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For 4 Years, Ski Heritage East Has Been Creating Orléans’ Winter Wonderland
Stretching along the Ottawa River from Shefford’s Road to Trim Road, Orléans boasts a
beautiful 14-kilometre trail. Thanks to Ski Heritage East, the Trail is groomed every winter, making it a haven for not only skiers, but snowshoers, walkers and cyclists alike.
“The trail is getting better every year, and the support that we get from the community has just been amazing,” says President Ian Gadbois. “Credit goes to our skilled volunteer groomers, led by Lyle Fair. Since they’ve been doing the grooming, it’s exploded. It’s really made the river trail much more accessible around the year.”
The multi-purpose trail is kept open with sponsorship from individuals, local businesses, the NCC, and the City of Ottawa. Former deputy mayor Bob Monette was an avid supporter, and today, that torch is carried forward by local Councillors Matt Luloff, Laura Dudas, and Tim Tierney.
In February 2020, Brigil Construction invested $10,000 into Ski Heritage East, showing just how important the Trail is for Orléans. With that extra cushion, Ski Heritage East has been able to purchase its own grooming equipment, including two secondhand snowmobiles, track setters, and a Ginzu groomer. No longer relying on expensive professional groomers, expenses dropped to $30,000 per year. “The City and the NCC provide almost half of that, so we need another $15,000 to keep running,” Ian says.
Raising that amount shouldn’t be too challenging. In 2018, the group kick-started a local sponsorship program, and now has over 10 sponsors backing the trail at $500 per kilometre, including local businesses such as Stray Dog, Giant, and Myers Orléans.
Approximately 4,500 people of all ages and stages used the trail last year, and that number is expected to keep growing with the challenges facing us this coming winter. “People are really seizing the outdoors as a way to be safe, but still enjoy themselves,” Ian says, reflecting on the pandemic.
The Ski Heritage East Team, which consists of Robin Gibson, Lyle Fair, Alan Mortimer and Reece Rendall, have been Orléans residents for many years and Ian has been involved with Ski Heritage East from the start, when his colleague Jean Lepage proposed the idea. “We are supporters of Orléans — we like to see things happen here,” Ian says.