XC Skiing

by Tom Ullyett*

Cross country skiing is Canada’s sport. This is almost sacrilegious to say within living memory of the recent national celebration of hockey known as “Hockey Day in Canada”. Don Cherry would beg to differ and probably label me a wimp (until he found out that I was the penalty leader in my 9-team hockey league). But folks, really, “xc” skiing has been with us for over 100 years. Consider Exhibit A: The Montreal Ski Club started to offer xc ski trips into the Laurentians as early as 1905. To top it all off, any Canadian with Scandinavian blood would say that xc skiing was for their ancestors a method of transportation for hundreds (if not thousands) of years. Clearly, this is an ageless sport and it deserves to be Canada’s sport.

Canada has developed some world class cross country ski facilities like the Canmore Nordic Centre in Alberta, the Callaghan Valley near Whistler and the Hardwood Hills near Toronto. We also have world class skiers who win medals in World Cup races (Devon Kershaw and Alex Harvey) and at the Winter Olympics (Chandra Crawford & Beckie Scott). Then there’s our big loppets that feature thousands of skiers like the Canadian Ski Marathon near Ottawa, the Gatineau Loppet in Gatineau, Quebec and the Canadian Birkebeiner near Edmonton. And, let’s not forget, the iconic “Jackrabbit” Johansen who skied well into his 90’s and gave his name to Canada’s most popular youth xc ski program.

Whether or not you agree with the statement that xc skiing is our national sport, it’s a past-time that all lawyers should consider including in their recreational repertoire. Why should lawyers take up cross country skiing? Well, for one, it’s a stress reliever. We all know that lawyering is a stressful occupation. We need an “outlet” to burn off that stress. For many, that means a recreational activity. Okay, so maybe you don’t have a world class cross country ski facility 5 minutes from your office like I do, but you don’t need one. Sure it’s nice to ski on flawlessly groomed trails, but that’s not necessary to go for a rejuvenating ski. If you have a park or golf course close to your home or office, then you are probably good to go. Along the way, you’ll probably increase your fitness level, lower your blood pressure and meet a few like-minded folks carrying on a long-held Canadian tradition.

My friends in the Niagara Region would say, “Well this is all fine and good, but we don’t get enough snow to ski on anymore”. Don’t let that stop you because there are alternatives! Take it inside by going to you favourite gym and using the machines that are close to xc skiing like the elliptical trainer or a xc skiing machine like a “Concept 2” Ski Erg. If you aren’t a gym rat, then invest in yourself by purchasing one of these pieces of equipment and placing it in your favorite room at home. Heck, while training you could listen to the radio, an iPod with favorite music or even the CPAC’s coverage of proceedings in the Supreme Court of Canada.

Finally, if you stilI aren’t convinced of the joy of xc skiing, then let’s think beyond the two boards you might have had on your feet. After all, you don’t have to xc ski. There are many other stress relieving options. For example, although I’m a hockey player, runner and alpine skier at heart, I have come to learn the joys of less risky, non-pounding activities like speed walking, yoga and road biking. I know you’ll figure it out, but, in the meantime, I look forward to the weekend when I can go xc skiing again!


*Tom Ullyett is a lawyer with the Yukon Department of Justice, the Vice-Chair of LPAC, the President of the Whitehorse Cross Country Ski Club and an avid xc skier.


  1. Your passion for XC skiing made me homesick for the interior of British Columbia – my Mom (past 70 now) has skiied the 50 Km Cariboo Marathon every year since 1972. This year it was cancelled: not enough snow. Perhaps she should consider spending the rest of her retirement in the Yukon. I never mastered the waxing required for changing snow conditions, but I prefer the scenery skiing to that found inside a Toronto gym. Now I hike (Toronto hasn’t been too snow-friendly this year).