As snow creeps down valley hillsides, Okanagan XC ski areas and downhill resorts are preparing to open — if they have not already launched their 2021-22 season.
While the Ski Sheriff and Constant Companion Carmen waited for the ideal day to launch their winter season, we squeezed in one more bike ride Monday along Brandt’s Creek Linear Park (icy patches), Kelowna waterfront (windy) and Mission Creek Greenway.
Big White Ski Resort planned to open Friday, snow permitting, after delaying it by one day. The Bullet and Plaza chairlifts and Lara’s Gondola were to start loading at 8:45 p.m.
Silver Star Mountain Resort planned to open for Nordic skiing on Friday and for downhill on Dec. 3. “We have some great XC lessons and packages available for beginners who are new to the sport and/or wanting to learn what it’s all about,” said Chantelle Deacon, communications manager.
In the South Okanagan, Nickel Plate Nordic Centre unofficially opened earlier without rentals but planned officially open fully-staffed on Friday (Nov. 26), said general manager Tricia Wilson.
“Skiing and snowshoeing right now are very good after a rocky start to the season. We groomed all our trails and opened Oct. 28, and it looked like that would be it for the season. Then, that big rain came and set us back. But we’ve recovered wonderfully!”
On Thursday, Sovereign Lake Nordic Centre reported “12-14 cms of fresh Okanagan champagne powder that we have packed for a beautiful track this morning. Once all the open trails are groomed, we will be working on Woodland Bell to open it hopefully on Friday (Nov. 26).”
Sovereign will host the Sovereign Open Western Canada Cup #1 on Dec. 4-5 — the biggest event of the season — and is looking for more volunteers for the start/finish lines, for timing, helping out with food distribution, handing out volunteer schwag and assisting on-course with control. Volunteers qualify for more than 25 draw prizes each day.
Some of North America’s best athletes will be trying to gain FIS points to qualify for the 2022 Beijing Olympics.
Telemark Nordic Club in West Kelowna has had the first few snowfalls with about 15 centimetres of snow on the ground (a little more up higher) including 4 cms on Tuesday (Nov. 23). It is planning to open for skiing and snowshoeing on Dec. 4 (depending on snow conditions).
Telemark has started snowmobile grooming but still has construction underway on an expanded parking lot and trail lighting repairs after last week’s windstorm.
Apex Mountain Resort plans to open on Dec. 11.
The annual series on cross-country ski areas and downhill resorts continues with Telemark Nordic Club in West Kelowna.
“Last year, we hit a new season pass/membership record with almost 1,800 members and we have already hit that this year. It looks like it’s going to be another busy year for Nordic ski areas,” said Telemark GM Mike Edwards.
The club held its annual ski swap at Kelowna Cycle on Oct. 23 raising a record $7,000 for youth competitive programs. The annual volunteer work party and barbecue on Oct. 31 had 75 people help prepare for the season with lots of trail brushing, firewood splitting/stacking, painting and many other odd jobs.
“The biggest change at Telemark this year is that we are expanding our parking lot to add about 40 parking spots,” said Edwards.
“This is a much-needed change as we had vehicles parked up and down Glenrosa Road on most weekends last year. We could not start construction until early November but we should be done in time for the season. The new expansion will bring parking closer to the main day lodge.”
Telemark is also going green, he said. “We have started construction of a Grid Tie Solar System to supply all our electrical power. Each year, we spend about $6,000 on electricity; this project will reduce that to $0 so that we can lower our operating costs and do our part to help the environment. The ground works are done. We are just waiting for the solar panels to arrive and we should have installation completed by early winter.”
Staying with the theme of going green, Telemark has purchased a Taiga electric-powered snowmobile: quieter, healthier for staff/
volunteers, low maintenance and better for the environment. It will arrive in the new year, he said.
“We have also substantially renovated our rental equipment area. Rental demand has more than doubled in the last couple of years at Telemark. With all the new equipment, and more people renting skis and snowshoes, our rental room was in desperate need of an update to add more room for equipment and have a more efficient layout with a nicer atmosphere.”
Telemark also rebuilt its deck since the old one was falling apart and becoming unsafe. “This will really help to spruce up the outside of the day lodge,” said Edwards.
On the programs side, Telemark is investing in the future. “Chris Haldorson, formerly the part-time biathlon coach, is now working full-time as a coach and Integrated Youth Program coordinator. Chris will help to build and integrate Telemark’s youth programs from the ground up with the goal of creating a Nordic skiing culture focusing on community, fun and excellence.”
The same COVID protocols as last year will be in place with limited numbers allowed in buildings for short periods of time. There are currently no vaccination requirements to ski or snowshoe.
Telemark is looking for one more seasonal guest services staff member to help sell passes, rentals and more. Go to the website job posting for more information. Submit a resume and cover letter by Dec. 1 to mike.edwards@telemarknordic. com or phone 250-707-5925.
J.P. Squire, aka the Ski Sheriff, is a retired journalist. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org