By Jeremy Derksen
Credit: Paul Lavoie / SnowSeekers
BONNYVILLE, AB – In Bonnyville, folks like Mitch Sylvestre (of Sylvestre’s Source for Sports) have long been clearing their own cross-country ski trails and enjoying the solitude of a winter glide. But when Les and Sarah Parsons came to town, they saw a way to turn the solitary pursuit into a community building project.
For Les, it was an extension of the mission he’s lived most of his life: growing the Alberta nordic community and engaging more people in healthy, active, outdoor pursuits. Parsons is a skier and former coach to Olympians Beckie Scott, Alex Harvey and other national team skiers. He’s spent over 20 years building the grassroots level across Alberta, in Edmonton, Vermilion, Camrose and Canmore, among other places.
Together with his wife Sarah, they formed the Bonnyville Nordic Ski Club, to engage locals in skiing. It was actually Sarah, a passionate skier in her own right, who got the inspiration one day while skiing one of her favourite forest trails.
“It was one of the many nice days, when the grooming is great, the weather is awesome, you have good kick—you’ve matched your wax correctly—and it feels so perfect, almost too good to be true,” she recalls. “And I thought, wouldn’t it be so nice to help more people get out on skis and enjoy this?”
Enjoying a fire and s’mores after a ski to Muriel Lake Lookout. Credit: Paul Lavoie / SnowSeekers
The groomed trails out at Muriel Lake MD Campground are the club’s stomping grounds, which will include learn to ski programs for all ages, and kids’ jackrabbit programs for 2021-22. Les has also started coaching a racing team for older teenagers.
It’s all in service of community, says Les. “For me, it’s getting a community of people together, building connections with people of all ages. It’s family friendly, affordable and it’s a lifelong sport.”
Charcuterie board at Journey North Cider Co., newly opened in Bonnyville. Credit: Paul Lavoie / SnowSeekers
For those who enjoy the nordic lifestyle, or are interested in getting into it, that community, accessibility and natural beauty will make Bonnyville a top destination on Alberta’s nordic circuit.
PLAN YOUR TRIP
- For more winter inspiration, visit snowseekers.ca and take the #SkiNorthAB pledge!
- Consider making a nordic circuit with a loop including Lac La Biche to the west, and Vermilion to the southeast.
- Start planning your trip by visiting the #SkiNorthAB Experience Series for package deals and great rates on hotels, dining and activities.