Orléans skiers plot east end's answer to SJAM winter trail

Nordic skiing enthusiasts in Orléans are striving to start up a winter trail along the banks of the Ottawa River, but there's one thing standing in their way: money.

Ski Heritage East trying to raise funds to get 8-km winter trail going

Ski Heritage East opened a small section of the trail in Ottawa's east end last spring. (Facebook )

Nordic skiing enthusiasts in Orléans are striving to start up a winter trail along the banks of the Ottawa River, but there's one thing standing in their way: money. 

Ski Heritage East is a group that's hoping to create something similar in Ottawa's east end to the SJAM winter trail in the west. That trail has a dedicated volunteer groomer named Dave Adams, but the east-end group hasn't been lucky enough to find a similar individual.

Two Ski Heritage East organizers, Ian Gadbois and Alexa Brewer, told CBC Radio's All In A Day Monday that hiring a full-time groomer would cost $40,000 a season. 

"We've been working with [Orléans] Coun. Bob Monette, trying to find sources of money from the city," Brewer said. "As you know, money is tight. We're not hopeless, but the chance of getting the entire amount from the city is pretty low."

'It's just peaceful'

Despite that obstacle, the group isn't giving up on its dream.

"It is absolutely beautiful, it's the Ottawa River. You hear the birds. It's just peaceful," Brewer said.

The first phase of a winter trail in Orléans would run between Green's Greek and Trim Road along the Ottawa River. (Facebook)

The trail would stretch along eight kilometres from Green's Creek to Trim Road for classic skiing, snowshoeing, fat-tire cycling and walking, and if successful would eventually be extended to 16 kilometres in length. 

Gadbois said group visited the SJAM trail last spring to take a look at that operation. 

"When we spoke to Dave. His advice was, 'Don't do it, don't do it yourself,'" Gadbois said with a laugh. 

Besides working with their city councillor, Ski Heritage East has launched a GoFundMe campaign with the aim of raising $5,000 to kick things off — so far they're at about $1,700 — and is reaching out to the community for donations and sponsorships.

Bicycle shop Giant Orleans recently donated a bike to the cause, so the team can raffle it off to generate some money. 

Gadbois and Brewer added that once they have a season of skiing under their belts, they'll be able to apply for grants through Ontario's Trillium Foundation.

Pilot popular

Ski Heritage East ran a pilot project in the spring to see if they had the technical and organizational capacity to run a winter ski trail. 

"It was amazing," Brewer said. "It was word of mouth. People literally flocked to it."

Skiers had grins from ear to ear, she said. 

Gadbois said ideally, they'd like to start grooming the trail the first weekend of January.

"We don't want to lose momentum," he said. "We need to do something this winter to keep the ball rolling."