Berry good at what he does
Brian Berry gave himself the perfect birthday present on Thursday: A day off skis.
After skiing the trails at the Lappe Nordic Ski Club for 670 hours over four months and nine days in a row, the Thunder Bay native captured the club record for most kilometres skied — and then some — after his session on Wednesday.
Seven thousand kilometres, and not a kilometre more.
“I hit 7,000 and I shut it down,” Berry said on his 66th birthday. “I’m done. I’m definitely done. I was going to stop at (the old record of 6,000 kilometres) and the club owner said I should go to 7,000. It was a tough winter to do it in.”
Despite forecasts of wet snow Thursday night, Lappe stopped grooming its trails last weekend to signify the end of the cross-country ski season. Berry still managed to squeeze a few more runs on the rough and ice areas.
“That’s the name of the game. I turned lights on and turned lights out,” Berry said with a laugh.
Berry credits a proper diet and a balanced skiing regimen. He never went too slow or never put unnecessary pressure on his body with Olympic-type training.
“When you’re working, you’re working in four zones. I made myself stay in zone 1 and still looked forward to skiing by April,” he said.
A semi-retired contractor, Berry only took up the sport when he was in his early 30s. He competed on the masters level before devoting his time to another facet of cross-country skiing. In 2006, he joined the Canadian Paralympic team as a guide for visually impaired skiers. He paired up with fellow Thunder Bay athlete Robbi Weldon, who competed at the 2010 Paralympics in Vancouver and Whistler.
Berry left the program two years later, but plans to guide ski again for some up-and-coming competitors when Lappe hosts the Ski Nationals next winter. The younger levels are more his speed nowadays.
“I’m getting to the point where you have to ski faster than then younger people. You have to be 10-per-cent faster than the athlete. Otherwise, you’re not doing them any good,” said Berry.
The Lappe record has been a point of pride in past years. Former record holders include Mark Metsaranta, Esko Pesonen, and Bruce Brown, who held the previous high of 6,000 kilometres.
What started out as trash talking by the hot chocolate stand became very real when Berry vowed he would eventually own that record.
“Nobody has skied 100 times their age,” he said. “You have to be a little bit different and I made the statement. It was just on my bucket list. It’s done and I’m glad it’s over.”