Eastern Canada Cup #1 at Nakkertok Trails

Gerry FursethDecember 13, 2022
Tory Audet (#101) leads her quarterfinal on her way to victory. (Photo: Robert Smith)

Canadian racing continued with the Eastern Canada Cup #1 at Nakkertok Trails on December 10th and 11th. The event is hosted by Évènements Nordiques Gatineau Nordic Events (ÉNGNE), a collaborative organization that leverages the skills and volunteers of four local clubs: Chelsea Nordiq Ski Club, Nakkertok Nordic Ski Association, Club Skinouk and the Gatineau Loppet.

Canada recently divided the Canada Cup series into Eastern and Western to reduce the need for travel and to make the sport more accessible financially. The previous week in Sovereign Lake was a Nordiq Cup (World Cup starts on the line), US SuperTour, and Canada Cup combined. Despite being a “smaller'”race, there were 580 racers on the Nakkertok trails to discover surprisingly good skiing.

The large field comes in part from geography: FasterSkier once calculated that 12 million Canadians live within a weekend’s driving distance to Nakkertok, which is just outside Gatineau, Québec, right across the river from the national capital, Ottawa, in Ontario. That is almost the same number of Canadians as live in the entirety of Western Canada (2016 census numbers). Thunder Bay was not included in those “nearby” Canadians; nevertheless, a large group made the drive this weekend.

The “surprising” part of the good skiing conditions stemmed from lowered expectations after mid-week rainfall that destroyed much of the manmade snow, shortened the race loop, and dampened expectations. More on that later, but the pictures and the racer’s comments make it clear that a big thank you is owed to the grooming team and volunteers.

Classic Sprint Saturday

Léo Grandbois (#1) leads teammate Sasha Masson and Connor McGovern (#5) in the final. (Photo: Robert Smith)

Centre National d’Entraïnement Pierre Harvey (CNEPH) athlete Léo Grandbois won the 1.3km sprint in decisive style, qualifying first and winning all three heats to finish the day in 2:23.11. Sasha Masson, Grandbois’ teammate at CNEPH and the NextGen National team, was second, 2.35 back. Thunder Bay’s Conor McGovern was third, at 5.41 seconds.

In what would be a theme of the heats all day, the time gaps were large, with the winners blowing up the pack well before the finish was in sight.

I’m happy with my race today, I felt good,” Grandbois said in an official interview. “It was nice weather, and the volunteers did an excellent job on the trails. I didn’t race strategic at all; I trusted my form and it worked really well.”

For the women, it was a similar situation, with local product Tory Audet winning everything. Audet, who is a U18 skier for Chelsea Nordiq and a member of the National Development team, is “racing up” in U20 this season which allows her to qualify for Open heats. Audet followed up her good results the previous weekend with a win in 3:02.84. Carlton U’s Maggie McClure was second, 7.64 behind, with CNEPH U20 Élie-Anne Tremblay placing third at 10.98 seconds back.

Audet’s official quote to the OC shows her growing professionalism, with a shoutout to the waxers: “[The race] was great, it’s so nice and warm here, compared to Sovereign Lake B.C. where I raced last weekend. My skis were fast, big thanks to my wax techs for a great day.”

In an email to FasterSkier, Audet expanded on her day.

“Skiing at home feels great, my kick was amazing which helped a lot, thanks to my wax techs!  It felt great to win a race in front of my family and close friends.”

Free Distance Sunday

Léo Grandbois on his way to his second win of the weekend. (Photo: Tim Austen/ ENGE)

The men raced first again on the 1.64km loop, doing six laps to complete 10km. Grandbois continued his hot weekend, winning in 21:00.7, 10.2 seconds ahead of Montériski’s Xavier Lefebre, and 29.1 seconds clear of TBay’s Julian Smith.

“Today was a lot harder than yesterday I thought,” Grandbois revealed. “It was a course that I had to ski well because there were not many hills, but I am happy with the effort I put in.”

Last year it was Smith in total domination mode in December;this year it is Grandbois. How does a ski fan tell the difference between a “Christmas Star,” to paraphrase the Norwegians, from a skier having a great season? We will know by the end of January.

Tory Audet (#96) leads winner Bronwyn Williams (#88) during the individual start. (Photo: Robert Smith)

Bronwyn Williams grabbed the victory in the women’s 10km on her home course, finishing in 24:59.1.

Super, super fun race today,” she said. “I really enjoyed skiing the six laps and tracking down the other skiers. I always love racing on my home trails at Nakkertok, there is always lots of people cheering me on.”

Williams’ Nakkertok teammate Shilo Rousseau was in second, 10.4 behind.

“The race today was hard, six laps is definitely a lot to count,” Audet shared with FasterSkier. “Conditions were great, and my skis were fast! It wasn’t the results I was hoping for, but this was my first completed long distance race since world junior championships last year, so it is a great feeling to be back in it and on the podium!”

Audet, who missed the end of last season through illness, is enthusiastically making up for lost time.

“This season I was selected to be part of the National Development team [and] with this team I was given the opportunity to attend many camps and meet so many incredible strong athletes where I was able to work with some of the best coaches in Canada! These camps were definitely my highlight of this year!”


This race weekend—and the two weeks of training on snow that preceded it— wouldn’t have been possible without the Nakkertrak snowmaking project.

In a country with early season racing in October (Frozen Thunder in Canmore), November (Sovereign Lake), and a lot of groomed trail before December, it might seem like one more venue with snowmaking is not important. Is another 3km of trail important when 150km has been open for a month?

What matters here is not snow, but skiers. Most of the early season skiing is in the mountainous parts of BC, Alberta, and Labrador, which are all less populous areas.

Having a top racing venue 30 minutes from the national capital also makes cross country skiing a nationally important sport. People, including federal employees and elected officials, focus on what they can see.

“Getting in the training and racing early season for me is so important to prepare for bigger races later on in the season! With snow usually falling later around here, Nakkertrak is so helpful for all our eastern athletes!” — Tory Audet

Audet has set the goal of 2023 U20 World Championships in Whistler, and time on snow is a crucial factor in snatching that spot from motivated 19 year olds.

Organizing early season races is very similar to other races: make plans with the local ski community, negotiate courses and distances with the National Ski Federation, recruit a lot of volunteers, recruit chiefs to organize those volunteers, and a high level event appears in a puff of snow.

Without reliable snow, every part of that gets harder. More time is spent on  contingency plans, money can’t be spent until the last minute, and volunteers are less enthusiastic if they aren’t sure they will be proud of the final result.

Long time Nakkertok and Cross Country Canada volunteer Toni Scheier explained the significance to FasterSkier:

“The Outaouais region has had only a couple of inches of natural snow so far this season. We have been able to ski on a part of our Nakkertrak artificial snow loop for two weeks, but pouring rain on Wednesday put even that in jeopardy. Fortunately, a cold snap Thursday allowed for some touch ups on Thurs that provided excellent conditions for the 580 racers skiing our 1.64 k track. Special mention to Kathy and Marty Hall for their Hall Mark of Excellence contribution of $25,000, to upgrade our snowmaking capacity this year and $4,000 cdn towards the prize money.”

Scheier was one of the volunteer team that brought Nakkertrak to life in 2016: planning, fundraising, promoting, and then expanding. New money this year has expanded the artificial snow loop again, introducing more hills.

Even with Nakkertrak, the first Eastern Canada race this season is the same weekend as the third World Cup in Europe. If Canada wants to see more athletes like Nakkertok’s Katherine Stewart-Jones banging out top 20’s in period 1 on the World Cup, bringing snow to skiers is essential. Just ask Audet.


Saturday Sprints Overall, Heat Brackets, Qualification

Sunday Individual

Full Weekend

Photo Galleries

Robert Smith Saturday, Sunday

Gerry Furseth

Loading Facebook Comments ...

Leave a Reply