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Ski marathon ‘one of the best’ - Metro US

Ski marathon ‘one of the best’

The National Capital Region has some of the best cross-country skiing in the world, local skiers taking part in next week’s Canadian Ski Marathon said yesterday.

“There are some pieces of bush out there that are absolutely beautiful,” said Ottawa resident John Lawson, who participated in his first Canadian Ski Marathon 25 years ago.

In its 44th year, the Canadian Ski Marathon, to be held Feb. 13-14, will attract more than 2,500 participants, some of whom are skiing 160 kilometres between Lachute and Gatineau over two days.

“For those of us who ski all the time on prepared trails, it’s an absolute treat to be out on the wilder trails with all these people,” Lawson said.

Sixth-year participant Morag Cowell has skied all over North America and still calls the Ottawa region “about one of the best places in the world for cross-country skiing, with the variety of the trails and the variety of the terrain.”

The marathon route takes participants through private land they can’t access any other time of year, she said.

Even with plenty of training, it’s not always easy.

“There are lots of times when the snow is rough, when it’s cold, when it’s blizzarding and it’s very tough,” Lawson said. “I’ve run marathons and this is way tougher.”

The event wouldn’t be possible without the 200 reservists and cadets from local regiments in the Ottawa and Gatineau areas, which have provided hundreds of volunteers each year for the last 40 years, said Gaetan Pelletier, logistics co-ordinator for the Canadian Ski Marathon.

A gathering on Parliament Hill yesterday paid tribute to these volunteers who operate the checkpoints and refuelling stations, man road and highway crossings, and provide communications and evacuation services.

The honorary chair of this year’s event, Minister of National Defence Peter MacKay, attended to meet with military volunteers.

“It’s so gratifying to have all this support,” Lawson said. “It’s an incredibly anonymous event, it’s out there in the bush. (The volunteers) are completely unsung.”

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