Whitehorse inventor promises new cross-country skiing experience

Doug Hitch has spent the past 20 years developing his 'ski claws' - an innovation inspired by his frustration skiing on Yellowknife trails.

Doug Hitch's 'ski claws', 20 years in the making, were inspired by Yellowknife's trails

The 'ski claw' drops down when it's engaged, letting a skier walk up steep hills even with unwaxed skis, says inventor Doug Hitch. (Dave Croft/CBC)

Whitehorse cross-country skier Doug Hitch is pitching a new device he says is a big step forward for the winter pastime.

Hitch has invented what he's named "ski claws".

They are metal claws permanently attached to skis. They're engaged with a little kick, and give a skier more grip when climbing hills.

On a level, packed trail, engaging the claw on one ski lets the skier glide forward with the other ski. The result gives the user a performance advantage, says Hitch — and there's no need for wax.

Hitch says the claws give the user a performance advantage. (Dave Croft/CBC)

"It's a bit like riding a one-speed bike and then going onto a bike with gears," he said.

Hitch started to think about improving his cross-country skiing experience when he was living in Yellowknife many years ago.

He liked to ski up to the top of a rock dome behind Rat Lake, using narrow trails that climb up through the rock outcrops.

"The only choice was to take your skis off and walk up. And I'd always get to the bottom of the hill and I'd go, 'there's got to be a better way to get up that hill,'" said Hitch.

"Skins are invented, and crampons are invented, and they work but you have to stop and take the skis off, put the device on, ski up the hill, stop, take the device off, and keep and going."

Hitch has 10 prototypes he's taking to Whitehorse's Chadburn Lake ski trails this weekend to allow people to try out and give him some feedback. (Dave Croft/CBC)

Hitch said he began working on the claws about 20 years ago with support in more recent years from the Cold Climate Innovation program at Yukon College.

"I'm at a stage where I have to make some decisions and try to figure out what to do next, so to move it from the prototype stage to a saleable product," he said.

"That's a big step — it's going to take some work."

Hitch has 10 prototypes he is inviting the public to try out in Whitehorse this weekend. He will be at the Chadburn Lake ski trail parking lot between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday. He says people should bring their own ski boots and poles.

Hitch said public feedback is important to further develop his product.

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