I have to start this off with an “I’m not an expert” disclaimer. Until this year I have only been out 1 other time in the 6 years that we’ve lived in the Okanagan. I used to go regularly when we lived in the Edmonton area but not so much since moving here.
Like a lot of other families, Covid has encouraged us to look outside the usual winter activities (downhill skiing, indoor swimming, restaurant going) to budget friendly, easy to social distance activities. After a summer of cycling we knew that it was going to be the right year to get back into Cross Country Skiing (I’m just going to write “Nordic” from now on to save on words!).
In anticipation of a sell out on skis like we saw on bikes in the summer of 2020 we bought a pair of skis and boots for the Husband so he could join me on the nordic adventures. Once we were equipment sorted we headed up to the Kelowna Nordic Ski and Snowshoe Club. Kelowna Nordic is located just off Highway 33 a bit past the turn off to Big White Ski Hill. We’ve been in the area a number of times to paddle Hydraulic Lake so were pretty familiar with the area which is why we chose Kelowna Nordic over Telemark in West Kelowna as our starter area.
After a few visits we now feel we know enough to share for other beginners. Here’s what we know:
1. Paying for trail fees is easy! You can either pay with cash in the donation box, or pay online ahead of time. Why pay for the fees? Fees help with the upkeep of the club: track setting, signage, parking lot maintenance, and so on.
2. Download the app so you always have a map with you. Kelowna Nordic uses Avenza Maps. It’s free to download. To find the map (on ios): tap the + in the upper right of your app>tap “Get Map from the Store”>enter Kelowna in the search field>next screen will list all maps with Kelowna in it>select the map you want>Kelowna Nordic maps are free and once downloaded will be available in your app.
3. Dress in layers: This is a typical outdoor activity suggestion but with nordic especially important. Our first day out I was over dressed and missing an middle layer so was super overheated – even my hands were sweaty!
4. Bring water and snacks. We carry a small lightweight backpack withe snacks, water, basic emergency supplies (because I was a Girl Guide I never go anywhere without a first aid kit, fire starting source, emergency blanket and whistle). There are no food services at the Kelowna Nordic club so at the very least remember water!
5. Bring hand sanitizer and be prepared for outhouses. Restroom facilities at the club are rustic – as in outhouses. They are supplied with toilet paper and hand sanitizer but I would recommend having your own sanitizer at the very least…just in case!
6. Spend some time getting to know the rules – it’s pretty simple, step off the tracks if you need a break, keep your distance from other people on the trails, in the warming huts and in the parking lot. Pack out what you bring in.
7. Know which trails are dog friendly on which ones aren’t. There are a number of trails at the club that are dog friendly/allowed. If you are bringing a dog, stick to those ones. Make sure that you have control of your dog as well, if it doesn’t like people, other dogs, listening to you when you give it instructions – best to leave it at home.
8. There is no cell service (or limited cell service). Here’s why that matters: In my experience kids don’t enjoy nordic as much as adults – or at least the kids I know don’t. I was surprised to discover that for my teen, letting her go off on a snowshoe adventure with her friend was an acceptable way to spend the morning. My husband and I were done our cross country adventure a good hour before the kids were back and it would have been great to be able to check in with them to see where they were – we’ll bring our old school walkie talkies next time!
A couple of thoughts on gear if you are looking to try Nordic Skiing out for yourself. For a beginner I suggest renting or borrowing gear for your first time or two out. This gives you an idea of the type of skis and boots you might like. It also gives you a chance to see if you even like the sport before investing in some gear. In Kelowna check out MEC, Play It Again sports or some of the local shops like Fresh Air to see about renting.
Local shops will also be able to give you some information on the different types of gear/style of skiing.
I have no wax, classic style skis that I bought at Canadian Tire 10 years ago and they suit me just fine. We purchased a similar set up for my husband this year from MEC.