Makin' Tracks

Members of the Central Okanagan Outdoors Club checked out the Snowy Vista snowshoe trail at the Kelowna Nordic Ski and Snowshoe Club last Saturday.

Old Man Winter just keeps dumpin’ to the delight of Okanagan outdoor enthusiasts.

With the forecast calling for a series of snowstorms this week, the Sheriff and Constant Companion Carmen joined other members of the Central Okanagan Outdoors Club for snowshoeing under sunny skies at Kelowna Nordic Ski and Snowshoe Club last Saturday and cross-country skiing at Telemark Nordic Club on Sunday.

Our snowshoe leader promised an easy pace for two newbies so our group headed out the excellent Snowy Vista, then Snowy Way to the Log Cabin to meet other snowshoers as well as skiers from the green Log Cabin Trail. Total snowshoe out-and-back was 10 kilometres but you can also do the shorter and popular Snowy Cabin (2.7 kilometres one-way to Log Cabin) with the option of the Snowy Hilton (4.2 km) back to the main cabin.

The club advises everyone to “not make your own or new trails anywhere in our area” which keeps the numerous pristine meadows looking beautiful and untouched. It also keeps the trails so hard-packed that you almost don’t need snowshoes.

The Sheriff has several pairs in different sizes for different conditions. He keeps an eye out for used snowshoes at fall ski swaps and even summer garage sales.

If you are planning to hike packed trails, smaller and narrower snowshoes (women sizes in particular) don’t bump up against the loose-snow sides. Just make sure they have enough metal teeth on the bottom — toe crampons, heel crampons and even side traction bars — for climbing and descending hills, and navigating icy spots (especially in the cold nights-warm days springtime).

The lighter, the better. But beware buying cheap snowshoes.

Plastic showshoes are noisier on hard-packed snow and ice, and they don’t flex like those with a lighter metal frame and fabric deck. However, round metal frames can slip on hard-packed snow and ice; frames made out of vertical flat metal strips with teeth on the bottom edge have better grip.

As for sizing, a general rule is one square inch of deck for every pound you weigh, plus the weight of your winter clothes, boots and backpack. At 200 pounds total, the Sheriff’s small Tubbs are nine inches by 21 inches or roughly 189 square inches. The larger Snow Mountain (Costco) are nine inches by 30 inches or roughly 270 square inches for more flotation in soft powder.

Bindings are generally fabric straps with snap buckles or ratchet-style plastic strips, but make sure you can adjust them with gloves on, and that they don’t pinch your feet. Some take winter boots with them to retailers to ensure bindings fit and are comfortable.

Trekking poles with large baskets are recommended.

On Sunday, we did classic-style skiing at Telemark Nordic Club on the Westside. The conditions were perfect: soft snow in the middle for snowplowing and smooth track-setting for long glides.

Telemark Trail is uphill to a ridge with great panoramic views, and an exhilarating descent back to the lodge. For those who want a challenge, Panorama Ridge has more views but also a series of roller coaster hills, an exciting rush down steep inclines where you try to keep your speed fast so you don’t have to climb so far up the other side.

Conditions were so good we brought buddies Lawrence and Maggie with us on Wednesday and did the blue Fern Creek Trail (8.7 km), which descends to 990 metres, then climbs to 1,100 metres, so there are lovely glides down and heart-pumping climbs. The groomed corduroy centre was fast, very fast on the downhills.

When we returned to the stadium on Sunday, we became spectators as members of the Special Olympics’ snowshoe racers held their first practice. Telemark has more than 50 kilometres of groomed cross-country ski trails for skate and classic skiing suitable for beginner and experienced skiers, plus “60 km of stunning snowshoe trails.” Telemark has rentals as well as lessons.

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The Kelowna chapter of the Canadian Company of Pilgrims will host an information booth 10 a.m.-4 p.m. on Jan. 18 at Atmosphere sporting goods store in Orchard Place, 1835 Dilworth Dr. (at Harvey Avenue) in Kelowna.

Anyone interested in learning about the Camino walk in Spain is invited to stop by to chat with volunteers at the booth.

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Cruz The Blues is back today for those who like the challenge of trying to ski every blue run at Big White Ski Resort. Pick up your boarding pass from the Concierge Desk, find letters on the blue runs and figure out the secret phrases on the pass. Prizes are awarded at 4 p.m. Sunday in the Happy Valley Day Lodge.

J.P. Squire, aka the Ski Sheriff, is a retired reporter. Email: jp.squire@telus.net.