Sov­er­eign Lake al­ready busy

The Daily Courier - - OUTDOORS -

It was the best of both Okana­gan worlds last week­end.

On Satur­day, the Sher­iff joined other mem­bers of the Cen­tral Okana­gan Out­doors Club for a hike through Stephens Coy­ote Ridge Re­gional Park in Kelowna. There was no snow or ice, and the fall tem­per­a­tures were pleas­ant.

On Sun­day, COOC mem­bers checked out the mid-win­ter con­di­tions at Sov­er­eign Lake Nordic Cen­tre in the North Okana­gan. We took gen­tle (green) Wood­land Bell and more chal­leng­ing Black Prince over to Black Prince Cabin. It was too early for lunch, so we took Carl Wylie Trail back to the lodge.

As al­ways, both of the Sher­iff’s favourite trails were metic­u­lously groomed.

Novem­ber, March and April are like that in the Okana­gan. You can en­joy fall/spring con­di­tions in the val­ley bot­tom, but at the higher el­e­va­tions it’s still win­ter with all the op­por­tu­ni­ties to play in the snow.

Sov­er­eign Lake is al­ready set­ting records only a month into its win­ter sea­son.

The pop­u­lar ski area opened on Mon­day, Nov. 5, so the first full week­end was Nov. 10 and 11 — the Re­mem­brance Day long week­end. Staff sold a to­tal of 1,028 day passes, and there were lots of sea­son pass hold­ers.

“It was a zoo,” ad­mit­ted gen­eral man­ager Troy Hud­son with a laugh. “But so many of our trails are one way that any con­ges­tion falls apart.”

Ev­ery week­end since then has been busy, he added, with a lot of clubs com­ing up for what many are de­scrib­ing as the best earl­y­sea­son snow con­di­tions in North Amer­ica.

Mem­bers of the main core of re­gional clubs — Tele­mark, Larch Hills and Revel­stoke — all came for early-sea­son train­ing, plus there were mem­bers from other Cana­dian and U.S. clubs.

“The park­ing lot is al­ways a good in­di­ca­tor,” said Hud­son. “It’s been gi­gan­tic, even the night ski­ing.”

Day ski­ing hours are 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. seven days a week, and night ski­ing is 5-8 p.m. Tues­day to Thurs­day.

Regis­tra­tion for the pop­u­lar Mas­ters pro­gram has al­ready reached 176 com­pared to last year’s to­tal of 156 “which is wild. We’re not even at the end of regis­tra­tion,” said Hud­son.

Mem­ber­ship in Sov­er­eign Lake Nordic Club is al­ready at 1,829, so it will likely ex­ceed last year’s all-time record of 1,851.

“We’re try­ing to break 2,000,” said Hud­son, not­ing no Cana­dian club has ever had that many mem­bers.

This sea­son, Sov­er­eign in­tro­duced a new $100 fam­ily pass — two adults and chil­dren — for snow­shoe­ing “as a way of in­tro­duc­ing new peo­ple to the club. It’s a scream­ing good deal,” said Hud­son.

Dur­ing the off-sea­son, Sov­er­eign Lake only com­pleted small im­prove­ments such as a new wood stove in the Black Prince Cabin, im­prov­ing the biathlon range and in­vest­ing in race equip­ment, but did a lot of prepara­tory work to­ward host­ing the 2020 Cana­dian Ski Cham­pi­onships in late March 2020.

About 1,300 par­tic­i­pants from mid­gets to se­niors are ex­pected to attend since the premier event on the 2020 do­mes­tic race cal­en­dar will fall im­me­di­ately after the World Cup Fi­nals in Can­more, Alta., on March 20, 2020.

Sov­er­eign is hop­ing ath­letes from across North Amer­ica, and hope­fully the U.S. and Europe, will ex­tend their stay for an­other week to come to the Okana­gan. “That will be huge,” said Hud­son. In the of­fi­cial an­nounce­ment, Cross Coun­try Canada (ccc­ski.com) noted: “Clubs through­out the area, in­clud­ing Sov­er­eign Lake, Larch Hills in Salmon Arm, Tele­mark out of Kelowna and Kim­ber­ley along with Black Jack from the Koote­nays and Revel­stoke, have con­tin­ued to sup­port high­per­for­mance rac­ing pro­grams over the last 10 sea­sons.

“Sov­er­eign Lake Nordic has played a crit­i­cal role in pro­vid­ing Cana­dian cross-coun­try skiers ac­cess to snow early in the sea­son as the an­chor to our NorAm pro­gram,” said Dave Dyer, Cross Coun­try Canada’s events director.

“It was time we fin­ished the sea­son off in the same style as we have be­come ac­cus­tomed to ev­ery De­cem­ber by go­ing back to the Ver­non re­gion for our na­tional cham­pi­onships.”

The se­lec­tion com­mit­tee was es­pe­cially im­pressed with the evo­lu­tion of the lead­er­ship group and ded­i­cated staff at Sov­er­eign Lake, added Dyer.

Ho­molo­gated in 2005 to meet FIS stan­dards in prepa­ra­tion for the re­turn of the FIS World Cup to Canada, the trails at Sov­er­eign Lake will pro­vide a va­ri­ety of op­tions for both se­nior and ju­nior skiers at the 94th run­ning of the Cana­dian Ski Cham­pi­onships event.

“SLNC last hosted the Cana­dian Ski Cham­pi­onships in 1995, mak­ing the 2020 na­tion­als cam­paign the 25th an­niver­sary of that event. An an­nual stop on the Hay­wood NorAm cir­cuit each De­cem­ber, host­ing other world-class events such as the 2005 World Cup and 2011 World Mas­ters Cham­pi­onships, SLNC is poised to once again wel­come our coun­try’s top ath­letes dur­ing these eight days of rac­ing,” said Pat Pearce, who chairs the Sov­er­eign bid com­mit­tee. “The or­ga­niz­ing com­mit­tee is ex­cited to get to work on its tasks to host the 2020 Cana­dian Ski Na­tional Cham­pi­onships.”

At an el­e­va­tion of 1667 me­tres, Sov­er­eign Lake Nordic Club and Sil­ver Star Moun­tain Re­sort to­gether pro­vide more than 105 kilo­me­tres of daily groomed Nordic ski trails. Its high el­e­va­tion, mod­er­ate win­ter tem­per­a­tures, world-class groom­ing and out­stand­ing early- and late-sea­son ski con­di­tions pro­vide some of the best cross-coun­try ski­ing in the world, said Dyer.

SLNC, estab­lished in 1974 with back­coun­try ski­ing roots dat­ing back to the early 1930s, hosts more than 29,000 visitors an­nu­ally and of­fers a busy S’Cool Ski Pro­gram for more than 1,700 lo­cal chil­dren in three school dis­tricts.

* * * Great news for those who love the 16 wood tres­tles, two steel spans and two rock tun­nels in the Myra Canyon south of Kelowna. At this week’s reg­u­lar monthly meet­ing of the Cen­tral Okana­gan Out­doors Club, mem­bers voted in favour of do­nat­ing $1,000 to the Myra Canyon Tres­tle Restora­tion So­ci­ety.

“The do­na­tion is much ap­pre­ci­ated and will be put to good use in 2019 to pay for trail im­prove­ments,” said De­nis Davis, so­ci­ety pres­i­dent.

Since 1993, the non-profit reg­is­tered char­i­ta­ble foun­da­tion has worked with BC Parks to main­tain and care for the 12-kilo­me­tre Myra Canyon sec­tion of the for­mer Ket­tle Val­ley Rail­way. Trail coun­ters tally 70,000 visitors a year.

Its an­nual bud­get is $30,000 a year from fundrais­ing.

* * * The 2018-19 sea­son may have only just be­gun, but Big White Ski Re­sort also has 2020 in its sights. The re­sort is in the early stages of be­ing con­sid­ered as a host for a FIS World Cup Snow­board Cross event next sea­son.

The first step in de­ter­min­ing whether Big White is a good fit for an event of this mag­ni­tude is a site in­spec­tion — com­pleted last week­end by Jeff Ihaski, pres­i­dent of White In­dus­tries Ltd. and world-rec­og­nized snowcross builder.

He and Flynn Sed­don, the re­sort’s director of ter­rain parks and out­door events, toured Telus Park on Nov. 30 and Dec. 1, de­ter­min­ing the lay­out of a po­ten­tial snowcross course as well as the snow­mak­ing ca­pa­bil­i­ties in that area.

Ihaski, who has been build­ing snowcross cour­ses for the Olympics since Torino in 2006, will re­port his find­ings back to Canada Snow­board, which he says are “vi­tal in the suc­cess of the bid to host.”

“To tell you the truth, the venue is awe­some,” Ihaski said. “We’re just find­ing the top sec­tion to be pretty tight and steep. So we’re try­ing to find ways to run that.”

The pair con­cluded they will have more than enough room to build the course by re­mov­ing a few rails at the top of the park.

For those who spend a lot of time in the park, don’t worry, as these ad­just­ments shouldn’t al­ter the ex­pe­ri­ence too much.

“I don’t know how much bet­ter it could be than to be able to ride, park and watch the best ath­letes in the world com­pete in snowcross,” Sed­don said.

Lo­gis­ti­cally, Ihaski said, Telus Park is al­ready set up for an event like this, which is why he and Sed­don didn’t con­sider other ar­eas on the moun­tain. There’s enough space, ac­cess to power, and room to drive up and un­load any needed equip­ment.

An event like this would be step­ping stone for the re­sort. It would grad­u­ate Big White Ski Re­sort to the same tier as Whistler Black­comb, Cha­monix in France and Ver­bier in Switzer­land.

“Big White, quite hon­estly, de­serves it,” Ihaski said. “Big White’s been re­ally a stand­out in Western Canada for sup­port­ing am­a­teur sports. I think this is re­ally the next step of some­thing that was a long time com­ing for them.”

Big White has worked closely with the In­ter­na­tional Par­a­lympic Com­mit­tee in the past. Last Fe­bru­ary, it hosted the 2018 World Para-Snow­board World Cup Fi­nals, which saw 80 para-ath­letes from 16 coun­tries across the globe com­pete in snow­board­cross and banked slalom.

“To have a FIS World Cup snow­board event would pretty much cap off my en­tire ca­reer at Big White Ski Re­sort,” said Sed­don, whose long his­tory at Big White in­cludes work­ing as the moun­tain’s first snow­board in­struc­tor in the late 1980s and then mov­ing back per­ma­nently in 1994.

Over­all, both Ihaski and Sed­don were pleased with the out­come of the in­spec­tion.

“If Jeff knows that he could con­struct a course here that would sat­isfy the in­ter­na­tional riders and that there’s a course he could build here that he would feel proud of, then that’s fine with me,” Sed­don said. “We have to have a top-notch course in or­der to host a top-level event.”

*** Mem­bers of the Cen­tral Okana­gan Nat­u­ral­ists’ Club will go on a jour­ney to Namibia at their next meet­ing, 7 p.m. on Dec. 11 at Evan­gel Church, 3261 Gor­don Dr. in Kelowna.

For his pre­sen­ta­tion on Jew­els of Na­ture in Namibia, Ge­orge W. Scot­ter, a long-term mem­ber of CONC, will take mem­bers on a cir­cle trip through­out much of Namibia. They will visit the World Her­itage sites at Twylfel­fontein to see 6,000-year-old rock art and the Namib desert to climb mas­sive sand dunes while en­joy­ing the mam­mals, large and small, and dozens of birds at Etosha Na­tional Park and other ar­eas.

He hopes mem­bers will gain an un­der­stand­ing of the threats to species such as chee­tahs and black rhi­noc­eros, and the role of eco­tourism in sus­tain­ing those pop­u­la­tions.

Scot­ter was a re­search sci­en­tist and re­search director for the Cana­dian Wildlife Ser­vice, En­vi­ron­ment Canada, for 30 years. He is a past pres­i­dent of Na­ture Canada.

J.P. Squire, a.k.a. the Ski Sher­iff, is a re­tired Okana­gan Week­end Edi­tion re­porter and an avid out­doors en­thu­si­ast. His col­umn ap­pears Satur­days. You can con­tact him with your out­door news at [email protected]

J.P. SQUIRE/Spe­cial to The Okana­gan Week­end

Mem­bers of the Cen­tral Okana­gan Out­doors Club checked out the mid-win­ter ski con­di­tions at Sov­er­eign Lake Nordic Cen­tre in the North Okana­gan last Sun­day. It was too early in the morn­ing for lunch at the Black Prince Cabin, above, so a lit­tle more wax was ap­plied to skis.

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