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Making-Tracks

Larch Hills, Overlander have lots to offer

Skiing at Larch Hills

This is the 10th and final instalment of my multi-part series on what is new and different at the 12 downhill resorts and cross-country ski areas in the Southern Interior.

The Ski Sheriff is not aware of any other winter resort area in North America within a three-hour drive (of Kelowna) which has this proliferation of opportunities for downhill skiing, snowboarding, cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, ice skating, snowmobiling, tobogganing, dog sledding, horse-drawn sleigh rides, the list goes on and on. And that list doesn't include the Kootenays, a bit further away.

At least once or twice a season, you should try some of the less-familiar ski areas. Two, which might not come to mind for Okanagan residents, are Larch Hills Nordic Society, 20 kilometres south of Salmon Arm, and Overlander Ski Club, 25 kilometres south of Kamloops at Stake Lake.

Larch Hills, which boasts it has "some of B.C.'s best trails," has more than 170 kilometres of ski trails (60 kilometres regularly groomed), 17 kilometres of snowshoe trails, 6.7 kilometres of dog trails and ski programs for all ages.

The ski area installed lighting on 6.5 kilometres of trails in three phases through 2021-22. Lights go on at 5:30 a.m. and off at dawn for early-morning skiers, then on at dusk and off at 10 p.m. for evening skiers, said operations manager Karen Tanchak.

"A new dog trail was built on private land,” she said. “The landowner shares some of his land for winter-use-only and donated the sale of the trees to keep our costs down to add the extension. It has added just over three kilometres so the entire dog-friendly ski trail loops now total 6.7 kilometres. There are also a few new small trail loops (not for dogs) on the private land being groomed, only by the small equipment, that adds to the total ski experience."

There is one new unidentified trail in the society's future plans that is still waiting for final approval, she said.

"Off-season brushing and general maintenance are always ongoing all summer by volunteers. Cec's Cabin had a bit of an upgrade and can be rented overnight by booking it through the office. Pente's Shelter is still at the south hub. Unfortunately, Tom's Shelter had to be brought down but the plan is to rebuild it."

A new women's night ski is offered on a drop-in basis at 7 p.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

"This is a casual ski with a few volunteers who are willing to help field questions and offer tips to skiers. It's open to beginners and all levels, skate or classic," said Tanchak.

The society's formal programs are the Jackrabbits and junior race team which both have enrolment fees. The popular school ski program has volunteer ski hosts accompanying registered classes. As well, informal groups ski together Monday through Thursday. Lady Striders both ski and snowshoe, plus the ski area hosts the Wednesday Wenches and Thursday Geezers.

Larch Hills has scheduled the Reino Keski Salmi Loppet for Jan. 20, Pirate Loppet for school kids Feb. 2 and the B.C. Cup Championships from March 3 to 5.

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Overlander Ski Club has 60 kilometres of scenic, expertly-groomed cross-country ski trails, seven kilometres of lighted night skiing trails, 21 kilometres of snowshoe trails, five kilometres of dedicated dog-friendly trails and 15 kilometres of Adventure Trails.

"The final four kilometres of Adventure Trails have been completed, and we’ve renamed Geronimo to Sxusem and Sittingbull to Skelep in the spirit of reconciliation," said general manager Chelsea Francis.

"New signage and maps that incorporate the new trails and new trail names have been installed throughout the trail network. We’ve upgraded the dog trails, thanks to a donation from New Gold that paid for seven days of a machine improving and widening the trails. We also rented a large brush cutter to cut back and widen overgrowth on 50 per cent of the trail network."

During the 2022-23 season, the club purchased a new Prinoth Bison snowcat. With the use of both the old and new machines, the club can offer a larger selection of freshly-groomed terrain.

In special events, the club hosted a waxing clinic on Nov. 25, a master’s clinic will be held Jan. 20 and 21, a free snowshoe day with Pacific Sport and Play Kamloops, will go Jan. 28, a loppet is set for Feb. 3 and an adventure race, in partnership with Adventure Immersion Labs is slated for Feb. 11.

Full moon guided ski excursions are scheduled for Jan. 25 and Feb. 24. A guided moonlight outing is available from 6:30 to 8 p.m. followed by a one-hour potluck in the lodge.

Three Ski & Tea events are on Jan. 27, Feb. 10 and 24. From 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., pots of tea and homemade scones can be purchased in the day lodge: $4 for a pot of tea or $7 for a pot of tea and two scones. Sweet and savoury scones will be available as well as caffeinated and herbal tea.

"We also light up the trail around Stake Lake with Christmas light displays and have a new Stuffy Rangers scavenger hunt map for our school programs," said Francis.

The Ski S’Kool program is available for primary schools in Kamloops, Logan Lake and Merritt. The club has a ski and snowshoe rental program as well as lessons for club members and the public. During the past two years, the club invested in new skis and new boots for the Ski S’Kool program.

This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.



More Making Tracks articles

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About the Author

J.P. Squire arrived in the Okanagan Valley from flatland Chatham, Ont. in the middle of the night in the spring of 1980. Waking up in the Highway 97 motel, he looked across the then-four-lane roadway at Mount Baldy and commented: "Oh my God, there's mountains." Driving into downtown Kelowna, he exclaimed: "Oh my God, there's a lake."

The rest is history. After less than a month in Kelowna, he concluded: "I'm going to live here for a long time." And he did.

Within weeks and months, he was hiking local hillsides, playing rec hockey at Memorial Arena and downhill skiing at Big White Ski Resort. After purchasing a hobby farm in the Glenmore Valley in 1986, he bought the first of many Tennessee Walking Horses. After meeting Constant Companion Carmen in 1999, he bought two touring kayaks and they began exploring Interior lakes and B.C.'s coast.

The outdoor recreation column began with downhill ski coverage every winter as the Ski Sheriff but soon progressed to a year-round column as the Hiking, Biking, Kayaking and Horseback Riding Sheriff.

His extensive list of contacts in Okanagan outdoor recreation clubs, organizations and groups means a constant flow of emails about upcoming events and activities which will be posted on Castanet every Sunday.

You can email the Sheriff at: [email protected].



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The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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