A few months after Daniel Poirier's organization donated 10 snowboards to a remote Nunavik community, he was astonished to find that the sport had become an obsession, with local youth towing boards up 500-foot hills surrounding the town and carving the steep slopes at breakneck speeds.
"The fashion there is to go straight downhill," said Mr. Poirier, co-ordinator of the Nunavik Adventure Challenge, which touched off the snowboarding fad with its donation to the town last October. "They really want to push it. I can see them become really elite athletes."
The village of Kangiqsualujjuaq has never wanted for recreation opportunities. Kayaks, hockey sticks and snowshoes have existed in the area, in one form or another, for generations.
But it's safe to say that few pieces of sporting equipment have piqued as much curiosity in this 700-person community as the snowboard.
"We're up there every day," said Thomas Etok, one of around 20 locals who have embraced the boards since they were introduced. "We go up and down, up and down, all day until we get tired."
At 21, Mr. Etok is one of the oldest riders, but, as a first-aid responder, also one of the most sought after.
"Oh yes, I have to treat all kinds of injuries," he said. "Twisted ankles and broken legs, mainly. But they don't stay off the hill for too long."
The Nunavik Adventure Challenge was a five-day program that introduced local kids to zip-lining, orienteering, rock climbing, snowshoeing and other outdoor adventure races.
The goals were to engage locals in promoting their region as an outdoor recreation haven, and to get teens hooked on exercise.
When the October challenge wrapped up, Mr. Poirier raffled off some of the recreation equipment that had been flown in to the town, which has no roads in or out.
Returning last week for a second adventure challenge, he was surprised to see how popular the boards have become.
"There were three or four guys sharing each board," he said. "Now there's talk of someone starting a snowboard shop."
The extra recreational opportunity has been welcome in an isolated place where the majority of the population is under 18.
"It's really helped a lot of the kids," Mr. Etok said. "If we weren't snowboarding, we wouldn't be doing anything because there's not much to do around here."
Mr. Etok got his board in January after watching friends careen down local hills for two months.
"Once I saw them going down the steep hill, I just had to try," he said. "My first run was horrible. I spent most of it falling down."
Three months later, he's talking like a hard-core rider.
"I want to go farther into the mountains," he said. "These ones aren't big enough any more. The higher the better."Report Typo/Error