The cross-country skiing season hasn’t started yet and its fans are already facing a big problem. Laval University has decided to block access to the Montmorency Forest trails, one of the most popular sites in North America, for the 2022-2023 season. A decision that is far from unanimous.
Posted at 7:00 am
Montmorency Forest is a temple for the province’s cross-country skiers. Located in the Parc des Laurentides, about 45 minutes from Quebec City, it welcomes amateurs and advanced athletes from the end of October to the beginning of May. In addition to offering exceptional sliding qualities, the site is made up of accommodation and food stations. A place like no other in Quebec.
However, Université Laval has taken the decision to block access to the territory that belongs to it for the benefit of its students and professors from the Faculty of Forestry, Geography and Geomatics, because “the Montmorency Forest is a research and teaching laboratory” , explained the establishment in a press release sent to Press. In this same statement, the University specifies that “the roads, therefore, will be used by machinery and this sector could be dangerous for people.”
Although the University claims to be “aware[e] that this decision saddens many skiers”, the fans who usually take advantage of the facilities are dismayed by this choice.
a popular request
Mathieu Fréchette, a regular Sunday skier at the site, did not do one or two when he learned that the rumor that was circulating had materialized. Two weeks ago he started a petition for people to make their discontent with him known.
The University needs to understand that this place is important to the cross-country skiing community. At first I thought it was going to reach the people of Quebec, but I realized that it transcended the region.
Mathieu Fréchette, amateur skier and local regular
He regrets that the University deprives citizens of the site that, he thinks, is the envy of many nations in the world. “I find it unfortunate and unfortunate that we do not take advantage of this proximity to a ski area of this quality. »
The petition is just a few signatures short of its initial goal of 10,000. “It’s a nice surprise,” admits its promoter, Mr. Fréchette.
A loss for athletes.
Cendrine Browne and Pierre Harvey used the exact same words to describe the situation: “It’s really sad. »
Browne, coordinator of athlete and Olympian support for Ski de fond Québec, explains that this site, which opens about three weeks earlier than average, allows Quebec skiers to compete with athletes from the west who also rely on similar facilities.
In addition, this place benefited not only the athletes of the national team, but also the civil clubs, the Quebec team and even the American skiers, who flocked there to start their season.
The Quebec development team was supposed to hold their first camp of the season in Montmorency Forest. “We are trying to turn around. We come up with ideas, but yeah, athlete preparation is at stake,” Browne said.
For his part, Pierre Harvey has always benefited from this enchanting site. Since he himself was a member of Rouge et Or until last fall.
“I found that very unfortunate. It’s sad, because it’s a unique place in Quebec. All the elements are there. »
A pioneer in his field, Harvey struggles to come to terms with the idea, considering that the Parc des Laurentides forest stretches for hundreds of kilometres, that Université Laval could not leave a piece of its territory to cross-country skiers.
It’s really hard for me to understand. It’s huge, so it’s a shame all the cross-country skiing is amputated. I hope they are open.
All stakeholders consulted believe that there is room for compromise. Both for the University, which could make room, and for skiers, who would benefit from the idea that certain slopes are closed for a certain period.
During the pandemic, the popularity of cross-country skiing has skyrocketed. This decision breaks, in a certain way, the momentum that the discipline had taken, which the three rapporteurs deplore.
The good news, if there is any, is that the excitement and interest around this situation shows that cross-country skiers of all calibers are getting their heads together and sticking it out. “It’s impressive,” says Cendrine Browne. Later, Pierre Harvey responded that “it warms his heart to see that people are interested” in cross-country skiing and its athletes.
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