When the Sons of Norway began what is now the Castlegar Nordic Ski Club, chances are they didn’t think there would be over 650 members in a stronger-than-ever club 50 years later.
Officially, the club was called the Sons of Norway Nordic Lodge #76. Fifty-four members (70 per cent of them Norwegian) started out at Sheep Lake (now named Nancy Greene Lake) and built a picnic site with tables and benches, as well as a ski race starting area.
Clearing the race paths through manual labour, trails of five, 10 and 15 kilometres were built.
In 1975, the club was opened to everyone in order to increase membership. The name was then changed to the Castlegar Nordic Ski Touring Club (the troll on skis and the Viking were kept as logos.)
Later, the Ben Shaw Ski Club amalgamated with the Castlegar club, leading to new activities, trails, shelters and signs.
The Viking Centre, situated at the trailhead, made a large difference in the way the club operated.
“It enabled people to get together for picnics, summer fun, family parties and other gatherings,” Conrad Brattebo, one of the club’s founding members, told the Castlegar Citizen in 2004. “It provided a place to have lunch and to dry out as well as to rest.”
In Jan. 2004, the Viking Centre was destroyed due to arson, but was rebuilt by the end of September that year – this time made out of concrete and steel.
Club vice president Jim Guido said three warming cabins along the now-45 kilometres of trails have all been upgraded and replaced within the last three years.
Although the club has a high number of members, there are many dedicated people involved. Out of the 54 original members, Brattebo estimates 30 are still in the club, and current president Winston Fayant is in his 16th year as the head of the club.
Members of the club come from all over the West Kootenay, but also from areas in the States and the west coast.
The club receives its funds from membership and stumpage fees from surrounding logging, allowing them to keep up maintenance and pay two tracksetters and the coach of the jackrabbit program for kids.
The Castlegar Nordic Ski Club trails are located 40 kilometres west of Castlegar, just past the junction of Highway 3 and Highway 3B. The highest elevation out of any of the clubs in the area, the trails boast the most snow all season long. Memberships are $55, and day use fees are $8.