Hooked on Skiing at North Highlands Nordic

by Katie Fougere, North Highlands Nordic, January 24, 2022

CAPE NORTH, NS: North Highlands Nordic youth programs are grounded in tradition. Let’s take a peek back in time. Did you know in the early 1980’s NHN initiated the first learn-to-ski program in Canada, for children ages 3-6; dubbed the JackBunnies? Due to the enthusiasm for cross-country skiing the nordic group was experiencing, it was only natural that families participated in the various NHN outings – and they brought along all of their children; including those under 6 years. The volunteer instructors created the program, so that all family members could be included.

Also developed for 3-6 year olds, is their very own loppet, known as “The Cookie Race”, which is held annually during the same weekend as NHN’s spring loppet. The youngsters race for cookies and hand-crafted wooden medals. Children experience the excitement of a race and the satisfaction of crossing the finish line. It’s tradition. NHN volunteers recognize the importance of tapping into the “magic” of childhood memories and further developing the children’s love for the sport. The Cookie Race presents opportunities for families and community members to come together and celebrate spending time on skis.

Historic Photos

You know excitement was riding high when youth spotted the Easter Bunny skiing through the woods! A tremendous history and sense of community continues to be developed through the programs. A few historic photos. Spot anyone you know that’s still skiing today?

Photo credit – Dennis Doyon.

The Jackrabbits with the Easter Bunny, 1980’s. Photo credit – Dennis Doyon.

Youth enjoying time on skis. Photo credit – Dennis Doyon.

As we collectively give a historic nod to all of the volunteers, we look to the present. Katie Fougere, office manager for the nordic centre, sent along beautiful photos and an account of the programs taking place this past weekend.

2022 Opening Program Weekend, by Katie Fougere

We had a fantastic weekend! Following Covid-19 protocols of course, we had 14 Bunnies and Jackrabbits attend their first lessons on Saturday, January 22, at 10:00 a.m. We always welcome families to sign up after the starting date. No one gets left behind. The Coach and three assistants were present along with six adventurous parents who joined in on the fun wearing skis or snowshoes.

We always welcome families to sign up after the starting date. No one gets left behind.

Katie Fougere, Manager, NHN

The Warm-Up!

We start in a spaced out circle to warm up; teaching the children to warm up and stretch their muscles; no one wants to get hurt when they fall down and the most important thing to remember is… all skiers fall down! 

Jackrabbits Ski Up the Blue Trail

Then the Bunnies and Jackrabbits separate and we took the Jackrabbits for a quick ski up the Blue trail to get moving and warm. While the Bunnies learned more about ski basics and navigated the trail entrance hill.

Dead Bugs

Before we reached the TrailHead we paused for a “dead bug lesson”. This is a fun way to learn how to kick your legs up in the air after you’ve fallen and your skis may be tangled up. Lay on your back like a dead bug and stick your legs up, be as silly as you want and then drop the legs side by side and start to get up on your knees over your skis and then all the way up! It is a lesson that is important for all ages and skill levels. The basics are key!

“We have amazing kids in this program. We can see how much they have grown in stature, ability and confidence since last year.”

Katie Fougere, Manager, NHN

We have amazing kids in this program. We can see how much they have grown in stature, ability and confidence since last year.

They were eager to get out on the Blue trail and ski to the 4 Corners. Racing down all the hills they came upon. After their 2km ski, where we did meet the Bunnies out on the Blue trail, we had halved hoops set up as arches over the classic track and pylons staggered along the skate ski track to work on agility skills. Tuck under the arches as they ski downhill then ski back up and navigate the pylons.  That first session ran a little over an hour and a half.

Learning About Nature

The kids seemed to have a lot of fun. And they are learning all the time. We looked at birds and a variety of animal tracks and admired the fun things to see in the trees along the way.

Peek-a-boo partridge (photographed left). Examining animal tracks (right).

Looking up to Club Alumni

A big treat was seeing two of our local cross-country ski veterans, Daniel Murray, provincial ski team coach, and Chris Algar; as they glided by us on the skate track, making it look effortless.  Murray and Algar are provincial team alumni, who have skied for their respective university cross-country ski teams, and competed at the FISU World University Games. Additionally, they have competed nationally, provincially, and regionally. They both grew up skiing on these trails.

Chris Algar skiing at North Highlands Nordic. Photo credit, Daniel Murray.

Chris Algar skiing at North Highlands Nordic. Photo credit, Daniel Murray.

“The trails were amazing both days on the weekend. The children in the youth programs  love seeing our cross-country ski veterans, Daniel Murray and Chris Algar, and my faithful Snowshoe partners loved it. There were so many people!  It’s truly amazing what our facility can do for people of all ages”.

Paula Michaelis, President, NHN

Visitors and season pass holders were out on the trails Saturday and Sunday, my husband I included. The weather was great, picturesque sunny moments and fast skiing.


Conditions were excellent for cross-country skiing and snowshoeing. The 12 km of trails are mechanically groomed and tilled using a PistenBully grooming tractor groomer. Photo credit, Daniel Murray.

True North Destinations

Are you interested in a winter vacation package to explore North Highlands Nordic, along with key attractions in the area? Visit True North Destinations (click link), to learn more about their custom winter weekend experience packages.

Paula Michaelis is president of North Highlands Nordic. Michaelis says, “many people from Halifax and Sydney are using the ‘ski and stay’ packages from True North Destinations. This is our first year offering packages.”

Nearby Accommodations

Fougere noted additional accommodations nearby include Channel Breezes B&B and the Highlands Hostel; both of whom have been actively helping to promote the awesome facilities at North Highlands Nordic. For additional accommodations information, visit NHN’s Accommodations Webpage (click link), or Airbnb (click link).


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