Cross Country Skiing
Cross country skiing is, in its purest form, the most simple, and accessible form of skiing. Anyone can do it. All you have to do is clip into a pair of skis and shuffle along any snowy surface and you are skiing. Almost anywhere a blanket of snow has been draped across the surface of the landscape you can go cross country skiing.
I really enjoy getting out on my skis and gliding through the silent, winter wilderness. When you get a good rhythm going the scenery flows by like a river and you forget that it was cold out when you started. Cross country skiing is a great way to get some exercise during those long winter months when you would rather be snuggled up in front of a warm fire. Let the fire wait. Light the fire inside first and enjoy what winter has to offer.
Your best bet for learning more about cross country skiing in the valley is to check out the Toby Creek Nordic Club’s web site. They do a lot to promote the sport of cross country skiing in the valley and their web page is loaded with information on where to go, programs available and race schedules. Check it out here.
When I first moved to Columbia Ridge, I envisioned being able to establish a trail network right out the back door in the crown land to the south of the neighbourhood. This only seems to be a reality during the best of snow years, which I have discovered really only ever amounts to a few inches at best.
The lake also offers an option for skiing but the wind often removes most of the snow from the ice. It is best to stick to the edges where the snow tends to accumulate. The tricky part of skiing on the lake is getting to it. The road down to the shore is treacherous, making the descent on skis something more akin to skiing down Everest. I recommend walking down but that too is wrought with danger. Make sure you strap some of those rubberized crampons to your boots for the journey up and down the hill.
If the conditions permit, the lake and the surrounding crown land offer the closest most accessible XC skiing around. If you want a truly enjoyable day on the skis, you are going to have to do a bit of driving. Here are my three top recommendations for a day on the snow.
The White Way
The Toby Creek Nordic Club maintains the Whiteway on Lake Windermere. This new venture started just a few years ago and has been getting a ton of use. The Whiteway is groomed for both classic and skate skiing and is great for beginners and families as it is flat as a pancake. There is a user fee of $5 but you should go all the way and get a membership with the Toby Creek Nordic Club for a mere $30 per person or $80 per family and help promote the sport of XC skiing in the valley.
Nipika Mountain Resort
This little jewel is tucked up against Kootenay National Park one hour from Columbia Ridge. To access it, head over Sinclair Pass into Kootenay Park and then turn right onto Settlers Road. Twelve km in, you will come to Nipika and 50 km of impeccably groomed trails for your XC entertainment. I highly recommend checking it out as even during the busy season you will find yourself wondering where everyone is.
The trails are flipping awesome with levels for all people. Warming huts dot the landscape and the views are stunning with natural bridges, waterfalls and towering mountains.
There is a great vibe out there with friendly, helpful people. The day lodge has a large area to eat your lunch and a wax room so you can get your skis ready for the day. Cabins are available for rent if you wish to make a weekend out of it.
More information on Nipika can be found on its Web page.
Located at the Kimberley Ski Resort, the Kimberley Nordic Centre is managed by the members of the Kimberley Nordic Club. They do an amazing job keeping the trail conditions in top notch shape. The 30km of trails are groomed for both classic and skate skiing and consist of some twisty, rolly beginner loops with nastier intermediate and expert loops linking through the main trails. The facility also boasts the only night skiing trail in the valley. This 3.3 km beginner’s loop is well lit and a great way to burn off a dinner from a night out in town.
Fees for the trails are $10/day up to a maximum of $25 per family.