Community Clubs Skiing

HIGH ACHIEVERS: Gatineau Loppet returning as in-person event, registration opens Nov. 1

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HIGH ACHIEVERS: Stay-Safe Edition
Keeping Local Sport Spirit High During the Pandemic

By Martin Cleary

It’s coming. All the signs are there. Look at your daily weather forecast. The temperatures are getting colder during the day and at night. There’s occasional frost on the ground and rooftops.

But maybe the most telling sign that Winter is charging into our lives was the recent press release about the 44th Gatineau Loppet.

Canada’s largest cross-country ski race plans to return to an in-person competition Feb. 18-20 in 2022, after a year as a successful virtual event, which attracted 1,500 skiers from 25 countries. In 2020, the loppet had 2,500 skiers, including 430 international athletes.

That may be chilling news for some people, but it brings a feeling of warmth to the cross-country ski communities in the National Capital Region and those who plan to travel to the Gatineau Hills from around the world.

Gatineau Loppet registration opens Monday, Nov. 1 at for the five-, 10-, 27- and 50-kilometre classic and freestyle races as well as the two-kilometre mini.

The loppet, which is one of the longest-running members of the Worldloppet League, will have three new features in 2022 aimed at spreading the word about cross-country skiing.

Competition begins in a fun way Feb. 18 with the 4-Way Relay Race. Each team will have four racers and each individual will ski a one-kilometre loop.

The event can be seen as a competition between ski clubs, a team building exercise for companies or a new and interesting challenge for a group of four people.

On Feb. 19-20, skiers also can be part of the Gatineau Loppet race scene, but not feel they have to race other skiers or the clock. Skiers will be allowed to take a touring approach to their participation and not feel they have to compete against the elite skiers.

Beginners and intermediates in the five, 10-, and 27-kilometre events can participate in their own non-timed, wave start. Once the timed skiers have been sent off, skiers preferring to take a more relaxed approach will be sent off for their exercise challenge. The 50-kilometre races are not part of this skiing option.

On Feb. 20, the final day, loppet organizers will introduce two new categories for the 27-kilometre freestyle race – juniors (16 to 20 years old) and U23 (21 to 23 years old).

These skiers will be eligible to score additional points for their national ranking. The top skiers will share in more than $4,000 in bursaries.

Meanwhile, Claude Laramee, who has spent 25 of his more than 30 years as a cross-country skiing volunteer, has been named winner of the 2021 Dave Rees Award by Nordiq Canada. The award honours a person for an outstanding, long-term commitment to the sport.

Over the years, Laramee has overseen the feeding stations, was a member of the board of directors and served in a variety of other roles – secretary, vice-president, chair (2000-2006), registrar and course organizer. For the past 10 years, he has settled down to be in charge of the technical part of the race.

“When you do volunteer work, you don’t do it with the goal of getting recognition,” a surprised Laramee told Nordiq Canada reporter Rita Mingo. “You do it with passion, in my case passion towards cross-country skiing.

“It’s out of the blue. Not expected. Didn’t see it coming.”

Laramee was inducted into the Gatineau Loppet Hall of Fame in 2016.

Gatineau’s Caroline Forest of Skinouk Club and Michelle Deacon of Foothills Nordic Ski Club in Calgary were recipients of the Firth Award for a female making significant contributions to cross-country skiing.

At Skinouk, Forest is responsible for recruiting the coaches (a team of five women and five men), planning the training programs and co-ordinating the fund raising programs.

“I’m very happy with this acknowledgement. Especially with the pandemic, we had to be very creative to offer some services to our kids, to our members, so to have this recognition is great,” Forest said about her national award from Nordiq Canada.

“It’s not only for me, but for all co-ordinators throughout Canada.”

Forest enjoys converting retired competitive skiers into coaches and looking for ways to see cross-country skiing grow in her region.

“In our club, we’re working on the strategic plan for next year. We’re starting a new program and I’m helping some of my coaches with bringing new Canadians into skiing,” she added.

“That is our project for the new year; introduce skiing to new Canadians or people of low-income backgrounds and so on.”

Martin Cleary has written about amateur sports for 49 years. A past Canadian sportswriter of the year and Ottawa Sports Awards Lifetime Achievement in Sport Media honouree, Martin retired from full-time work at the Ottawa Citizen in 2012, but continued to write a bi-weekly “High Achievers” column for the Citizen/Sun.

When the pandemic struck, Martin created the “Stay-Safe Edition” to provide some positive news during tough times, via his Twitter account at first and now here at

Martin can be reached by e-mail at and on Twitter @martincleary.

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