Makin' Trails

Ski patrollers at Big White Ski Resort recently had a chairlift rescue training session. In the unlikely (and extremely rare) occasion when the lift station is out of operation, guests are lowered to the ground as they sit on a small t-bar, above.

Mother Nature giveth and Mother Nature taketh away.

The Valley has been blessed with successive dumps of snow, but this week (and last) also had frigid temperatures. Hard-core downhill buddy Bob says he experienced both: –25C at the same time as “waist-deep powder.” The Sheriff thought one of those must be an exaggeration.

Bob wore extra layers. The Sheriff and Constant Companion Carmen also wore extra layers at Kelowna Nordic Ski and Snowshoe Club on Sunday after both the club and nearby Highway 33 weather station reported (days earlier) scary low temperatures in the minus 20-plus range.

With –7 C and two centimetres of new snow, conditions were almost mid-season with rare twigs and dirty spots on Upper and Lower Meadow trails out to the Meadow Cabin. Our layers had zippers so we could unzip and cool down during/after a hill climb.

On a sunny Tuesday afternoon, the parking lot at Sovereign Lake was less than half-full and conditions excellent.

The Sheriff traditionally avoids holiday crowds at downhill resorts — groomed runs can be like an obstacle course. On the other hand, cross-country ski areas can have full parking lots — like Sunday —but everyone spreads out on the trails and much of the time, you are alone and enjoying our incredible Okanagan winter ambiance.

Not this year with the late opening/essential-travel-only of Interior highways and Omicron contagion. Ski hills are not going to be as crowded and they are hurting financially. So the Sheriff encourages your local support.

Big White Ski Resort’s daily snow report says accommodation is still available over Christmas and New Year’s.

It’s probably too late to book an online Christmas Festival To-Go time slot to visit Santa’s elves tonight, and get a goody bag of crafts and sweet treats. But at 6:30 p.m., you can enjoy a Christmas Eve fireworks display in the Happy Valley area.

The Moose Cruz is back on Dec. 29 with “a scavenger hunt like no other” — a series of witty clues, hunting down Moose Cruz Clue Boxes with QR codes to scan and solving the riddle all the way to the finish line where the Events Team will present a special surprise. Guests must register online by 3:30 p.m. on Dec. 28 to receive the “clue package.”

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All that fresh snow meant Telemark Nordic Club opened for the season last weekend. All lifts at Silver Star Mountain Resort are now open; last Friday, night skiing commenced and Milky Way Bannister Park opened.

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The annual series on plans at cross-country ski areas and downhill resorts continues with Silver Star Mountain Resort teaming up with Sovereign Lake Nordic Centre for the inaugural Sovereign2SilverStar Nordic Ski Marathon on April 2-3.

Two days of classic and skate skiing — two distances of 21 and 42 kilometres each day — will start at Sovereign Lake and end in Silver Star Village. To register, go to sovereign2silverstar.com/

“We are thrilled to introduce this new event connecting Sovereign Lake Nordic Centre and Silver Star,” said Ian Jenkins, Silver Star’s director of marketing and sales. “Not only do we think it will bring a great presence of both Nordic and alpine skiers to our village, but we also think it will be a great addition to our Seismic Mountain Festival that we are bringing back to the resort in April.”

The marathon will be a series of competitive and non-competitive heats sanctioned as a Visma Challenger Series event. The Visma Ski Classics is an international series of long-distance ski races consisting of the 12 most traditional and prestigious cross-country skiing events in the world.

After the “competitive” waves start, smaller “fun” waves will be spaced out to allow everyone to enjoy their time on the trails. A charitable component will support KidSport, which encourages and supports kids to be more active.

“The two areas are working together to build an adventure that carries on well after the skiing is done,” said Marcus Boyle, head of the organizing committee. “When you get to the finish line, you’re just getting started as the party gets underway at local restaurants and bars. Choose your own experience with competitive and fun waves, all while finishing in the Silver Star Village which will be filled with excitement as we celebrate the end of the 2021-22 winter season.”

After the inaugural Seismic Mountain Festival in 2019, Silver Star took a break during the pandemic and will bring it back to life March 26 to April 3 with the S2S as one of its anchor events.

“It has tremendous potential with Sovereign and Silver Star working together to showcase a world-class Nordic event on a truly world-class cross-country trail system in the Okanagan, itself a world-class destination,” said Jim Bates, one of the organizers.

“It is already pretty interesting to see registrations come in and where people are coming from. We want to encourage Okanagan skiers to participate and celebrate. In time, given the time of year, it will serve as a catalyst for folks from afar to come for a vacation stay and provide a meaningful economic impact.”

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