Making Tracks

The area around the Main Cabin was packed and the trails were busy at 10 a.m. on Sunday for the start of the second annual Kelowna Nordic Cabins, Cookies and Chili Tour. In all, 160 skiers registered for the tour which involved six-, 12- and 16-kilometre loops around the popular cross-country ski and snowshoe area on McCulloch Road off Highway 33.

It’s the two-season time of year. The best time of year.

The Okanagan’s downhill resorts and cross-country ski areas still have lots of snow, yet down in the valley bottom, spring has arrived.

On Thursday, Big White Ski Resort had an alpine snow base of 298 centimetres and cumulative snowfall of more than 700 cm.

Silver Star Mountain Resort Village had 181 cm and the summit had 232 cm.

Apex Mountain Resort had a snow base of 301 cm.

That snow will last long into the spring, long after the emerald green hills in the valley prove too attractive not to get out walking, hiking, biking and kayaking.

The Sheriff and Constant Companion Carmen have already started taking advantage of the two seasons with our first two bike rides on the Okanagan Rail Trail, 25 kilometres return from Spall Road to the north end of Kelowna International Airport. It was surprising how many people were out enjoying the sunny skies mid-day on a Friday and on a Wednesday morning.

On a sunny Sunday, the Sheriff joined other members of the Central Okanagan Outdoors Club at the Kelowna Nordic Ski and Snowshoe Club’s second annual Cabins, Cookies and Chili Tour. The conditions couldn’t have been more perfect with blue skies, yet the temperature was still sub-zero so the groomed track was great for gliding as well as climbing the hills.

It was record-breaking with 160 people registered but fortunately, they all didn’t show up for a mass start at 10 a.m. More than half did. So the 16-kilometre group left first, then the 12K and finally the 6K.

It was a casual ski, no hurry, just enjoy the sunshine and sculpted snow terrain one more time.

Back at the Main Cabin, everyone was not only gushing about the conditions but an almost endless supply of swag from Fresh Air, Kelowna Cycle, Wards Cider and Anthony’s Subaru.

Kelowna Nordic threw in a 2020-21 season pass. Subaru also provided Subaru Buffs (neck tubes) and touch-screen gloves to everyone who registered.

What a shame there was only one cookie tour this winter.

However, the last moonlight ski and snowshoe for the season is tonight.

“The forecast is for a clear night after snow in the morning. These late ones are often the best for temperatures,” said president Ryland Garton. “Meet at the main cabin by 7 p.m. if you are interested. Bring food and drink, and come earlier if you want. Snowshoeing will be self-guided; skiing will follow the fresh-groomed course. RSVP to admin@kelownanordic.com so we can gauge interest.”

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Big White Ski Resort is hosting the Western Canadian SBX Championships presented by BC Snowboard, March 13-15. These events bring together competitive provincially registered athletes from Western Canada to compete in two snowboard cross events over three days.

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At Silver Star Mountain Resort, Alder Point was closed this week due to warm weather.

“We will re-assess on a day-to-day basis and re-open when conditions improve. Please refer to the grooming board for daily status updates and respect all mountain signage,” said the daily snow report.

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Sovereign Lake Nordic Centre is celebrating International Women’s Day on Sunday by providing free day tickets to any and all people identifying as female.

Sovereign will also accept trail fee donations as a fundraiser to support the Archway Society for Domestic Peace. It is “a community leader in empowering women, children and families to live with dignity and respect, free from domestic and sexual violence.”

The 42nd Best in Snow Loppet is on March 14 with five distances ranging from one to 30 km so “it’s an event for everyone.” Pre-registration is available online until March 11 with the price increasing for onsite registration. Go to sovereignlake.com for more details.

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All new members of Kelowna Nordic Ski and Snowshoe Club receive a free ski lesson as part of their membership. It can be either skate or classic, said president Ryland Garton.

“Existing members who wish to try skate skiing or upgrade their skating skills also receive a free lesson.

The club does not have a ‘ski school’ but has a list of registered instructors who provide lessons and set their own fees. They are all highly skilled.”

There is also instruction for snowshoers. To register for free lessons, contact Garton at admin@kelownanordic.com.

“We also do one- to three-people lessons for $30 each for non-club members. We do not do groups as the technical skills need to be correctly applied evenly to each participant. A lot of those we teach have been to group lessons elsewhere and have not successfully learned technique because the group instructor cannot be everywhere at once. It can work for kids, though, because they are used to group learning,” said Garton.

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Cross-country ski lessons continue at Telemark Nordic Centre in West Kelowna:

* Youth Programs: A variety of youth programs are available for kids and teenagers from three up to 20 years.

“The Telemark Youth Programs have 200 kids participating including programs for Bunnies, Jackrabbits, Track Attack, Adventurers and Race Team,” said GM Mike Edwards.

More information at: telemarknordic.com/programs/

* Master Blasters is a 12-session program for more experienced skiers, $360.

Smooth Cruisers is a six-session program for those with a little less experience, $180.

More info at telemarknordic.com/masters/

“We also offer a recreational biathlon program for masters as a part of the biathlon programming for $380,” said Edwards.

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Erosion mitigation and construction on the Regional District of North Okanagan-owned sections of the Okanagan Rail Trail are in full swing and on schedule.

The weekday trail closure has been extended north.

Rock and materials continue to be hauled through the Kekuli Bay trail access, and contractors have now extended hauling routes to include the Kickwillie Loop trail access.

Full daytime, weekday trail closures will now be in place from Kickwillie Loop (on the Coldstream side of the trail) at km 2.5 to south of Kekuli Bay Provincial Park at km 12.5.

“We understand that everyone is eager for the trail to reopen, but kindly ask that users respect the closure and avoid disruption of construction materials on-site,” said Mike Fox, general manager of community services. “Working around users who ignore signage and move materials will make this process longer for everyone, and we are hoping to get work done as efficiently as possible so enjoyment of the trail can continue.”

Trail users are asked to be cautious when using the trail as trucks will be hauling materials along all sections of the trail. The trail will remain open and accessible in the evening after 5 p.m. Monday-Friday and on weekends.

Further trail closures will be communicated as project updates are received. Residents are encouraged to go to rdno.ca/ORTwork for detailed maps indicating closure sections before planning any trips to the trail. It is intended to get all erosion mitigation work completed before trail use increases in the spring.

Past flooding events on Kalamalka Lake led to high water levels that caused serious damage and significantly eroded the Okanagan Rail Trail. The RDNO completed the first phase of this work in September 2019.

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It’s time for the annual heads-up regarding ticks in the Okanagan, says Brian Sutch of the Vernon Outdoors Club.

“I saw a yellow mountain buttercup in bloom along the Grey Canal above Bella Vista in Vernon yesterday (Tuesday),” he said. In the past, the arrival of the yellow mountain buttercups coincides with the first ticks of the season.

“By the way, my new knee that I got at the end of November is giving me no problems at all. As I am able to do quite long outings already with our dog, I should be out with the VOC when Rambles start in April. Big thanks to Dr. Dooley.”

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It’s not too late to register youngsters for this year’s Nature Detectives Spring Break Camps at the Environmental Education Centre for the Okanagan and Mission Creek Regional Park.

Indoor and outdoor activities for children age five to seven will run from 9 a.m. to noon on March16-20 and again March 23-27.

Each participant will explore nature through play, crafts, games and stories while discovering park trails and ponds. The cost is $125 per youngster for each five-morning camp session.

You can learn more about the spring break camps at rdco.com/parksevents or register by calling 250-469-6140, emailing eeco@rdco.com or dropping in at 2363A Springfield Rd. in the park.

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The spring session of Roll and Stroll, a free, weekly walking club for parents and caregivers with babies and little ones, runs until April 30.

Each Thursday at 9:30 a.m., parents can meet other parents while casually exploring Mission Creek Regional Park in Kelowna. The program is free but registration is required by calling the Environmental Education Centre for the Okanagan at 250-469-6140 or emailing: eeco@rdco.com.

Participants will meet at the EECO, then set out on a leisurely 45-minute walk through the park before returning to the EECO for refreshments. Participants are encouraged to use strollers and baby carriers suitable for weather conditions and rough terrain.

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