cross-country skiing craze in Edmonton: ‘It’s a bit of a madhouse’

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WATCH ABOVE: Cross-country ski equipment is the hottest thing on the market in Edmonton heading into winter 2020. As Sarah Ryan explains, skis, boots and poles are flying off the shelves - and instructors can't keep up with the demand for lessons – Oct 25, 2020

Cross-country skiing equipment is flying off the shelves and many lessons are already full before the snow has even settled in Edmonton.

Ulf Kleppe is the head coach with the Edmonton Nordic Ski Club. It is in search of new coaches for the sport because interest has piqued and its programs are more popular than ever.

“They’re full, they’re right up to max at this point,” Kleppe explained.

“We don’t want to turn anyone away.”

He thinks more Edmontonians are turning to cross-country this winter because of the pandemic.

“People need to get outside, I think that’s the message we’re getting from AHS (Alberta Health Services). And what better way to be outside than cross-country skiing?”

Read more: Fitness Served Cold: Can cross-country skiing propel you through the doldrums of winter?

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Kleppe recommends skiers try out the trails at Gold Bar Park, where the Nordic Club grooms the paths.

“We have 10 kilometres of lit trails, as well, we make snow when it gets cold enough, so this is absolutely the best place.”

But there are other options too. The City of Edmonton lists ski trails at Argyll, Capilano, Goldstick, Kinsmen, Riverside, Victoria and Hawrelak parks.

And for new skiers, Kleppe has this recommendation: “Take a lesson. There is a bit of a learning curve.”

That could be good advice for the hoards of folks heading to Totem Outfitters in search of cross-country ski equipment.

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Nicole Nadeau and her daughter Marley waited in line at Totem on Wednesday.

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“I think it would be nice to learn something new. I’ve never learned to cross-country ski before and I’m not sure there’s going to be a lot else to do this winter,” Nicole said.

In line along with them was father and son duo Andy and David Gunn.

“You can have easy social distancing when you’re cross-country skiing. It’s a low impact sport, just about anybody can do it,” Andy said.

Son David is keen to try out the winter sport.

“It’s pretty low cost compared to some of them. It’s not quite the same investment as snowmobiling or downhill skiing,” he noted.

Read more: World Cup cross-country ski event cancelled in Quebec City due to coronavirus outbreak

But getting their hands on equipment won’t be easy.

“Today we have seen several hundred people come through our doors,” Totem’s floor manager Jodie-Leigh Vibert explained. “Yesterday, even more.”

“We had a wait time yesterday of over three hours to get into our cross-country section.”

Totem sold out of both its new and used cross-country ski inventory, and even though it’s bringing in trade-ins and new product as quickly as it can, the store is struggling to keep up with demand.

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“We’ve got some empty shelves, that’s for sure,” Vibert said.

“We’re waiting on shipments to arrive daily and yeah, it’s a bit of a madhouse.”

Though that wasn’t what they wanted to hear, the Gunns weren’t shocked at how popular the sport is right now.

“Not surprised at all, because he (David) was buying a bicycle in the spring and it was the same problem. You’ve got a lot of people who have a lot more time and they’re trying to use that time for family friendly activities, so this is perfect,” Andy said.

Vibert agrees the pandemic increases the appeal of cross-country skiing.

“You’re not having to go to a ski hill for that, you’re not having to wait in lift lines, there’s no purchasing of lift tickets. People are able to just get out on their own.”

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