Clubs: Black Jack Ski Club

SkiTrax - - Contents - By John Sy­mon

by John Sy­mon

The Black Jack Ski Club (BJSC) was founded in 1983. The club has 40 kilo­me­tres of trails on ap­prox­i­mately 1,855 acres (750 hectares) owned by the mu­nic­i­pal­ity, Selkirk For­est Prod­ucts and the B.C. Min­istry of Forests. The nearby town of Ross­land, B.C. has an al­ti­tude (3,410 feet/1,039 me­tres) that al­most ex­ceeds its pop­u­la­tion (3,556).

“We have a great work­ing re­la­tion­ship with all the landown­ers that aligns well with a long-term vi­sion that sus­tains the club,” ex­plains Matt Ton­ner, BJSC'S pres­i­dent. “Re­cently, some log­ging by the Min­istry of Forests was com­pleted in a few ar­eas. Prior to the work kick­ing off, the min­istry got us in­volved so that the roads built to ac­cess the logged ar­eas could be use­ful for ski trails. It's been a re­ally great ex­pe­ri­ence for the club, the min­istry and con­trac­tors do­ing the work.

“We have con­sis­tently had over 700 mem­bers for the past three sea­sons. The typ­i­cal mem­ber is a res­i­dent of Ross­land (one in six Ross­land dwellers are Black Jack mem­bers!). Ages vary from three to 90, and the type of skier is also var­ied. The club is very adamant on mak­ing the fa­cil­ity ac­ces­si­ble and com­fort­able for all types of skiers and de­mo­graph­ics. As a re­sult, we have a mem­ber base with a huge range of skill and ath­letic abil­ity, but all keen to ski and get in­volved.

“Prob­a­bly the largest de­mo­graphic is fam­i­lies with kids in the skier-de­vel­op­ment pro­gram, where the par­ents/adults use the trails pri­mar­ily in the evenings for a weekly ex­er­cise ac­tiv­ity. As we are only a five-minute drive from town, when peo­ple go `out for a ski,' they ac­tu­ally get to spend most of the time ski­ing, as op­posed to driv­ing to the fa­cil­ity. Lots of peo­ple in Ross­land use Nordic as a work­out to keep fit for another ac­tiv­ity, be it down­hill ski­ing, bik­ing, run­ning, hockey, etc.”

Those fam­i­lies might also take ad­van­tage of the ski school, with some 100 par­tic­i­pants through its Bun­nies, Jack Rab­bits, Track At­tack, Ju­nior and Se­nior races. This pro­gram drives mem­ber­ship sales, as the par­ents of­ten be­come mem­bers once their chil­dren en­ter these pro­grams that pro­vide a great range of de­vel­op­ment op­por­tu­ni­ties. Jack Rab­bits meet twice a week, and the pro­gram be­comes more var­ied as the par­tic­i­pants age. Some fa­mous skiers can be found around the club, in­clud­ing former Olympian Ge­orge Grey, an alum­nus of the ski school who re­mains ac­tive at BJSC. Dave Wood, Canada's win­ningest cross-coun­try ski na­tional team head coach, who's ten­ure in­cluded Team Canada's most suc­cess­ful years, lives in Ross­land and coaches at Black Jack. Down­hiller Nancy Greene, who won Canada's first Olympic gold in ski­ing (1968), can be seen around town.

For those who can't find enough day­light hours for ski­ing, there is a 2.5-kilo­me­tre lit loop, and BJSC is also open in the evenings for head­lamp ski­ing. The Dog Loop is a 2.2-kilo­me­tre cir­cuit that of­fers pet own­ers the op­por­tu­nity to ex­er­cise their pooch and also keeps the ca­nines off the main trails. “We have lit­tle to no is­sues with dogs on the trails be­cause of this fa­cil­ity. We also of­fer Dog-loop-only ski passes at a re­duced price.”

The biathlon area is con­nected to the main trails through an eight-kilo­me­tre trail. It also has a sep­a­rate park­ing lot ap­prox­i­mately 10 min­utes up the road. Biathlon par­tic­i­pants meet ev­ery Sun­day when the range is open. This area also serves as the club's early- and late-sea­son ski lo­ca­tion, as it sits ap­prox­i­mately 400 me­tres higher than the main trail­head and has snow from Novem­ber to May.

Asked if the nearby Red Rock alpine-ski area hin­ders BJSC, Ton­ner said it doesn't: “Both of these fa­cil­i­ties are en­grained in the com­mu­nity and use each other as mar­ket­ing tools. The re­la­tion­ship is solid and we don't see our­selves as com­peti­tors, but rather as com­ple­ments to each other.”

The club's lop­pet par­tic­i­pa­tion varies, but gen­er­ally draws 100 skiers of all ages and abil­i­ties. Dis­tances vary from one to 30 kilo­me­tres in a mass-start freestyle event. There is also a team en­try, so that friends can en­ter and ski a 10-kilo­me­tre recre­ational dis­tance and fin­ish to­gether. BJSC of­ten also hosts Nor-am races as well as one of the five Koote­nay Cup races that at­tract rac­ers from Nel­son, Revel­stoke, Fernie, Kim­berly and some­times teams from the U.S.

“The high el­e­va­tion of the trails makes us a prime lo­ca­tion for early-sea­son races. The event draws from a very keen and en­thu­si­as­tic vol­un­teer base in town that helps or­ga­nize things,” says Ton­ner. “And ski­ing at BJSC is not just for mem­bers; vis­i­tors are en­cour­aged and wel­comed.”

The Black Jack Club's Se­nior Team at a two-week al­ti­tude train­ing camp in Nickel Plate Nordic.

Black Jack's mem­ber base has a huge range of skill and ath­letic abil­ity, with the largest de­mo­graphic be­ing fam­i­lies with chil­dren in the skier-de­vel­op­ment pro­gram.

Rich Thorpe Cabin at the BJSC trail­head – the lights of the night loop have just timed on for the evening.

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