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How N.S.’s cross-country ski team is prepping for the Canada Winter Games with no snow

Faced with mild winter, athletes take to the pavement on roller skis to train

3 min read
Cohen Norman holds up his black roller skis, smiling. He is standing on the paved Chain Lake Trail wearing a blue and white windbreaker, red fanny pack and blue helmet. The background is blurred.
caption N.S. cross-country ski athlete Cohen Norman holds up his roller skis during a training session on the Chain Lake Trail, Wednesday.
Ella Macdonald

With minimal snowfall this season, Nova Scotia’s cross-country ski team is using summer techniques to train for the Canada Winter Games in P.E.I. next month.

No snow doesn’t mean no training, said provincial team head coach Daniel Murray. He said the team has been running, using double poling exercise machines, and roller skiing up to five times a week.

“The people from New Brunswick are saying to us, ‘how do you ski so fast when you don’t have any snow?’ ” Murray said, reflecting on their most recent results from the 2023 Maritime Cup in Fredericton. 

With nine team members competing, the Nova Scotia skiers took home 13 medals, including six gold. 

Teammates Lyndon Doyon, Cohen Norman and Jack MacMillan stand together with their skis on. They are wearing blue team jackets and black pants. They are all holding poles and wearing buffs with glasses resting on their heads. Behind them are trees and a few black ski bags laying in the snow.
caption Lynden Doyon, Cohen Norman and Jack MacMillan at the Maritime Cup on Jan.21.
Catherine Caouette

“They have so much fun and I think that really helps them persevere through these times,” Murray said. “At the end of the day … while they may not have the time on snow, they have the fortitude to do well.”

Last year the team was finding snow to train on most weekends in the Annapolis Valley from late November on, Murray said, but this year they haven’t been able to find any on a regular basis.

Environment Canada meteorologist Ian Hubbard said when looking at December statistics for Halifax, Yarmouth, Sydney and Greenwood there’s been a significant drop in snowfall amounts from previous years. 

“So far this winter, Halifax International Airport has only recorded and received 21 per cent of its normal snowfall that it would have had up until the end of January in a normal season,” Hubbard said. “For Greenwood, similarly it’s been lower, but not quite as bad. So far, Greenwood has only had about 47 per cent of its normal snowfall.”

Although the team won’t get as much training on snow, skiers are made in the summer, said the team’s Para Nordic athlete Emma Archibald, so continuing to do summer training through the winter — like roller skiing — yields similar results come race day.

The N.S. XC team is lined up on a bridge. They are all wearing helmets and roller skis.
caption Head coach Daniel Murray, Jonah McIntyre, Cohen Norman, Aaron Lane, Milo Sircom-Brown, Suzanne Jackson, Paige Neklia, Romey Gallagher, and Scotia XC coach Eric McIntyre at their spring training camp, 2022.
Contributed by Daniel Murray

Halifax-based team member Cohen Norman, 16, said he trains six to seven days a week, three of which he dedicates to roller skiing on the Chain Lake Trail.

“The feel for it is a little different,” he said. “But you can work on your skiing technique really well with roller skiing.”

@signalhfx No snow? No problem. #halifax #novascotia #fyp #canadagames #crosscountryskiing ♬ original sound – The Signal

Norman said the Canada Winter Games and Nationals are his biggest competitions of the year, but the Games on Feb. 18 will pose a different challenge as he will be competing against older athletes.

“It is going to be very high-level competition, so it will be good to compare us against the best in Canada,” he said. “I’m super excited for it.”


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Ella Macdonald

Ella Macdonald (she/her) is an aspiring video reporter and photojournalist with an interest in world affairs and health reporting. Originally...

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