Canada Prepares for Ski Championships

Article excerpt

Like a great number of people, even Canadians who live in the southern part of the country, I had not thought it possible one could enjoy romping in Ontario's endless fields of ice and snow. My idea of a pleasant winter was a holiday in the southern clime - walking the sun-drenched beaches of the Caribbean. I would usually make a sly remark and walk away with a haughty air when asked if I would like to travel in winter to Ontario's north.

Now, as I nervously drove my axe into the ice, thinking, 'What am I doing, climbing up a frozen waterfall? At my age! (I had just turned 70). Was I out of my mind?'

I looked up to see before me a sheer wall of ice. I trembled, feeling sweat building under my layers of clothing. My pulse raced and, for a moment, fear gripped me as I looked at the walls of ice, seemingly stretching on forever.

Seeing my look of fright as I climbed, Shaun Parent, my instructor, who had talked me into making the ascent, tried to put me at ease. 'Watch! Do as I do!' Climbing beside me with no harness or safety rope, only crampons fastened to his boots and two ice-axes, he moved effortlessly up the slope. I calmed down somewhat as I aped Parent's every move. Striking my two axes, one after the other into the ice and, at the same time, stamping my cramponed boots, now left, now right into the ice, I pulled myself upwards. 'Have no fear! Carol, your belayer - the person who saves the climber from tumbling down should there be an accident - will not let you fall. Can you not feel how she takes in the slack and keeps the rope taut?' Parent smiled as he snapped a photo of his amateur pupil painfully making it up the face of the frozen Cascade Waterfall at Orient Bay, 86 miles east of Thunder Bay, one of Canada's top cities for winter sports.

I had come for a purpose to this city, located on the northeastern shore of Lake Superior (849 miles) northwest of Toronto and (423 miles) east of Winnipeg. I wanted to see what Thunder Bay had to offer when the March 1995, Nordic World Ski Championships are to be held.

I left firmly believing that after that event, the city's winter attributes like ice-climbing, now not widely known, will become the talk of the sport loving world. There was no doubt that this city of 120,000 and cradled by mesas of massive rocks some 600 million years old - older than any place else on earth - had to be an ideal spot to hold these games.

Born in 1970 when the cities of Port Arthur and Fort William united, Thunder Bay edges the largest virtually untouched natural landscape on earth. Past the northern Ontario number 11 Highway, the next man-made road is half way on the other side of the world - the Trans-Siberian Railway.

Long noted as the world's largest grain handling centre - now eclipsed by Japan - and Canada's second largest port, Thunder Bay is today grooming itself for a totally new image. It is preparing for the first Nordic World Ski Championships ever held in Canada - an event second only in prestige to the Winter Olympics. The games are expected to make Thunder Bay world-known as Canada's hub of winter sports, fitting well into what the inhabitants have always thought of their city - 'Canada's sports centre'.

The heart of tourism north of Superior, this dynamic regional capital of northwestern Ontario has always been a much sought after site for winter sports. It has the largest ski facilities and the longest ski season in Ontario, ice-climbing expertise, 125 miles of well-groomed snow-mobiling trails, up-to-date touristic accommodations and much more.

Hence, when a bid was made to host the 1995 Nordic World Ski Championships, the offer was accepted - the first time these games will be coming to North America in over 40 years. About 1,000 people are now involved with preparing cultural events, developing media services and producing promotional programmes that will generate local, national and international interest in the 1995 games. …