Last week felt like March — winter in the hills and mild temperatures in the valley bottom.
So the Sheriff and Constant Companion Carmen had our first two e-bike rides of 2021 in addition to skiing with friends, who had also been out cycling.
It was like spring biking in Kelowna — a little wet and some ice patches on Brandt’s Creek Linear Park, but bare and dry on the Okanagan Rail Trail out to the airport. Bikes had to be hosed off (in mid-January) when we got home but you immediately realized how much you missed cruising around on two wheels.
On Wednesday, we escaped low valley cloud and found sunshine at Kelowna Nordic Ski and Snowshoe Club even though the early-morning snow report from groomer (and prez) Ryland Garton indicated overcast skies at that time. His –8 C didn’t last long as the sun beat down.
Instead of our usual favourite loops, we took Backcountry Connector to the Backcountry Cabin for lunch, then went the reverse way down Backcountry Trail’s surprising amount of downhill to Riverside. A new-to-us section of Jackrabbit, up Spruce Glen instead of down and we finished with a lovely downhill on Sawmill. Something different and exhilarating.
With many Canadian Snowbirds not heading south this winter, Club 65 membership at Big White Ski Resort is up by 112% from last year. Membership is automatic for season pass holders who are 65 years of age and older, and provides a host of benefits.
“The fresh air and exercise are important for healthy life,” said former Kelowna city council member Tom Treadgold, a season passholder for the past eight years and a Club 65 member.
He and four other members drive up to the resort separately, park in the new Club 65 parking lot in Happy Valley, put on their downhill equipment, mask up and meet at a designated lift or location.
“The ability to share time with friends is always cherished. We always wear masks and social distance. The season pass makes skiing affordable. One can go up and make a few or many runs. The pass makes parking easy and one doesn’t feel internally pressured to make more runs. Take the day as it comes and remember we can go up again soon,” he said.
“The atmosphere is friendly and enthusiastic. The parking lots are well-plowed. The on-hill grooming on various runs has been very, very good (his favourite runs are Sapphire and Sundance).
“Lift lines are usually quick and there is perpetual polite enforcement of masking up as well as social distancing, which makes everyone feel cared about and safe. To restate, the on-mountain protocols and staff enthusiasm and politeness are excellent. And the grooming is wonderful.”
This season, the Club 65 priority parking lot is in front of the Happy Valley Day Lodge where the skating rink was built last season.
“For 2020-21, the extra parking is most helpful. It is a significant assistance for us to stay socially distant and feel safe. The COVID-19 protocols at Big White are very strong, prudent and politely enforced. We always feel ‘safe’ in lift lines, and within Big White facilities — Black Forest Day Lodge, Happy Valley Day Lodge, Dizzy’s and Village Mall/Clock Tower,” said Treadgold.
In addition to the regular season pass discounts and benefits, season pass holders aged 65-plus receive exclusive discounts and deals, such as:
— A 50% discount on the popular $60 Performance Tune at the Big White Repair Shop in the Village Centre Mall, two per season.
— A one-time $25 discount with a purchase of $100 or more (before tax) at the Altitude shop.
— More deals to be announced throughout the season.
“At the end of the day, it’s a way to promote a healthy, active and outdoor lifestyle among our senior population,” said Nikki Wiart, the resort’s communications coordinator.
“Many of our Club 65 members own property on the mountain, and can ski as much or little as they are capable of. During COVID-19, when people are isolating and avoiding gathering, seniors often bear the brunt of that. I know my own grandma is quite lonely these days. And so the chance to be outside, with friends (from a distance) and have a bit of ‘normalcy’ is very appreciated by our Club 65 members.”
Members of Sovereign Lake Nordic Centre are mourning the passing of Keith Brewis
“In the early days, he served in a multitude of jobs from providing advice and assistance to novices to making members and new skiers welcome. We owe a great deal to him for establishing the North Okanagan Cross Country Ski Club and assisting it to become the amazing club it is today,” said general manager Troy Hudson. “He will be truly missed by the entire ski community.”
Sovereign Lake Nordic Centre has a new series called Virtually Sovereign: Fast and Curious, which will run through April 4.
The COVID-conscious series was designed by a small group of Masters Club volunteers “to get SLNC club’s 19-plus members and Masters out on the world-class trails to challenge yourself or simply explore some different trails.”
The two options are the Fast and the Curious.
“Fast” is a relative term. It could be skiing faster than your friends. It could be skiing faster than you did last month. It could be skiing a course to set a standard to improve on. This series is timed, but there are no prizes for skiing the fastest, just draw prizes for turning up,” said Hudson.
“Curious” is about exploring possibilities. Skiing new trails. Skiing further. Exploring loops chosen to help skiers progress.
When you enter your results, there is no place to record the time but there is a place to upload photos from your ski. Draw prizes will be awarded to finishers each week.”
For more information and to register, go to sovereignlake.com.
J.P. Squire, aka the Ski Sheriff, is a retired journalist. Email: email@example.com