Squamish’s figure skaters are back on local ice for a new season.
While some athletes from the Squamish Skate Sea2Sky club have been travelling to and from Whistler for summer training, on Sept. 28, they were back on home ice.
Getting things back running has been a bit unusual, given that the club has to operate in the middle of a pandemic, but programming is continuing despite the challenge.
Coach Kari-Ann MacDonald said all on-ice training is going ahead at Brennan Park, while office training is delivered via Zoom or in person with social distancing in place.
While practice in town is continuing, it’s still unclear what will be happening concerning competitions, which often have athletes travelling to different communities to compete.
“The competitive season is hoping to be active for the skaters in our club [in] the early part of 2021,” said MacDonald.
“A lot of this is still up in the air, as Skate Canada and our local B.C. sections work to figure out how to deliver the programs for competitions while sticking with all the COVID-19 regulations. This most definitely will take us to different communities but what that actually looks like has not been laid out clearly.”
MacDonald said Skate Canada has strict rules on how programs are delivered.
Masks and fresh gloves have become commonplace and all skaters are met at the entrance for a COVID-19 check.
Attendance is also greatly reduced, as parents, siblings, and other family members are not allowed in the arena, she said. This part of the guidelines is laid out by Brennan Park and has to do with space allowances in the building.
The entire arena is mapped out with tape for directions as well as for spacing while sessions are occurring.
“I have worked with minor hockey’s president Chris Green along with the Brennan Park staff to help create a very safe environment for all our youth that are allowed to use the arena,” MacDonald said.
In the Destin competitive program, there are 37 skaters. There are 17 in the junior program and the CanSkate learning program has 32.
“The unfortunate part [is] our CanSkate numbers are extremely low and we will be running the programs [at] a loss at this point in time,” she said.
“Skate Canada also does not allow us to take young brand new skaters who have never skated before as we are not able to touch and hold their hands for support as they learn to get comfortable on the ice at this point in time.”
The registration numbers are about 30% of what they would normally be.
Another challenge created by the pandemic has been the change in administrative procedures.
Skate Canada has mandated its clubs to go paperless, thus, the Squamish club has had to adapt.
“Therefore getting everything out to our community we’ve had to create more access on the internet along with all of our registration had to be adapted into a new program which is called uplifter,” said MacDonald.
“Considering most of my parents that help put this all together are volunteers, I’ve had a small group surrender a lot of endless hours helping pull this all together.”
Regardless of the challenges, MacDonald said that she remains enthusiastic.
“I’m excited to be able to deliver a program with a very safe and organized environment,” she wrote. “Children in our community need to have the opportunities to still be kids, do what they love to do and experience a little bit of normalcy in their lives.”
She said she hopes to have the competitive skaters compete again. Some of them haven’t had a chance to do so since February this year.
Others were set to start their first competitions on the first weekend of spring break, but that was put off indefinitely when the club was forced to shut down in March due to COVID-19
Another challenge is trying to figure out how and if the Christmas show — a big fundraiser — will happen this year. The current restrictions mean it will be unlikely the show can happen, at least at the same scale.
“At this point in time we’re going to have to be very creative and come up with ways to help fund raise for loss of registration. This is going to be extra challenging as COVID has hit many businesses and families in our community as well as clear across our province. Time will only tell how things will go and I promise to work hard to help our club survive this pandemic,” MacDonald said.
For more on skating in Squamish, go to http://skatesea2sky.com.