Sunday, 22 April 2018

Snowbirds here for just a couple more days

 by Keith and Heather Nicol
The Snowbirds are back practicing in Comox but will be here just a couple more days. We saw them
for their Sunday morning show under clear blue skies and the grassy fields at Air Force Beach were packed with on lookers. The setting is spectacular overlooking the Strait of Georgia with the snow capped mountains of Coast Range behind. Here is one schedule we found on line-

Mon-Fri: 9:40am – 10:25am & 12:45pm – 1:30pm
The  planes can leave some impressive jet trails

Sat: 9:10am – 9:55am & 12:45pm – 1:30pm
Sun: 9:45am – 10:30am & 1:00pm – 1:45pm
CF-18 Hornet
Mon-Sat 12:05pm – 12:34pm & 3:45pm – 4:15pm
Sun: 12:15pm – 12:45pm & 3:45pm – 4:15pm
and don’t forget to bring your camera and lawn chair. You don’t need a fancy camera to capture the action since you have a front row seat for the performance.One person we spoke to said that tomorrow's show may be their last depending on weather so don't delay.
The setting is perfect with the mountain and ocean view- The Powell River ferry can be seen at the bottom of picture
We loved the spiraling action sequences

Tuesday, 17 April 2018

Using shadows to improve your cross country skiing

by Keith and Heather Nicol
  In the ski lessons that I teach I like to give students a way of checking their ski improvement through the season.  Of course one way to do this is to take more lessons (which is great for ski instructors) but for skiers that don’t have instructors close by or can’t find an instructor at the last minute here are is an idea that may help you improve- watch your shadow.
Watching your shadow can improve your skiing
      Shadows can help you see what arm position you have or how flexed your ankles and knees are. At the early season Supercamps at Silver Star – Sovereign Lake B.C.  I used this with many of my classes. I told my students that cross country skiing is a lifelong learning process and the only way to really get better is to aim for perfect practice. The old saying that “practice makes perfect” really should be adjusted to “perfect practice makes perfect”.  We used video tape feedback frequently in the  Supercamp classes but I mentioned to my students that a quick way to get immediate feedback while you ski is to look at your shadow when the sun is behind you.  Shadows can’t tell you everything but I find that they are particularly useful for checking arm (are my arms at 90 degrees at the initiation of poling?) and torso position (do I crunch my upper body to start the poling cycle in double poling or 1 skate?).  In the photo above I am checking my arm swing in free skate.  For a you tube video on this topic see: 

Monday, 9 April 2018

Spring Wildflowers in their prime along the Tsolum River in Courtenay

By Keith and Heather Nicol
The Fawn Lilies light up the trail
   On Monday April 9 we had a pleasant surprise when we had a walk by the Tsolum River. There were carpets of fawn lilies and trilliums in bloom along the trails which really brightened up our walk. The trails are located behind the Exhibition Grounds off of Headquarters Road in Courtenay, B.C. Take the main trail toward the river and we found many clusters of fawn lilies on the side trail to the right. If you are handy with a GPS turn right at this junction - 49 42.284 N 125 00.373 W. You don’t need to walk very far before you see the flowers along the trail.  We are not sure how long they will last but if like early spring flowers check out this area and don’t forget to bring your camera.A pad to kneel on for getting up close will also be helpful.

Since these plants are low bring a kneeling pad

Trilliums are also out but are not as abundant as the fawn lilies

Monday, 2 April 2018

Cross country skiing still great at Cypress Mountain near Vancouver, B.C.

by Keith and Heather Nicol
    We were planning on being in Vancouver for Easter so decided to bring our skis and go skiing as well since Cypress snow report was reporting an amazing 275 cm of base. Prior to going we contacted the Nordic Operations Manager, Michael Thomas who told us that they have “had a great season. We opened on Dec 1, 2017 and we hope to remain open until Sunday April 15th.” He also told that “this is the first full season for the newly restored Hollyburn Lodge which has allowed us to resume our popular snowshoe fondue tours and our Saturday music nights.” We had missed visiting the historic Hollyburn Lodge which had been closed on our last couple of visits due to ongoing restoration work. 
Heather leads Kristie and Eric on a loop near Hollyburn Lodge
 We arrived at 9:30 am were pleasantly surprised by the smaller number of people using the facility since it was a holiday and this is Vancouver! Previous visits to Cypress had been over Christmas and just finding parking could be an issue if you arrived much later than 9:00am! But on Saturday March 31 we found parking just a few steps from the ticket office and enjoyed well groomed snow which made skiing very enjoyable.  We were joined by our daughter Kristie and her boyfriend Eric and we skied many of the lower trails for the first couple of hours. Then after lunch in the new Hollyburn Lodge we headed to the upper trails and skied the Triangle and Unknown Lake loops. The intermittent clouds kept the snow from getting too soft and we enjoyed good skiing until we headed off the mountain around 2:00pm. 
Keith skates out "Side Winder" with the Alpine ski area in the background
  Cypress Nordic has 19 km of cross country ski trails groomed for both classic and skating as well as 10 km of snowshoe trails.  The ski trails are very wide and the popular lower trails are relatively flat. So don’t pack away your skis quite yet there is still very good cross country skiing to be had at Cypress Mountain. For more information see:  
Restored Hollyburn Lodge has retained its old charm

Sunday, 25 March 2018

Lake Trail at Mount Washington Ski Resort is a "fav" of many cross country skiers

by Keith and Heather Nicol
Keith "1 skating" one of the flat sections
     “Lake Trail” and “Far East” rank among the skier’s choice when it comes to favourite cross country ski trails at Mount Washington Ski Resort located near Courtenay, B.C. We wrote about Far East in a previous post ( and we recently skied Lake Trail with Bruce Moffat and had a perfect day for it. The plan was to meet at 1:00pm so we got in some turns on the mountain in the morning. It was another sunny spring day and several people said as we arrived that they were quitting for the day since they thought the cross country trails had gotten too soft. But we knew that Lake Trail is well shaded and much of it faces north and out of the sun so we hoped that our late start wouldn’t penalize us. 

Bruce skiing along Lake Helen Mackenzie
    Turns out we were right and the conditions were very good. We took skating skis and they glided very well over the hard packed trail. If you have not done Lake Trail – be warned it is like a roller coaster -  with lots of climbing and fast descents. This trail will challenge all your skating prowess.  It is rated as a black diamond and the trail map indicates that it is 9 km long. But when you add in the trails that you need to get to it and return the actual distance is about 13 km. As the name suggests the trail passes by some large lakes including Battleship Lake and Lake Helen Mackenzie. These portions of the trail are magical and very photogenic so be sure to bring along a camera. 
The wide trail makes for a fine ski experience
  Another favourite portion of the trail for many people is the last portion which traverses some cutovers and so the views are expansive. You can see out to Georgia Strait and across to the mountains of the B.C. mainland. Unlike many trails at Mount Washington which can skied both ways this trail is marked to ski in a counterclockwise direction only.  Depending on how many pictures you take and breaks to take in the view you should allow 1.5 – 2 hours. You only have a couple more weeks to ski this trail so if it has been on your  “to do” list you need act quickly. For more information on Mount Washington see:
Come with a solid snowplow for the many descents