Sunday, 27 January 2013

Spectacular Nordic Skiing at Silver Star Resort near Vernon, B.C.

by Keith and Heather Nicol

The cross country sessions were very well attended
      We recently returned from 5 days of Nordic skiing at Silver Star Resort. Silver Star which is just a 20 minute drive outside of Vernon in B.C.’s Okanagan Valley.  The Okanagan is known for its good weather and we enjoyed bright sun and warm temperatures for our CANSI National Seminar from January 18-22, 2013. The purpose of the CANSI national seminar is to bring cross country and telemark ski instructors together from across country to share information on many aspects of teaching these sports. The Canadian Association of Nordic Ski Instructors (CANSI) certifies ski instructors in both cross country and telemark skiing and this national seminar has been growing steadily over the last number of years. This year at Silver Star there were over 40 people taking part in the cross country portion and over 25 in the telemark component and there were skiers from Vancouver Island to Newfoundland and all points in between taking part. There were sessions on all aspects of Nordic skiing including skating, classic and hill techniques on cross country ski equipment as well as many aspects of teaching telemark skiing. Sample sessions included skill reviews, how to adapt your skiing to different terrain and general ski improvement.  I would encourage any current CANSI member to attend future seminars since it is a great way to meet other ski instructors and learn from some of Canada’s top instructors and coaches.  
The telemark sessions had perfect conditions
    Silver Star was an ideal venue for these events since everything is close at hand. We simply headed out from our chalet each morning to ski lifts for the telemark sessions or to the ski trails for the cross country workshops. There was no need to drive anywhere since everything is within walking distance. The wide cross country skiing trails were very well groomed and there is a network of over 50 km of trails to choose from. Silver Star Alpine Resort has several chairlifts which service a big variety of terrain from double black steeps to easy cruisers. Another great aspect of Silver Star is how many winter sports are blended so nicely. For instance, as you ride the Silver Queen chairlift you can look down and see people ice skating, snowshoeing, cross country skiing and even tubing.  In fact a lift ticket gives you access to all of these activities. For more information on Silver Star see: and for more information on CANSI see: Thanks again to the organizers of this great event!
The view was superb overlooking cloud filled valleys


Wednesday, 23 January 2013

Great Cross Country Skiing at Sovereign Lake Nordic Centre near Vernon, B.C.

By Keith and Heather Nicol
      We just wrapped up a great 7 days of cross country skiing at Sovereign Lake Nordic Ski Club and Silver Star Resort which are located just outside Vernon in B.C.’s Okanagan Valley. The weather from January 15-22, 2013 was superb with sun on most days and highs just above freezing.  We could see the Monashee Mountain Range in the distance and the ever present valley cloud layer really added to the visual appeal. The main focus of our trip was to take in the CANSI (Canadian Association of Nordic Ski Instructors) National Seminar at Silver Star Resort but we arrived a few days early to try the trail system at Sovereign Lake which is located right next to Silver Star. Between them they have over 100 km of trails and you can get an individual pass or get one that allows you to ski both trail systems.  This area is also known for its early snow and is the site of popular early season cross country ski camps. Already by mid-January,2013 they had a base of 2 meters of snow!  At Sovereign Lake we skied the Carl Wylie trail and Silver Queen trails. Both pass by the Black Prince Cabin which a nice place to stop a rest or have a snack. We really liked the wide trails and skiing through the tall trees laden with snow.  Back at the main lodge everyone was relaxing and chatting and we enjoyed the friendly atmosphere. 
Black Prince Cabin at Sovereign Lake Nordic Centre
         On one day we skied with Kathy Wylie who has been involved with the club for many years and she told us that the club latest big event was hosting the 2011 World Masters. “In addition to over 50 km of cross country ski trails, we also have 12 km of backcountry trails which aren’t groomed as well as 14 km of snowshoe trails. We even have a dog trail so people and their dog can get some exercise. ” She told us. But what we were really amazed was the club’s membership which is a staggering 1600 plus members. She said it is the largest club in B.C.  They also have many well developed programmes for children and adults. For more information see or phone 250-558-3036. 
Heading back to the main lodge

Wednesday, 16 January 2013

Avalanche Awareness Sessions in W. Newfoundland

by Keith and Heather Nicol
School visit in Benoit's Cove
       Again this year the Canadian Avalanche Foundation and Canadian Avalanche Centre are providing funding and other assistance for avalanche awareness programmes in Western Newfoundland.  Typically this funding is used to provide schools, Search and Rescue groups, snowmobile and other user groups (like backcountry skiers/snowshoers) with training. As well for those interested in more training Avalanche Skills Training (AST) Level 1 courses are offered. So far this winter, sessions have been run at the Pasadena Nordic Ski Club and Whaleback Nordic Ski Club in Stephenville.  As well, 2 You Tube videos have been produced and they can be viewed below.  In addition, on January 10, 2013 we did a ski tour into the Blow Me Down valley to look at the snow stability in that part of the Blow me down Mountains. On that date on a run called Market Gully we found close to 2 meters of snow and very good stability. There was anywhere from 2-20 cm of fresh snow to ski and the blog of that trip can be viewed at:
Digging a snowpit in an AST course
      For anyone or group interested in booking an avalanche awareness session or for more information please contact Keith Nicol at or .  Avalanche maps of Western Newfoundland can be viewed at: or if you want more information on avalanches in Newfoundland see: 
     If you see avalanches in your travels please send any pictures and location information to Keith Nicol at  Also don’t travel alone and avoid steep slopes when the snow is unstable. Also a special thanks to Genuine Guide Gear ( for providing avalanche equipment for use in these avalanche awareness sessions.





Friday, 11 January 2013

Early Season Ski Touring in the Blow me down Mountains, Newfoundland

  By Keith and Heather Nicol
Trevor Beck skinning through the small trees
     So far in the winter of 2013 it has been quite windy and snowy in early January and so we decided to check out the snow stability and skiing in the Blow me down Valley area of the Bay of Islands in Western Newfoundland. We drove from Corner Brook along the south shore highway and parked near the Blow me down Brook Nature Parking area lot (UTM 21 0410043E 5434993N). From there we put on skins and headed in along the summer trail which is hard to see in the winter but is marked occasionally by flagging tape and small wooded signs.  The area is quite open so route finding is not too difficult. The route passes by many rare white pine trees and this really adds to skiing in this area. The mountain tops were visible through a light snow but a real highlight was the lack of wind. When you head into a valley called “Blow me down” you really appreciate a light wind day. 

Checking the stability in the snowpit
        After about an hour we crossed a brook draining a large bowl and gradually climbed up to a small gully which local skiers have called Market Gully. There we decided to check out the snow depth and dig a snow pit (21 0410947E 5431978N). The snow in the gully was between 1.8 m and 2.4 m, although along much of the way in we skied across snow that was less than half that amount. The effect of wind was very apparent since the ridge crests were blown free of snow and we could see a large cornice (produced by wind blown snow) at the top of an adjacent bowl. We could also see the remains of a deep fracture line of an avalanche that had occurred just below the cornice.  The snow pit showed very solidly packed snow with very few signs of layering or instability. I think we all expected there to be more powder snow but we had to settle for anywhere from 2- 20 cm of fresh snow which gave us some nice turns on the way down. From there we headed to the south to check out area called Palaceglades. Here the new snow was deeper and we made many turns through the velvety snow (21 0411539E 5431918N). This trip also gave me a chance to try out a new G3 carbon speed tech probe and G3 Spade Tech shovel (  I really liked how light the probe was and quick it was to put together. A bonus of the Spade Tech shovel is its small size so it fits nicely into your pack. If you haven’t been into this area it is worth checking out for anyone into ski touring or snowshoeing. Also if anyone is interested in doing an avalanche awareness course this winter contact Keith Nicol at  We have received funding from the Canadian Avalanche Foundation to do school visits, search and rescue group sessions and AST Level 1 courses as well to meet with other interested groups.
Andrew Stokes skiing in Market Gully

Wednesday, 2 January 2013

Explore Newfoundland on a cross country ski trail this winter

by Keith and Heather Nicol

Cross country skiing is good exercise
        Cross country skiing is a great way to get out and enjoy winter in Newfoundland. Cross country skiing is good exercise since both legs and arms get a workout. Like its name suggests, you can cross country ski just about anywhere there is snow. But a popular option for many people is to visit a cross country ski facility. Many communities in the province have ski clubs where there are trails groomed specifically for cross country skiing. These community based clubs often have a base lodge where you can socialize and many offer programmes for kids and adults alike.
        Cross Country Newfoundland and Labrador (CCNL) is the umbrella group for cross country ski clubs in Newfoundland and there are hundreds of kilometers of groomed tracks waiting for any visiting skier. There are 18 clubs spread across the province and many have well groomed tracks for both classic and skate skiing.  Also many ski clubs now have designated snowshoe trails to cater to this popular activity. Most have clubhouses which offer food and chance to warm up, rest and relax. A number of ski clubs are located in Western Newfoundland where there is usually consistent snow and there are several clubs in Labrador where the season may run from November to April.  There are also several cross country ski facilities in central and eastern Newfoundland.  The CCNL web site: has lots of information and links to these cross country clubs and is a great resource for anyone planning a winter holiday in the province. The CCNL also hosts a variety of races and loppets and its web site has a detailed event schedule. Winter is a great time to see many parts of the province under a snowy blanket and there is no better way to explore than on skis or snowshoes. 
Cross country skiing is an ideal way to explore Newfoundland in winter