Nunavik youth build character on endurance trek
“There's something special here”
KANGIQSUALUJJUAQ — Maasa Ittaluk shrugs, smiles then edges the front of her snowboard down a hill overlooking the George River.
The 14-year-old can’t say what is it she likes so much about the new sport she’s learning, but she’s given herself fearlessly to it every day this week.
Ittaluk and her friend Uttuqi are teaming up to participate in the Nunavik Adventure Challenge taking place this weekend in Kangiqsualujjuaq.
On Saturday, they’ll snowshoe, ski, zipline and snowboard their way around town, navigating 20 kilometres with their own maps and compasses.
They compete against 11 other teams made up of participants aged 12 to 50.
Does she think she can win?
“Maybe,” she says as she pushes off down the hill.
Ittaluk and her competitors are taking part in an adventure race designed by event organizers Endurance Aventure, who have collaborated with the Kativik Regional Government and Makivik Corp. to encourage sport on some of the country’s wildest terrain.
But winning hardly even factors into this event – it’s more about the quest and finding new ways to enjoy the land.
“The goal of the adventure race is to be able to complete the course,” said coordinator Daniel Poirier. “There are always people who like to win, but that’s not the goal.”
The crew from Endurance Aventure first visited Nunavik in 2009.
With so much open and rugged land, Poirier said the organization’s dream is to host an international event here one day; a staged race that would visit several villages via one of the regional cruises.
They staged their first adventure race here last October, drawing plenty of local interest. Before the crew left, they raffled off 12 snowboards to plant some seeds of interest.
Every day this week, the hill behind Ulluriaq school is littered with snowboarders – some picking it up faster than others. To compliment the few boards already in town, the organization brought plenty of equipment to share around.
“Every day after 3:30, all our boards are being used,” Poirier said.
“For us, the best thing that happened was that when we came back, we saw kids snowboarding.
“They decided even if there’s no structure, they still go.”
During the week of training leading up to the event, Kangisualujjuamiut are learning the ropes – literally. Poirier and his crew set up a zipline over a small valley beyond the village.
Local guides are lending a hand and training in new sports, too. Kangiqsualujjuaq has plenty of adventure tourism potential, Poirier said, if promotion and infrastructure can ever catch up.
“There’s something special here,” Poirier said. “But there’s no magic secret, if some of these youth have a passion and decide to talk on a sport we’ve shown them, that’s great.
All Nunavik Adventure Challenge teams will be equipped with satellite markers. Follow the race in real time on the event’s website
The next Nunavik Adventure Challenge is scheduled for the summer of 2010.