Nordic Skiing at Silver Star
It's being described as the new sexy outdoor sport, and in the Okanagan Valley the experience sits right at our back door.
Just outside Vernon lies Western Canada's largest Nordic trail system with 105 km of groomed trails at Silver Star Mountain Resort/Sovereign Lake.
The 2012/13 season is the first time outdoor adventure seekers can access an all-inclusive season's pass which in addition to unlimited skiing and snowboarding across more than 3,065 acres of terrain allows access to:
Nordic skiing, snowshoeing, Tube Town Adventure Park and Ice skating on Brewer's Pond.
In an attempt to tempt locals to the mountain to try out Nordic skiing, for the first time or even to revisit the sport after years gone by, Silver Star invited three residents to strap on some skis and hit the trails.
All three were teamed up with Guy Paulsen, a ski school instructor for over 25 years. Paulsen was eager to get the three novice nordic skiers geared up and on the trails, in hopes they would spread the word of their experience back in Vernon and Kelowna.
"It's kind of hard to tell people in the Okanagan that this is right in your back yard. I think the term 'world class' is over done, but when you have the best in the world coming to you and saying, ' this is how you do it' that is nice to hear and I think everyone should know that," says Paulsen.
By best in the world, Paulsen is referring to the World Cup teams who train at Silver Star and the class of the trail system.
Paulsen describes Nordic skiing as a cross over sport, for those who like to be fit, or who are coming back to it after alpine skiing.
"The reality of it (Nordic skiing) is the bulk of the skiers in Canada are baby boomers, and they are aging, but they want to ski. They may not necessarily want to ski or ride their snowboard all day but they want to get out and do exercise. Another part of it is, it's cool and a bit sexy. You look at some of the Nordic apparel, it's beautiful, it's stunning and fashionable."
The gear, according to Paulsen, is also easy to use and it is light weight.
In an attempt to coach Vernon resident Sirena Nickoli, who works for City Furniture, to Nordic ski Paulsen says he tapped into Nickoli's background of a Zumba instructor as a way to get her going.
"If I can somehow metaphorically tie into any of your past experiences, if you can understand the benefits then you can understand the concepts of the different movements on skis," explains Paulson. "It's all about the glide, we want to glide that constant pendulum of back and forth instead of start stop."
Nickoli who had only Nordic skied once before was terrified of the cold more than anything, but decided to give it a try.
"I am a Zumba instructor, but when Guy described Nordic skiing I was interested in getting a different work out and being outside. The cardio was great, I broke a sweat."
On her first time out with Paulson, Nickoli tried skate skiing and says it was extremely difficult to get the glide movement down.
"The next time I tried classic (Nordic skiing) and I loved it."
The second resident to join the team was Bruce Acton, of Acton Consulting in Vernon, who used to Nordic ski many years ago when he used to live in Edmonton.
"We used to break trail on golf courses, but it has been over 15 years since I've been on Nordic skis. When I came up here I had an amazing lesson and had a great time."
After hitting the trials for a few days Acton says he is excited to get better at the sport. "I am a competitive person, I want to try some different trails and a different technique."
Galen Barnhardt, the assistant winemaker for Cedar Creek Estate Winery, was the third local to hit the trails alongside Paulson.
Barnhardt used to break trail on Nordic skis as a teen, but says its been years since he strapped on a pair of classic skis.
"I am a telemarker, and usually have a season's ski pass, but this year I didn't get one."
Although it had been awhile since Barnhardt hit a Nordic trail, Paulson says he was a natural.
"Galen really picked up the glide easily and I think he should stick with it."
Barnhardt says he is considering returning to the mountain to Nordic ski, because it is accessible and affordable.
"For $16, I can get a day pass to the Silver Star trails. I don't have equipment right now, but I am looking for some used skis, until then I can rent up here for a decent price."
To gear up to Nordic Ski at Silver Star, you can rent all of the equipment you need for $23 and to access all 105 km of trail a pass is $22.