Sunday, 29 April 2012

GPS courses in Corner Brook, Newfoundland

by Keith and Heather Nicol

          Corner Brook, Newfoundland has lots of good wilderness sea kayaking, hiking, ski touring and snowmobiling within a short distance of town. But every year there are cases of people getting lost in the Blow me down Mountains or Lewis Hills. So to "stay found" it is advisable that people be competent with a topographic map and a GPS. This is especially important in the winter when cloud may form quickly and obscure the terrain ahead. If you are not familiar with how a GPS, map and compass works then you might want to look into a Greencheck GPS course.
The Greencheck GPS course has an indoor component
         This course has an indoor and outdoor component and shows how a topographic map, compass and GPS work together. I taught the latest course on April 28, 2012 and the people involved had a variety of reasons for taking the course. Several people needed it for work- we had a hunting guide, wildlife biologist and geologist take the course to help them with various aspects of their job. We also had  snowmobilers and hikers take it so that they would feel more comfortable traveling off the beaten track. This is one comment from one participant - Stephanie Rheault. "Thank you very much Keith! It was an excellent course and I have learned a lot! I will recommend your course for sure!" Take care,Stephanie. If you are interested in taking a Greencheck GPS course then contact Keith Nicol at or phone 709-639-1770 to sign up for the next course.
Navigating with GPS, map and compass on April 28, 2012

Saturday, 21 April 2012

Downhill balance exercises for cross country skiers

by Keith and Heather Nicol

Try crossing your skis as you descend a hill
        The Achilles heel for most cross country skiers is balance. I don't think I have ever hear a skier say that they have "too much balance". When I give lessons or CANSI ski instructor courses I tell skiers not to "waste a downhill". By that I mean that instead of just letting your skis run down an easy downhill, try doing some balancing exercises instead. There are all kinds of examples from simply lifting up one foot as you glide down the track to more elaborate drills which will challenge even the best skiers.

        For instance, you can try crossing your ski as shown in the adjacent photo and be sure to alternate feet so that both your right and left leg get to be the "balancing" ski. Do this on easy downhills where the speed you are building up is not intimidating. The following you Tube video shows more examples:
Thanks to Rossignol skis, boots and bindings for their continued support of my skier improvement blog posts and You Tube videos. They can be reached at:

Friday, 6 April 2012

Havana, Cuba at the last minute

by Keith and Heather Nicol
       While in Varadero, Cuba on an impromptu last minute trip (see previous post) we decided to do one of the tours offered by Sunwing to Havana. They had 2 trips offered while we were there- a day tour and an afternoon/evening tour which included the famous Tropicana Cabaret show. We opted for the second one since we thought the music-dance show would be a very different experience. We headed out around 1:30 pm and enroute to Havana we stopped for what are claimed to be the best Pina Coladas in Cuba. "They are made with the freshest ingredients which is why they are so highly rated" our guide told us. Once in Havana we made several stops to see Revolution Square, the old town, a cigar/rum/coffee shop, and the Capitol building.

One of the oldest churches in Cuba in the old town of Havana

        We were taken with the great architecture of Havana and it is nice to see some of it being restored. This place must have been very impressive in its heyday. We were there on a Saturday and so the parks and squares were teeming with people and everyone seemed to be out walking and talking. After a quick visit to the Hotel Nacional, which has hosted lots of entertainers and politicians over the years, it was off to dinner and the show at the Tropicana.

An open air second hand book market in Havana
        We got our only rain of the week just before the show started which must have had the show organizers anxious but the downpour ended after 20 minutes and then as they say "They show must go on" so out came the squeegee crew to clean the water off the stage platform and then the show started. The show has been running for over 70 years and is a spectacle with amazing costumes and a lots of good music. The only downside was that we didn't get back to Varadero until 3:30 am, due in part the summer time change that occurred at the end of the show.
Dancers at the Tropicana Show


Varadero, Cuba at the last minute

by Keith and Heather Nicol
      We had decided to have a look at trips to Cuba on March 24, 2012 and picked up a couple of booklets dealing with accommodations from our local Legrow's travel agent. We then had another discussion the next day about her recommendations and she said "If you can go on short notice we often get last minute cancellations that we then try to fill as quickly as possible. "Would that work for you? " she asked us. "Sure" we replied. But little did we know that 3 days later we would get a call asking us if we wanted to go the Playa Caleta Hotel in Varadero, Cuba for a great price and it didn't take us too long to say "Yes, please". And we were leaving the next day early in the morning so we spent the day getting organized and before we knew it we were on a Sunwing 737 touching down in Cuba.

The beach was lovely and the water perfect for swimming
       We spent most of the time at the resort since the beach and water were amazing for swimming and we could go snorkeling and go for sail when we wanted a change. We expected to see the old U.S. cars but certainly did not expect to see so many of them. They were everywhere and in generally great shape. We did do a double decker bus trip around Varadero to see the main road and stopped to do some souvenir shopping downtown, but the heat quickly drove back to the beach at our resort. Temperatures were typically in the high 20 C's so and we had only one short down pour of rain in the week we were there (March 28-April 4, 2012).
Heather checking out one of the old U.S. cars that is now a taxi
        We found the Playa Caleta to be clean, the staff were generally friendly, and the food was fine. Most people agreed that  "You can always find something to eat". The Playa Caleta is located at the far end of Varadero so if you want to be in the downtown action this isn't the place to be but the upside is that we could see locals fishing from shore or fishermen throwing their nets in the early morning in the lagoon adjacent to the hotel so that gave us some local flavour.
The pool was also clean and comfortable