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Lakehead realizing benefits from '95 games.

Despite an unseasonably mild December, Thunder Bay's ski hills were alive with the sounds of snow-making, according to Paul Morralee of the city's visitors and convention bureau.

This year the Big Thunder, Loch Lomond and Candy Mountain ski resorts are being marketed primarily to skiers in Manitoba and Minnesota.

Bruce Hole of the North of Superior Travel Association, says he is expecting a great winter season, especially in the area of snowmobiling.

Based in Thunder Bay, North of Superior promotes a variety of winter activities including cross-country and downhill skiing, winter carnivals, dog sledding, snowmobiling and ice climbing.

Cross-country skiing is on the upswing in Thunder Bay because of the publicity the city has received since being selected as the site for the 1995 World Nordic Ski Championships.

"We are capitalizing on the fact that the championships were awarded to our area and we have been featured in a number of magazine and newspaper articles now," says Claude Liman, president of Cross Country Thunder Bay.

The championships, to be held at the Big Thunder National Ski Training Centre, will feature competition in ski-jumping, cross-country and combined, with athletes from 50 countries competing.

Construction of the championship facilities will cost $2 million. Ninety- and 120-metre ski jumps will be erected and a new cross-country stadium will be built which will offer better wind protection.

There will be an $800,000 building to house the championship's technical material and there are plans for a media centre to house 1,500 journalists.

The cross-country course will be redesigned to allow spectators to see competitors 11 times during the five-kilometre race.

Another innovation is a series of computerized weather stations throughout the course. Once the games are over these facilities will help attract more skiers to the region, Liman predicts.

In Sault Ste. Marie, Ian McMillan, executive director of the Algoma Kinniwabi Travel Association, is looking forward to the winter after what he says were slightly disappointing spring, summer and fall seasons.

"Primarily through a number of marketing initiatives there will be a major push for snowmobiling," says McMillan.

The association has developed a regional guide, and it attended a number of shows in such Mid-West states as Illinois, Wisconsin, Michigan and Indiana.

"We had display ads in six major snowmobiling publications in November and have already had 500 inquiries," McMillan adds.

While snowmobiling is the Sault's primary marketing focus, Ski Searchmont has been aggressively promoting itself and the city to Michigan. The resort offered free skiing from Nov. 26 to Dec. 11 to clients of several Sault hotels.

Searchmont's Joanne Farkais says the resort better established itself as an all-seasons destination by offering mountain biking last summer.

This winter Searchmont will actively pursue skiers from Sudbury and the Mid-West states.

"With the American markets we just knew we weren't getting as many visitors as we should. That's why we put together the hotel package," explains Farkais.

However, she admits it will be a learning experience.

This season Searchmont has added a new snow-making system, 50 kilometres of Nordic trails, a 350-foot snowboarding half pipe and glade skiing.

At nearby Buttermilk a double chair lift and a 300-foot snowboard half pipe were added for this season.

In North Bay, Ted Day of the Almaguin-Nipissing Travel Association in North Bay, is counting on a big increase in snowmobiling.

However, the area also features ice fishing, cross-country skiing and downhill skiing at Mt. Antoine in Mattawa and Laurentian in North Bay.

Laurentian Ski Club owns and operates both facilities, and marketing assistant Debbie Legault says their marketing is aimed at Sudbury and eastern Ontario.

Legault says the eastern Ontario marked received special attention after the Ottawa-area Kalabogie Peak resort closed last season.

The resort at Mattawa has seen a number of improvements for this season, including a new double-black diamond run and a 450-foot snowboarding half pipe.

Plans are in the works for a $750,000 expansion to double the size of the chalet starting in June.
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Title Annotation:boost to tourist industry of selection of Thunder Bay, Ontario, as site of 1995 World Nordic Ski Championships
Author:Brown, Stewart
Publication:Northern Ontario Business
Date:Jan 1, 1993
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