It was a highlight of the provincial high school cross-country ski championships in 2012, and inspired similar events in other cities. It’s no surprise—after all, how often do you get the opportunity to ski down the Main Street of any town, anywhere?
Ontario’s top high school cross-country skiers had the chance to do just that the last time the Ontario Federation of School Athletic Associations (OFSAA) championships came to Huntsville. Huntsville High School ran a similar, local event a few years later. And next season’s best high school skiers from across the province may get to do it, too, when the OFSAA cross-country championships return in 2020.
The February 20-21 event is expected to bring 800 students, along with their coaches and supporters, to Huntsville. The students will compete at Arrowhead Provincial Park on Thursday, February 20 for their long distance races. On Friday, February 21, event organizer and HHS teacher John Cowan hopes to once again host a race through downtown Huntsville. He presented the idea to Huntsville’s Operations and Protective Services Committee in June to seek their support.
The downtown event would be a four-person relay, with each racer completing about 750 metres. The route would begin in River Mill Park, go up West Street to Main where racers would turn west toward Centre Street. At Centre they would turn around and race down the hill to below King Street where they would make another turn to ski back up to King and turn right to make their way back to River Mill Park. The route has changed slightly—in the previous event, racers made a left turn off of Main onto King. The route change was made “so the athletes aren’t screaming down [Main Street] and trying to hit that corner at top speed going down King Street,” said Cowan.
Snow would be trucked in the night before the event, said Cowan, and both Fowler Construction and Arrowhead Provincial Park are ready to jump on board to help with moving and grooming the snow.
Another change planned for this time around is the addition of a pedestrian tunnel. In 2012, wooden boards were placed across the road for pedestrians to cross. After seeing events in Quebec City that used sea cans to create pedestrian tunnels, Cowan suggested the idea to the Town’s Director of Operations and Protective Services, Steve Hernen. Hernen suggested the use of a culvert instead, since there is a company in town that manufactures them. Cowan said he will be approaching InfraPipe about a sponsorship.
“This would encourage pedestrian traffic to be able to have access to the local businesses inside the [race]area,” said Cowan, of the culvert that would be installed at West Street. He added that they are working to keep tenant parking open behind the Mill on Main and affogato.
Hernen added that plans are in place for fire and emergency access to the area, and that Town staff are looking at how they can assist with snow removal following the event.
“This is the largest, organized, youth cross-country ski event in North America and is quite an opportunity to give students from across Ontario the opportunity to see an amazing event,” said Cowan, adding that past students who attended the 2012 event have told him it was the most memorable OFSAA event they attended during their high school years.
Cowan noted that the Huntsville Lake of Bays Chamber of Commerce has expressed interest in keeping the Main Street course open for a second day to allow for public access.
“I am in favor of it and I know that people in town would be in favor of being able to access that opportunity,” Cowan told committee. The Chamber did the same thing at the last event and “it was a lot of success, engagement and exposure for the sport, and it also allowed people to try something unique.”
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