The South Okanagan's cross-country skiing playground had a bonus for diehard skiers this fall.
Nickel Plate Nordic Centre started grooming on Oct. 24 so skiers could enjoy a weekend of pre-season adventures Nov. 10 to 12 before the ski area officially opened on Nov. 24.
"The bonus weekend let you dive into winter fun even earlier, adding an extra layer of excitement. It was the perfect opportunity to savour the pristine snow, get your legs moving and beat the rush," said Kevin Dyck, marketing and communications manager. Nickel Plate welcomed the UBC Nordic ski team for its five-day pre-season camp and the Telemark race team for that soft weekend opening.
"We are also offering new early-season masters refresher camps. Whether you're a classic or skate skier, these three-day camps are designed to help you kick the dust off your muscle memory so you can start the season on the right…ski. The perennial Rick Watson is running the camps, full of invaluable tips and focused training to refine your technique."
Day 1 and 2 of the camps will have a morning and afternoon session of 1.5 hours (three hours total). Day 3 will be a morning session only. The November camp will be classic technique. The December camp will be skate. To learn more about the camps and how to sign up, go to: nickelplatenordic.org
"We believe that winter fun should be accessible to all and we strive to keep our prices as low as possible (to the chagrin of our GM)," said Dyck with a laugh. Day passes for adults (ages 19 to 64) are $18.50, youth passes (age six to 18) are $10 each and children five-and-under can ski for free.
If your child is ready, the youth skills development program (SDP) is the perfect way to introduce young adventurers to the joys of snow sports, said Dyck.
"Whether your child is a beginner or aspires to become a skilled skier, our program offers something for everyone. The SDP is designed to build fundamental skiing techniques, endurance and a deep love for the sport. Our expert coaches create a supportive environment where your child can thrive, make new friends and develop lifelong skills."
Nickel Plate offers various options, including group sessions, private coaching and specialized training for those interested in competition.
Dyck also gave a shout-out to the club's many volunteers.
"As we prepare for the upcoming season, we want to extend our deepest gratitude to the incredible volunteers who have poured their time and effort into ensuring that the Nickel Plate Nordic Centre is ready for action. From cutting, splitting and loading firewood to staining the entire day lodge exterior, their hard work has been truly exceptional. They even moved the wood stove in the old part of the day lodge to prevent chimney damage and built a safety railing around it for added security," he said.
Volunteers also scrubbed the daylodge floor, deep-cleaned bathrooms, installed flooring in the rental shed, painted and repaired various areas, removed the wax trailer, brushed the trails and rerouted the Bonanza snowshoe trail. In addition, Weyerhaueser, via Lawrence's logging crew, delivered a new load of wood for this season.
"We cannot thank these dedicated volunteers enough for their invaluable contributions. Their passion and commitment to the centre have been instrumental in ensuring a fantastic season. It's their hard work and love for the centre that make our winter dreams come true," said Dyck.
This season is not just about skiing, he emphasized. "It's also about connecting with fellow snow sports enthusiasts and enjoying the camaraderie. We have a lineup of exciting social events and gatherings planned throughout the season."
On the second Sunday of each month, Nickel Plate will host a Speakers' Series “lunch and learn.” Topics will range from fitness to social issues and even a reading from one of its members who is a celebrated author. The club will also host a monthly “full moon” potluck and ski.
"The moonlight schedule has been massaged so the events land on a weekend. They aren’t always truly on the day of the full moon but they’ll be fun regardless," promised Dyck. "We can’t wait to welcome you back.”
For the last three years, Nickel Plate skiers have been on snow by Nov. 11 and in the past five years, they have always been skiing before the end of November, noted president Rick Watson.
"With everything else going up in price, you’ll be glad to hear that Nickel Plate is holding the line with respect to pricing on season memberships and day passes. From a club viewpoint, we’re taking the next couple of years to focus on ‘re-lifing’ our infrastructure and grooming capabilities. Next year, we’re looking to re-roof the entire day lodge, for example."
Last summer, Nickel Plate applied for a grant to purchase a new grooming machine.
"The old groomer is still working OK, but we’re quickly approaching the end of its warranty period and getting close to 5,000-hour operating hours (and that’s when things can start to go sideways on these machines). We’re focussed on having a super reliable machine with minimal unexpected downtime so that trail conditions are great every day," said Watson.
He also thanked all the volunteers. "A strong membership base that also volunteers its time to support club events and projects is critical to our ongoing operation. Last year, we had over 1,000 hours in volunteer support."
The Nickel Plate Loppet will be back March 17, 2024—St Patrick’s Day, he added. "It will be a classic-only loppet. Loppet distances and course routes are still to be finalized but I can guarantee there will be a course and distance to challenge every level of skier we have."
The president reminded those who drive up from Penticton via Green Mountain Road that Nickel Plate is accessed by driving through land held by the Penticton Indian Band.
“So please be respectful of their community, obey the speed limit and drive with courtesy,” he said.
Located a scenic 40 minutes west of Penticton, the club was established in 1989 and has 56 kilometres of cross-country ski trails and 26 kilometres of maintained snowshoe trails.
Now, an update on cross-country and downhill openings in the Southern Interior.
SilverStar launched its cross-country ski season Nov. 23. "As for Alpine, while it looks like winter on the slopes right now, we will need Mother Nature to come through with a big storm to be able to get alpine skiing operational for our opening on Nov. 30," said Ian Jenkins, director of sales, marketing and events.
"While only a small amount of snow is in the immediate forecast, we remain hopeful that this will happen, and when it does we will be ready to open."
Sovereign Lake Nordic Centre was the first to officially open the cross-country season on Nov. 15.
Sun Peaks Resort officially opened Nov. 18. Big White Ski Resort's opening hs been delayed to Nov. 30. Apex Mountain Resort will open Dec. 9 and Baldy Mountain Resort will open Dec. 15. Telemark Nordic Centre and the Kelowna Nordic Ski and Snowshoe Club have not yet announced opening dates.
This is the fourth in a multi-part series on what is new and different at the 12 downhill ski resorts and cross-country ski areas in the Southern Interior. Columns on Sun Peaks, Baldy and Revelstoke are in the lineup.
This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.