The end of an era for Trail Skate Club

The Trail Skating Club, one of the oldest skating clubs in Canada, officially folded last week after 80 years of skating on Cominco ice.

The Trail Skating Club (TSC) officially folded last week after 80 years of skating on Cominco ice.

The TSC, one of the oldest skating clubs in Canada, shut down after a plea for volunteers to step up and form a new executive fell on deaf ears.

“As a group we tried to revive it and we did so but with no new people coming forward to take it over, we have to let it go,” said former club secretary Jan Westbury in a release. “It is sad to see an 80-year-old club disappear.”

Following a two year hiatus, Westbury, Allana Ferro, and Linda Walker rebooted the club in 2012, and ran it for two years before their own changing roles compelled them to seek out help to keep the club going.

Former longtime coach Maureen Elliot is all too familiar with the workings of the Club and recognizes many of the factors that led to its dissolution.

“When it comes to day in and day out volunteering, and it takes a lot of time, people just don’t do it as much anymore and that is really a big part of why the club had to fold,” she said.

Elliot coached the venerable club for over 30 years, but after suffering several concussions, the dedicated coach was forced to retire a few years ago.

“Trail was one of the oldest clubs in Canada, so it is really sad that it is closing it’s doors,” said an emotional Elliot. “Unfortunately, (it won’t work) if you don’t have people to run the club.”

The Rossland resident saw first hand the ups-and-downs of the TSC, often coinciding with the volatile economic fortunes of Teck Cominco and its work force over the past three decades.

“It waxed and waned . . . For a long time there weren’t young families staying in Trail, and the ones that were relocated out to Fruitvale because that’s where they could build new homes.”

School closures, and a fragmented Greater Trail population base of less than 15,000 residents trying to support three skating clubs also had its impact, as did the difficulty in hiring new coaches.

When Elliot coached, she was on the ice twice a day, six days a week while with the TSC, but she also helped coach in Rossland, Beaver Valley, and Castlegar and taught power skating, and adult skating lessons to supplement her income.

“I came as a 19 year old, was going to stay two years and out of here,” she said. “But that’s one of the big reasons why the club has folded too, because you can’t get coaching staff to come to a small town for a few hours a week.”

Despite the end of an incredible era, the legacy of the Trail Skating Club continues as a number of Trail skaters that competed at an elite level are now coaching in various centres across Canada or performing in more exclusive venues.

“We had a lot of success with this club, a lot of success,” said Elliot. “It was really good, and a lot of kids are still involved in skating in other areas, they are coaches across Canada . . . there’s a girl from Rossland who I taught for a million years, she’s coaching in Ontario, and there’s another one coaching in Lethbridge, there’s another one coaching in the Vancouver area; Cole (Stanbra) is still on cruise ships skating . . . so Trail Club kids are still out there doing great skating things, but it (the club folding) is just  unfortunate.”

As its final gesture, TSC’s executive donated almost $3,400 left over in the club’s coffers to Trail’s KidSport chapter to be used by children who want to join skating. A new music system will also be donated to the Kootenay Region to be used at Regional competitions and events to benefit all the Kootenay Region skaters.

And while the TSC is no more, Trail skaters still have options and can join a skating club in Beaver Valley or Rossland.

“It’s learning how to skate to branch to figure skating or hockey, or just so you know how to skate (that’s important),” says Westbury. “Put your child on ice somewhere.”