By: Mike Norton, Manager of Sport Operations, Haig Glacier
WinSport’s Haig Glacier was once again bustling this summer with athletes training in cross-country and biathlon.
The seasonal training camp located in Peter Lougheed Provincial Park has five kilometres of groomed trails to provide on-snow summer training for athletes.
Unique for its remoteness, high altitude of 2,400 metres above sea level and snow coverage in the summer months, “The Haig,” as many call it, is arguably Canada’s premier location for cross- country and biathlon athletes to train in the summer.
Snow in the summer
For serious Nordic athletes, the Haig provides an amazing on-snow training venue without having to travel to European glaciers or down to New Zealand for their winter. Aside from being on snow in the summer, athletes also come for the higher altitude where the air contains less oxygen and creates a competitive advantage when competing at lower elevations.
This summer, 48 athletes trained over 60 days. Most of the athletes were from Alberta and British Columbia, with six coming from Ontario’s national development program. A total of 848 athlete nights were spent at the Haig, which aside from the groomed trails, has three buildings – a kitchen, coach and staff meeting space and a bunkhouse divided in half to accommodate male and female athletes. This summer provided optimal training conditions for the athletes as it was unusually cool and was highlighted by a 20 centimetre dump in July!
Though the site is primarily used by Olympic-calibre athletes, those aren’t the only people who have traditionally trained at the Haig. It also provides a great experience for younger kids to train where they can get a summer camp experience in a remote setting with gorgeous views. Over a week, it’s a great opportunity to bond with their team and strengthen their friendships.
Officially opening as a training facility in 1996, the Haig Glacier has a rich history that keeps building year after year. Everyone has been to the Haig – you look at all the current Olympians and many of them have been there. It has such a history and it’s rumoured that people actually started camping and training here back in the 1980s, well before the buildings were even constructed.
Since it’s only accessible by helicopter, the Haig’s remoteness has resulted in some interesting tales from those who have stayed at the camp. There are a lot of stories associated with intense weather storms as well as equipment and supplies dropping off of helicopters on the ride up – but it all just adds to the overall unique experience and the great story about the Haig.