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Gatineau Ski Club enjoys a great exchange week in Iqaluit

The Aniirajak Ski and Adventure Club was happy to host Quebec visitors for racing and fun
Iqaluit ski team members compete in the sprint race. From left, Amaija Akearok, Breton Didham, Callum Goddard, Azriel Petnkeu, Gabriel Mossey, Igimaq Williamson and Coach Shannon Chartré. Kira Wronska Dorward/NNSL Media

It was recently the Aniirajak Ski and Adventure Club’s turn to host what will hopefully be the first of many exchanges in Iqaluit with their Gatineau Ski Club counterpart.

Perfect skiing conditions on April 20 saw the junior members from both clubs competing for fun in a sprint race at the ski can during the Quebec club’s six-day stay.

“[Going] around just on the tundra for us is special,” said visiting parent, chaperone and adult ski club member Guillaume Goulet, who was busy making a fire in a portable ice cabin turned makeshift fire lodge. “We brave the cold [here]. Minus thirty for us [in Gatineau] is a few days a year. Here, it’s normal all winter. We had a bad winter [with skiing conditions], so for us it’s a thrill to be here.”

Goulet went on to explain that the two clubs first encountered each other when the Quebec skiers were on a prior exchange to Whitehorse. The younger members of the club — seven girls, two boys aged 12-15, most of whom are part of a special sports study program in Quebec — had been practising a “mass start” from the race start line.

The Gatineau Ski Club’s primary function is to serve as a social outlet to foster a spirit of camaraderie and team-building in what can be an isolating and sometimes solo sport, according to Goulet.

“This is a really good development skill for down the road,” he said while chopping wood, showcasing yet another skill essential to both outdoor survival and bringing people together. “It’s the emphasis of the [club]: they’ll learn more if they have fun.”

“Now it’s our turn to welcome them,” commented Francois Fortin, treasurer for the Aniirajak club. “We have organized a lot of activities for them with the help of our club’s partner, White Bear Adventures (Benoit Havard), and our coach, Shannon Chartré. We did a welcome pot lock at the French school on their first night with all the parents and youth… We have lots of activities planned for their week in Iqaluit, including a trip on the ice to a parent’s cabin for dinner; an overnight at another cabin (White Bear’s); a cultural and historical town tour, including a visit at the legislative assembly; the museum and Inukpak dog team; cultural activities at the Qaujigiartiit Health Research Centre; and lots and lots of skiing.”

The Aniirajak Ski and Adventure Club was founded nearly a decade ago in Iqaluit, and is on the verge of entering into a memorandum of understanding with the city on a permanent land lot to support the club’s development of free and accessible recreational infrastructure for all Iqalummiut.

This year has already been a huge year in the Iqaluit ski club’s development, featuring events like the exchange with Gatineau, two school programs, training a biathalon cadet team in Arctic Bay, the Toonik Tyme fun race, and the club’s own loppet set for the first weekend in May.

Aniirajak also sent four skiers, for the first time, to the Arctic Winter Games (AWGs) in March.

“So now that we have a great team, we want to showcase them and put them in competition environments. We have several skiers aiming for AWG in 2026!”

He added that the group has “other dreams,” such as sending people to the Sisimiut Ski Race, competing in more in biathlons and summer training camps.

Fortin was also grateful for the visit by the Gatineau club.

“This exchange is great, energizing for everyone and very motivating for our athletes,” he said. “They get a lot of experience and have to compete with very good athletes… Many want to do it again next year already.”

Sprint race results

The Aniirajak club designed and plowed its own course for the sprint race with the help of everyone present and Havard on the side-by-side. The sprint race was contested on a loop that went uphill and downhill. The individual times are as follows (in minutes, seconds and tenths of seconds):

1. Alice Leblanc (Gatineau) — 1:36.2

2. Julianne Gagnon (Gatineau) — 1:41.3

3. Igimaq Williamson (Iqaluit) — 1:46.1

4. Callum Goddard (Iqaluit) — 1:54.5

5. Élisa Chouki Drapeau (Gatineau) — 1:56.4

6. Azriel Petnkeu (Iqaluit) — 1:57.9

7. Maxandre Goulet (Gatineau) — 1:57.9

8. Mahée Migneault (Gatineau) — 1:59.6

9. Stella Huneault (Gatineau) — 2:00.3

10. Louis Goulet (Gatineau) — 2:00.8

11. Émilie Malatte (Gatineau) — 2:03.2

12. Gabriel Mossey (Iqaluit) — 2:10.2

13. Amaija Akearok (Iqaluit) — 2:14.8

14. Breton Didham (Iqaluit) — 2:38.7

Aniirajak Ski Club President Tommy Tremblay addresses those who gathered with Connor Goddard standing in the background. Kira Wronska Dorward/NNSL Media
Callum Goddard ends his run at the start/finish line while the other competitors and spectators watch. Kira Wronska Dorward/NNSL Media
The Aniirajak and Gatineau Ski Clubs side by side. From left, coach Andreanne Dumont; Azriel Tagnigou Petnkeu; Igimaq Williamson Bathory; Mahée Migneault; Stella Hunault; Julianne Gauthier; Maxandre Goulet; Louis Lambert; Émilie Malette; Callum Goddard; Alice Leblanc; Gabriel Mossey; Elisa Chouaki-Drapeau; Breton Didham; Amaija Healey Akearok; coach Shannon Chartré and Benoit Havard. Kira Wronska Dorward/NNSL Media
Callum Goddard completes his run around the ski course. Kira Wronska Dorward/NNSL Media

Kira Wronska Dorward

About the Author: Kira Wronska Dorward

I attended Trinity College as an undergraduate at the University of Toronto, graduating in 2012 as a Specialist in History. In 2014 I successfully attained a Master of Arts in Modern History from UofT..
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