Few sports have proven to be more pandemic resilient than cross-country skiing - an activity where Sudbury typically enjoys a much appreciated geographic advantage over much of the province.
And few local folks appreciate that advantage more than Mary Waddell, the current president of Walden Cross-Country and a woman whose achievements in the sport include being part of the race officiating crew at the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver.
While COVID numbers continue to rise, the outdoor setting and natural distancing that is prevalent in nordic skiing offers one of the few havens for continued physical activity in these (please don't use the word unprecedented!) times.
"The regular skiers can remained focus on skiing, because that's what they like to do - and that is what's happening," said Waddell. "But we're getting a lot of new people, some returning from years ago."
"This is something that they can actually do, something that they can do with their kids," she added. "Mind you, we need more snow."
That is perhaps the only negative caveat in the wonderful world of cross-country skiing in 2021. Other than that and a few minor administrative changes, it's more or less business as usual out on the Walden Trails.
"I don't think we're going to see a complete shutdown of outdoor skiing," said Waddell. "I don't think that is going to happen. We're at the height of the lockdown and the government, the authorities have decided that there are some outdoor activities that should be allowed to carry on - because they are valuable, and they work."
"This is one of the few activities that you can partake in, fairly safely," she added.
While they are encouraging non club members to access a convenient day pass on-line, Walden Cross-Country is still keeping their chalet open, but only for washroom purposes and curb-side rental pick-up.
"We're allowed to do that," said Waddell. "We hope to re-open the chalet for warming - but right now, it's not open."
Given all of the above, it only stands to reason that Cross Country Ski Ontario continues to look for innovative ways to provide clubs across the province with support, in times where Ontario Cup races and the like are simply not an option.
In addition to promoting the COVID Cup Series (virtual on-line racing of sorts, with athletes essentially completing timed workouts at their own clubs) and a Strava Challenge, for the truly engaged who enjoy the software app, CCSO are also hosting the Kilometre Challenge from January 1st through until the end of March.
More than eighty participants have already signed up in Walden alone, with folks young and old tracking their mileage in partnership with all other club members, creating a bit of a "fun aspect" to hitting the trails, in the words of Waddell.
For more information, visit "www.waldenxc.ca".