Makin' Trails

Big White Ski Resort was crisp and cold this week, so cold that the Gem Lake and the Cliff lifts were closed. Milder temperatures are in the forecast for the Valentine’s Day weekend.

Weird and wacky winter weather continued this week with frigid temperatures demanding extra precautions.

The Sheriff and Constant Companion Carmen took advantage of the last spring-like days for our fourth e-bike ride last weekend, cycling the Okanagan Rail Trail between the downtown and Kelowna airport.

On Sunday, our pre-Super Bowl outing was to Kelowna Nordic Ski and Snowshoe Club trails which had -10 C, sun and blue sky at 8 a.m. The promise from club prez and groomer Ryland Garton: “Fantastic conditions for both classic and skate, will be an absolutely gorgeous day, you don’t want to miss it!”

As something new, CCC decided she wanted to do several of our favourite trails in reverse — Spruce Glen, Lower Meadow, Fletcher Challenge and Axel’s Alley (aka Backcountry).

Although it’s physically impossible, the entire outing felt like we were going uphill and ended with a CCC promise: “I’ll never do that ever again.”

To reiterate an earlier comment, the Sheriff has always felt that certain trails are most enjoyable skiing in one direction. The long, long downhills on Lower Meadow and Axel’s Alley, for example.

Then, the stinging Polar Vortex arrived with Big White at –24 C on Thursday morning, –25 C at Silver Star and –23 C at Apex. Big White closed Gem and Cliff lifts; Silver Star closed Powder Gulch and Home Run T-Bar. However, there were huge snowfalls leading into this week.

Caroline S. found a new-to-me website, snowseekers.ca/conditions, with the comment: “Seems story-worthy to me.”

SnowSeekers claims to be “Western Canada’s sole snow round up website” with snow accumulations (plus base and year-to-date) at B.C. and Alberta resorts for today, the previous 24 hours and the previous week.

On Thursday, for example, Apex led the pack with 112 centimetres during the past week, Big White 56, Baldy 49 and Silver Star 24.

The Sheriff responded that fresh snow is only one consideration and regulars should consider temperature, the weather, visibility and which lifts are open.

Base is only important at the beginning of the season. There is virtually no difference between a base of 150 and 250 centimetres once dirt, rocks and low undergrowth are covered. You only ski/board on the top five cm.

Temperature is key.

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With Valentine’s Day and Family Day approaching, Big White Central Reservations is offering locals 40% off three-night-minimum stays in all condominiums, townhomes, cabins and club suites, and two-night-minimum stays at Chateau Big White, Inn at Big White and White Crystal Inn. Some restrictions may apply. Offer valid until Feb. 18.

At Silver Star, you can save up to 35% off accommodation with multiple dates and specials, plus get additional savings on lift tickets when purchased with your accommodation deal.

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At Sovereign Lake Nordic Centre, COVID-19 has not slowed down progress in program numbers.

While adult programming was forced to stop in December due to provincial health orders, participation from Bunnies to Academy and Biathlon has seen steady growth, resulting in the need for more coaches and increased resources.

“There is a lot of momentum at the moment and we have an incredible team of volunteer coaches giving so much back to our club and ski community,” said Eric de Nys, programs director.

With a focus on bringing back competitions in 2021-22 and expanding youth ski development at all age levels, Sovereign Lake is poised to launch some great new initiatives next winter, he said.

“SLNC youth biathlon programs have seen tremendous growth over the past two seasons, in large part due to the coaching staff of Lynn and Peter Algra. With the addition of a part-time paid coach in Chris Halldorson, the program has grown exponentially to 18 full-time program participants.”

Pandemic restrictions limited growth numbers this season but the biathlon program is on track to double again in the next two years with investment in more rifles, a covered target platform and upgraded lighting to allow for more evening training opportunities.

“As with the Academy Ski Program, the Academy Biathlon Program continues to develop and talks about a future training centre to provide opportunities for post-secondary athletes are not for off,” he said.

Sovereign Lake is holding a photo contest this month with a chance to win prize packs. There are three categories — Best Landscape Shot (with or without people), Best Action Shot and Best Wildlife Shot.

To take part, follow @sovereignlake and post your images to Instagram with Sovereign Lake Nordic Club as the location. Use the hashtags @sovereignlake #slncfebphotos and #mysovereign. Winners will be announced during the first week of March.

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As Canadians look for safe outdoor opportunities, Trans Canada Trail (TCT) announced the launch of the Blahs to Ahhhs Winter Campaign.

The campaign is a response to polling data from a national survey showing 95% of Canadians’ trail use is motivated by a desire to enhance their physical and mental health — with 100% of Canadians aged 18-24 saying this was the case. The same poll indicated 69 per cent of Canadians intend to keep using trails this winter.

“The Leger survey revealed that 50% of Canadians have increased their trail use since March 2020. As the longest network of recreational trails in the world — and with 80% of Canadians living within 30 minutes of The Great Trail, there are an abundance of safe spaces where Canadians can take the time they need to maintain and enhance their health and well-being,” said Eleanor McMahon, president and CEO of Trans Canada Trail.

For Canadians interested in exploring the trail in their community this winter, resources such as a trail map, family-friendly winter activities and a photo challenge contest are available at thegreattrail.ca/wintermentalhealth

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