Makin' Trails

The Fur Brigade Trail south of Hardy Falls in Peachland started out as a bare and dry dirt road on Wednesday but as the elevation increased through a steady climb, patches of snow turned into a snow blanket, above. The higher you climb, however, the better the panoramic views of Okanagan Lake.

Talk about pent-up demand for outdoor recreation.

After 22 consecutive days of bathroom renos, the Sheriff did a solo e-bike ride to Kelowna’s downtown last weekend. Then we hiked the Fur Brigade Trail south of Hardy Falls in Peachland on Tuesday. And we launched the downhill ski season at Big White Ski Resort on Wednesday.

With a high pressure ridge over the Southern Interior, Big White had dazzling sunshine, deep blue skies, soft snow on a 100-centimetre base and -1C. Ski patrollers erected ‘Marginal conditions’ signs at the top of lifts since there were some brown dirt spots and some rocks were scraped clean, especially on the ‘breaks’ where there were sudden, sharp descents.

But the skiing was so good that we planned to repeat on Friday, saving cross-country at Kelowna Nordic Ski and Snowshoe Club for this weekend since the next grooming will be today (Dec. 5) to preserve the base. Upper trails are great, according to Thursday’s snow report.

Sovereign Lake Nordic Centre has opened 11 km of green XC trails, 7 km of blue and 19 km of black, plus 27 km of snowshoe trails. With more than 2,500 members and more than 40,000 day-users, Sovereign initially proposed limiting users to the

North Okanagan but has since revised its adherence to the provincial health order to limit users to the Okanagan region and create a safe environment.

Silver Star Mountain Resort launches its downhill season this weekend for season pass holders and for the public on Monday.

In the South Okanagan, Apex Mountain Resort plans to open today. Nickel Plate Nordic Centre was planning to groom on Friday, warning of early-season conditions including rocks, dirt and debris.

Telemark Nordic Club has a good base of snow – 15 centimetres packed in the stadium – but not enough to groom regularly and is not open.

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The series on the Okanagan’s cross-country ski areas and downhill resorts continues with Kelowna Nordic Ski and Snowshoe Club.

In his latest email, president Ryland Garton reports: “We have had little snow in the past week but by very careful grooming, we have been able to keep the lower trails open. The upper trails are in great shape with the exception of Ol’ 33. It always needs a bit more to catch up to the others. Snowshoers will find the lower trails well packed so maybe plan on doing some higher or farther out ones.”

Since the club has so many new members, he explained the location of the three trail entrances: Kallis Creek on Highway 33 (green beginner XC trail to Thunder Mountain, no snowshoe), Summit parking lot on Highway 33 (blue intermediate XC, snowshoe trails have some climbs, OK for dogs) and the Main Cabin on McCulloch Road (ski and snowshoe trails are beginner-friendly, K-9 ski entrance located above the cabin).

“The ski tracker system is not operational this season (not our problem) so we have to rely on the message board on the website to update the grooming. Bear with us while we build a new system in-house,” said Garton.

“We also ask that skiers and snowshoers download and print maps off the website so the ones put out at trailheads are available for visitors.”

To comply with provincial health regulations, snowshoers must walk two metres apart in single file and when passing others to stay two metres apart. Do not congregate unless all are masked, says club secretary Wendy Vandenberg.

Everyone must wear masks in the cabins which are open but will have the following occupancy limits set by Recreation Sites and Trails BC: Main Cabin six (trying to have this increased), Log Cabin six, Backcountry or Hoby Cabin two, Pims Cabin one,

Meadow Cabin two and Storage Quonset two. They will be under review throughout the season. Occupancy and other RSTBC signs on COVID-19 safe practices will be posted, she said.

Hand sanitizer will be provided in all pit toilets. You may only set up chairs in front of or behind your vehicle and not to the side if you wish to eat or drink in parking lots.

“You can now donate online to support grooming costs,” she said. “Our new Online Day Use Donation buttons are at the top of our homepage at: kelownanordic.com. You have the option to use Google Pay or Square for your credit card transaction (no transaction fees for Square for the daily donations).

Posters near the donation boxes will display a QR code, she added. “When you take a photo of the code with your mobile device, it will take you directly to the Online Day Use Donation page where you can continue with a donation. Although spotty, there is limited cellular service for Telus and Bell at the Main and Summit entrances. Rogers has better coverage in the Kelowna Nordic area. Alternatively, we are still accepting cash or cheques (Kelowna Nordic) at our red donation boxes located at each of our entrances.”

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