Category Archives: Trakker Profiles

Help Plan Trakkers Parties

Trakkers is looking for a new Social Coordinator to help plan social events.  We interviewed our current Social Coordinator, Michelle to find out more about this opportunity.

Past Social EventWhat are some responsibilities of this role?
The Social Coordinator role is all about planning parties!  Throughout the ski season Trakkers has three main events to plan:
Open House – The open house is a chance for members and the interested public to come out, socialize,  and sign up for the upcoming ski season
Wine and Cheese – This event is yet another opportunity for members to connect and socialize while out on trip. Ending your ski day with a simple afternoon cocktail party is nice bonus. It’s also a great way to meet new friends and catch up with old friends.
Year End Dinner – And lastly the dinner provides members a chance to close out the season while enjoying some delicious food.
All events are successful because of the teamwork that goes into the planning and execution. The Board members offer amazing support and assistance and there is a great group of volunteers that pitch in as well.

What have you gained from having the role?
As a new member of Trakkers and a new resident of Toronto, this position was an excellent way to expand my network in the city. Having met like-minded people that were interested in XC skiing and other outdoor activities was a huge win for me!

Please describe something you enjoyed about being on the Executive.
Since I’m a big fan of activity and spending time outdoors, participating in a club that creates opportunity for people to step outside the city and connect with nature was a rewarding experience. I think what I enjoyed the most was being an advocate for Trakkers and it felt good to contribute my time to an organization that I felt a strong connection to. That feeling is sometimes hard to find in my day job so I was glad to have found it with Trakkers!

If someone is interested, who should they contact?
If you are interested in the social coordinator position please contact Jen by email at president@trakkers.ca

Trakkers Profile: Han and Sam

Sam and Han were new members last year who quickly assumed leadership roles on the club executive this year. We asked them to share some of their views and experiences.

Han and Sam

How and when did you discover Trakkers?

Sam: I wanted to stay in shape in the winter months when I am not cycling, so I thought cross country skiing being a great full body workout would work for me. Also, the group of folk I cycle with are very competitive so I imagined myself dropping them on early season group rides! That was good motivation to get out of bed on cold Sunday mornings.

Han: I discovered Trakkers through Sam. At that time, we were both looking for something fun to do in the winter. Since we were both absolute beginners, we thought it would be great to learn something new together.

How and why did you did you decide to take roles on the Executive?

Han: Jen approached me during a trip and asked me if I was interested in helping out with the club. The Publicity Director position was open at that time, and I thought I could give it a try. I had worked in the advertising/marketing industry for many years and I also come from an art and design background. I thought I could leverage my skills for this executive position with the hope to improve the publicity of the club. It would also be a great opportunity for me to get to know more people in the club.

Sam: I spoke to some of the board members on the ski trips we went on, I thought they were all a wonderful, hard-working and motivated group of volunteers. I felt I could bring some changes to the bus captain’s duties by automating certain tasks so I decided to join the executive team.

Can you give an example of something you have worked on to improve the club?

Han: Having worked as a brand strategy consultant for many years before, the first thing I proposed to the board was to update the look and feel of the club. The logo, website and other marketing materials looked good, but they couldn’t capture the passion and vitality of Trakkers. The old look was also a little weak in distinguishing our club from other ski clubs. So the first project I did was a redesign of the brand identity, including Trakkers’ logo, key visuals, illustration, posters, and other brand applications. The board approved the design right away, and I could use the new brand look for my other publicity work.

Sam: We have changed the morning passenger checking-in process. The old paper-based process was done manually, verifying four data points per passenger and then entering that data, again manually, on to a computer file to update the database. It was a cumbersome process. Now we have tablets with a Microsoft Office 365 application that automates some of the verification process, and colour codes items, which makes boarding 50 people on a bus in about 20 minutes while managing cash and forms much simpler.

How have these experiences been of benefit to you personally?

Han: As a freelance designer, it’s always great to work for a client who is open-minded. Working on the design project for Trakkers did not entail a traditional designer-client relationship. I was able to express my own experience with Trakkers in my design and tell my story without too much external restriction. This kind of design experience is very rare and I truly enjoyed the creation process. Most importantly, the fact that the new brand look was liked by many Trakkers members was very rewarding to me.

Sam: I got a chance to meet a group of fantastic volunteer executives who dedicate their spare time to offer the people of this city a chance to ski every Sunday from January to March, regardless of age and experience. I have made many friends in the process, improved my technical abilities with different software and learned how to encode videos when uploading them to YouTube. That’s got to come in handy some time soon!

What would you say to newer members who are interested in getting more involved in the club?

Sam: The eagerness, dedication and love for the outdoors of the volunteers keeps this club thriving. We have over 200 members this year and we have been skiing on weekends when other Toronto area clubs have cancelled trips, and that’s thanks to the volunteers at Trakkers. At the end of every Sunday ski trip when members say they had a good day of skiing, it puts smiles on the faces of the people organizing the trip. To members who want to be more involved with the club, I will say, you will get a chance to meet more like-minded people, make new friends and be a part of this wonderful club.

Han: Becoming an executive member is not just about work and responsibility. It’s the best way to engage and benefit from the Trakkers community. Trakkers stands for so much more than just Sunday Trips and other events. It’s the people behind the scenes that truly make me understand what Trakkers means. I was so impressed by the sheer amount of passion, commitment and devotion exemplified by all the board members. Being part of this lovely community and getting to know so many excellent individuals are the true gift for joining the board.

Welcome Instructor Jennifer

We are delighted to announce that Jennifer Leavitt has re-joined the Trakkers Ski Instructor Team. Long-time members will remember her as Jennifer McCleneghan. In an interview last week, she shared some of her history with the club and what led her to return to the instructor team.

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Jennifer and her daughter

Tell us about your skiing background
I learned to ski when I was 10 years old in Edmonton. I got x-country skis for Christmas. I don’t know if it was the -20c constant in the winter or the fact that the skis were absolutely the wrong camber and length for my frame (I later found out that they were a better fit for someone twice my weight) but I never really enjoyed the sport much in those early days. Maybe I just needed a nurturing environment like Trakkers to reach my true potential.

What is your history with Trakkers?
I first joined Trakkers in 1992 I was living in Toronto and looking for a way to enjoy winter.  I heard about Trakkers, joined, and I loved it right away! My mentors were Sylvia, Xavier, Steve F. and Steve P. They were so encouraging …. before long I was buying better skis and improving.  In 1994 I got my CANSI certification and began teaching with Trakkers. The following year, I met my husband-to-be and he came with me to ski with the club. Later, life got messy with 4 kids and although we made a couple of attempts bringing the kids over the years, when we got to child no. 3 it was far from pleasurable. She’s almost 12 now and still claims to hate skiing.  I guess you can’t win them all…..

What led you to re-do your CANSI (Canadian Association of Nordic Ski Instructors) certification to teach again with the club?
Well, my husband has issues with his knees and my teenagers are no longer willing to ski with me so I was looking for ways to get out with others who are passionate about skiing. I came as a guest last year and helped Steve with his skating class. He mentioned then that if I wanted to come back and teach that Trakkers could use more instructors. I did try to get away with a CANSI refresher but was advised to re-do the whole course. I’m sure glad I did as it had changed significantly in 20+ years and I made some great friends at the course.

What do you enjoy most about teaching skiing?
I love experiencing the satisfaction of helping skiers improve on their technique, fitness and skill levels. The look on a student’s face when they get the feeling of a proper glide or when they ski an advanced trail they thought they couldn’t handle is priceless!

Trakkers Profile: Allison, Mark and Alec

IMGP1181Trakkers welcomes member’s children and provides a series of lessons for kids with activities and games that develop skiing skills and build friendships.  Here is a profile of one Trakkers family.

What were you looking for when you first joined Trakkers?
Allison: We were looking for an activity that the whole family could participate in, at a reasonable cost. Also, as Mark works shift work, it was easy for me to go up on the bus, meet some people, and know that Alec would have some fun without all the stress of driving. We are downhill skiers, but are spoiled and go out west for it. Cross country skiing in Ontario is spectacular and perfect in our forested areas.
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Can you describe an especially memorable experience you had with Trakkers?
Alec: At Horseshoe, I was at the top of a huge hill and from the top, you can see the people getting off the ski lifts for downhill. It was an amazing view and I would go back any day of the week. But the cool part is when I saw what I climbed I was so impressed of what I did!
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How did your activities with the club change as Alec grew older?

Allison: As Alec got older, he was able to come in from lessons and grab his lunch, and I would be able to keep skiing and not worry that he was by himself. He is very familiar with all the trails, and with lots of the members.

IMG_0129He is now able to keep up a lot better, his endurance now outlasts mine! He can go out on his own with friends, usually snowshoeing (most of his friends don’t know how to ski) or out with my friends as well. If he has any problems, he is always able to ask someone for help (or he can even help himself). It is great to have all that community support.

Do you have any suggestions for other families who have just joined or are thinking about joining?
Allison: My advice to any family thinking of joining is – Just do it! It is a great way to spend some time together but also, with kid’s lessons, Trakkers gives you a bit of time to yourself in the morning. There is nothing like exhausted kids at the end of the day! And their rosy cheeks are amazing.
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Trakker Profile: Jannette Porter

Jannette at Scenic Caves 2012, photo by Bogna
Jannette Porter is celebrating 30 years of membership in Trakkers. In an interview last week, she shared some reflections of her time in the club.

When and why did you join Trakkers?

Jannette confides that she never thought of herself as an athlete, but when she tried cross- country skiing, it felt natural and right. She began skiing as member of a different club, but after being invited to join a Trakkers trip, and having such a great time on it, she switched to Trakkers in 1979. During her early years as a Trakkers member, she used the club’s free ski lessons to improve her technique and courage to tackle big hills. Except for several years when she lived away from Toronto, this dedicated club member has never looked back.

In what ways have you benefited from being a member?

In addition to the fitness and social benefits, Jannette says the club provided her a place to develop leadership skills and confidence. She reports that when she was nominated for club President, she was so flabbergasted she didn’t protest and it was only when she received the materials from her predecessor that she realized how big an opportunity (and challenge) she had taken on! The experience was so rewarding, she accepted the President role again, years later. Club executive roles such as Membership Director and Publicity Director also helped her learn and grow her leadership abilities and friendships in the club.

Many Trakkers members don’t know that the club was started under the auspices of the YMCA. During her first term as President, Jannette shepherded the club’s transition to an independent non-profit organization.

What are some highlights of your early and more recent experiences as a member?

Longer trips and off-season activities have been especially memorable. Kayaking around Toronto Islands and paddling down the Don River with fellow Trakkers were fun too. Jannette helps run the popular Trakkers Spokes and Spiggots Winery Bike Tour.

She recalls a Year-End Party where Earth Hour was observed with candles and time for contemplation. It is always a pleasure to re-connect with ski friends and meet new cross-county skiing enthusiasts every November at the annual Club Open House.

What are some things you like about the club now?

Jannette likes the family-friendly orientation of the club and new destinations that have been added to the list of resorts we travel to, especially Arrowhead and Kawartha.

Most of all, Jannette loves the quiet peace of being outside in a winter wonderland on her skis enjoying the austere beauty of fresh snow hanging on tree branches under a brilliant, cloudless sky. Gliding along groomed, double tracked trails in conversation with a fellow member is a special pleasure.
Congratulations Jannette!

Meet Our New Instructors: John and Hilary!

Trakkers “Roving Reporting” (aka, the club pres) recently sat down with John Van Nostrand and Hilary Linton, to get their take on becoming new CANSI-certified instructors to teach with the club:

What’s your skiing background?

John: I learned to downhill ski when I was six and took up cross country skiing when I was a teenager. In high school I joined the cross country ski team and raced in OFSAA. (I didn’t win any races, but I did compete for a few years).  Then I put my skis away for a few decades, until I joined Trakkers in 2009.

Hilary: I learned to ski in Finland, where I lived for a year in my teens. Later, I joined the Carleton University cross country ski team. They let me on because all the good skiers belonged to an Ottawa club. I got great training and went to all these races where I invariably came last.  But I still have the racing-boot warmers I got then, and they have come in handy these past two winters!

What made you decide to get your CANSI certification to teach with the club?

John: I like to teach and I found myself helping Trakkers members who wanted to improve their classic ski technique.  I offered to be an assistant instructor in 2014 and found that I enjoyed the experience.

Hilary: I really liked the vibe of this club from my first trip. I had never skated before, so I took some lessons with Xavier and Sylvia and  was really impressed with their skills and professionalism. I decided I wanted to be just like them!!

You both did the prep course before taking the Level 1 certification – what was that like?

Hilary: The prep course was fantastic. Aside from the social aspect— a great group of like-minded people from across the province—the quality of the instruction was superb. Very intensive one-on-one training  with useful video feedback. The prep course really got me ready and confident enough to pass the certification. It is well-timed too; there is about 6 weeks for practice between the two courses. I would encourage anyone who wants to improve their technique to attend this course—you may surprise yourself and be more ready for certification than you knew by the end of it!

John: The prep course was tougher than I thought it would be.  The instructors were very good skiers who were good at demonstrating the proper technique and were critical of the weaknesses that all skiers have.  They wanted us to be able to demonstrate the best technique possible to our students.  They wanted us to be able to create and deliver lesson plans that are fun and have the right level of detail. They also wanted us be able to analyze the weakness in our student’s technique.  Having said that, the prep course was fun, the instructors were very positive and either encouraged us to sign up for the Level 1 Test, or encouraged us to take some time to improve and try the test in another year.

How did you find the Level 1 course itself?

Hilary: Well, it was cold, very cold. But, as Wendy Grater, our fearless leader relentlessly reminded us, “We ARE Canadian!!” It was also gorgeous; I had never been to Arrowhead before. We pretty much had the place to ourselves because it was…. Cold!! The quality of the training was, again, outstanding, building on what we learned in the prep course. We had a small group and just incredible, positive, supportive lessons with enormously valuable feedback. It was hard work, and we all made a lot of progress over those two days. Everyone passed the course, which is gratifying. We also got lots of tips about what we need to keep working on, which was humbling. And our other Trakkers instructors were there for a refresher course — so it was fun too!

John: The Level 1 Test was also demanding. Like Hilary said, it was really cold (-25C).  Everyone was encouraged to plan their lessons with short explanations and lots of movement on skis.  I was very happy that the wind was light.  The Level 1 Course has the same goals as the Prep Course (plan, demonstrate, deliver and analyze the technique), and I learned as much, if not more, from the lessons here as I did on the Prep Course.  However, the instructor’s responses and encouragement were much more guarded.  If the prep course was Young Drivers of Canada, then Level 1 was our visit to the Driver Test Centre and most of us didn’t know if we had passed or failed until the end of the second day.  The one suggestion I would make, if you are planning to take the test, practice planning lessons for beginners.  When you read through the CANSI ski manual it talks about preparing lessons for all levels of students, but when you arrive for the test, a few of the “students” will be asked to modify their techniques and act like beginners (this gives you some problem techniques to analyze), as a result, all the “test lesson plans” are delivered at the beginner level.

Preference: classic or skate?

John: Classic, I’ve only been skating for 3 days, but skating is fun!

Hilary: Love both! No preference at all — it depends on the conditions and the terrain and the company!

What’s your favourite ski trail? Why?

John: I like quiet trails such as Back Red at Highland Nordic, Kenner at Kawartha Nordic and High Dunes at Wasaga Nordic.  Trails that make you think you might be 100 miles away from civilization.

Hilary: It’s not a ski trail at all; it’s a seldom-used snowmobile trail along a disused rail line up near Owen Sound. I go there with my husky-cross in a ski-joring harness and he just pulls me, we go like the wind.

What’s the most number of times you’ve fallen in one day? – be honest!

John: Probably twice, but I like to limit myself to one fall a day, if possible :-).  My worst fall was on a hill. I fell forward and rolled. I was ok, but I broke the tips off both my skis.

Hilary: Well, given that I am still working on the most fundamental of CANSI skills — “stance and balance”— I  fall often, especially when I am trying something new, practicing or tired at the end of the day. So I am going to take the fifth on that* because I have a reputation to uphold as a Trakkers Instructor!

How much did it help to ski with other good skiers and instructors in the club?

John: Good skiers can provide excellent feedback on improving your technique.  Personally, I would not have been able to pass the skate portion of the Level 1 Test without lessons and the helpful advice of Gleb and Xavier.

Hilary: It’s always great to learn from other skiers. Xavier had me watching the Olympics last winter, and CANSI sends you a DVD that is worth watching. They teach us in CANSI that most students are visual learners, and that certainly is true for me.

How helpful was it being an assistant instructor to improve your teaching skills and achieve your certification?

John: See previous!

Hilary: It helped enormously. Barb, Steve, Xavier and Sylvia are all great teachers. Plus I got to be a groupie!!

Anything you’re still working on technique-wise?

John: Skating!

Hilary: Everything! What I have learned in all of this is that (a) cross-country skiing is far more technical then I knew and (b) cross-country skiing is much easier and a lot more fun if you have good technique.

If someone’s thinking about getting their certification what advice would you give them?

John: Try being an assistant instructor.  You’ll have to give demonstrations of the proper techniques, the instructor will let you teach part of the lesson and you’ll get to try analyzing your student’s technique.  The biggest bonus is that after assisting four or five times, you will have seen many of the drills that you should include in your lesson plans for the test (diagonal stride, double pole, snow-plow turn and one skate).

Hilary: 1) Take the next available prep course; 2) Buy the Cansi manual on how to teach cross-country skiing; and, 3) Take Trakkers lessons!

* of course, “We ARE Canadian!!” doesn’t apply when one is taking the fifth.

If you’d like to consider becoming a volunteer instructor please contact Steve Favell, Ski School Coordinator, at lessons@trakkers.ca or 416-233-5324. For anyone who completes the Level I training and commits to teach with Trakkers for a period of time, the club reimburses the costs of the CANSI training and certification, and covers trail/bus fees while teaching as an incentive.

Trakker Profile: Lawrence Rennie

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Lawrence will soon celebrate 30 years with Trakkers. Here is a brief interview with Lawrence.

When and how did you join Trakkers?

When I came to Canada in 1974 , I joined High Park Ski club ,with Louise my wife. We did downhill for 8 -10 years until I hurt my knee at Mont Tremblant in a fall . We had skied all over Canada, so we decided to try XC skiing .
Around 1984 the YMCA in High park was setting up a XC ski club. Jack Porter ,Bernie and John Webb were involved. Ziggy as well,so we joined. It then of course became the Trakkers . I rarely went back to downhill skiing .

Tell us about 2 or 3 of your fondest memories with Trakkers

My best memories with Trakkers are the trips we did to Viamede and Irwin Inn resorts, where we skiied at the “Kawarthas”. On one of those trips the bus broke down and we had to spend 5 hours stranded on the QEW near Oshawa ( John Webb heard a lot about that ).

What do you like best about Trakkers Has the club changed over the years? How?

I don’t think the Trakkers has changed much over the 30 years I have been involved, always a good organisation. It seems there is more of a turn around of new members now compared to us older members staying on year after year. Louise does not XC ski much anymore as she has a medical condition, but I intend to go on longer .