Monday, 31 March 2014

Level 1 Cross Country Ski Instructor Course held in Stephenville and Corner Brook

Level 1 participants practicing diagonal stride
by Keith and Heather Nicol

  A CANSI (Canadian Association of Nordic Ski Instructors) Level 1 course was held in Stephenville (Saturday) and Corner Brook (Sunday) over the weekend of March 29 -30, 2014. CANSI is headquartered in Ottawa, Ontario and has a mandate to promote a cross country ski instructor training system across the country. CANSI has members in all provinces and territories and has 4 Levels of cross country ski instructors. A CANSI Level 1 course is designed to be an intro to cross country ski instruction and it shows potential instructors how to teach basic classic, skate and hill technique. The course looks at the CANSI progression in how to teach techniques like diagonal stride, double pole, 1 skate and snowplow turns as well as how to detect and correct common skiing errors. For instance, if a new skier comes to a ski club in Newfoundland and wants to learn how to safety descend a hill or learn how to skate or classic ski, a CANSI certified instructor is trained to demonstrate the correct technique. CANSI instructors also learn a variety of exercises and drills to help skiers to be able to ski more efficiently and hence enjoy the sport more. Here are some comments from this most recent course:
Thanks, Keith.  Enjoyed the course and learned a lot - especially learned
how much I have to learn!  Doug

Had a great time and learned lots - not only about sking but also about teaching physical education. Thank you for putting on the course - it is great to learn from the best. Mark

A really great experience. Want to thank Keith for all his patience and commitment to making us better instructors (and better skiers). Shawn

If you like cross country skiing and would like to help others enjoy the sport then you should consider taking a CANSI Level 1 course. Contact Keith Nicol for more information about CANSI or to book at course at
Kate Edwards practice teaching during the Level 1 course

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Saturday, 22 March 2014

Sampling the final day of the Haywood Cross Country Ski Nationals in Corner Brook

by Keith and Heather Nicol
      We took in part of the last day at the Haywood Ski Nationals at the Blow Me Down Ski Park in Corner Brook and it was exciting to see the mass starts for the final classic race. The weather was varied with snow, gusty winds and even sunny breaks in the afternoon. Again it was Canada's Olympians who dominated the podium in the 30 km Open Women and 50 Km Open Men. It has been good to have Canada's best cross country skiers in Corner Brook and they put on a great show. As well it has been impressive to have so many ski teams from across Canada representing the various age groups that competed. The younger age categories skied anywhere from 7.5 km to 30 km on the final day on a course which had some steep climbs and descents. Patrick McIlroy of Avalon produced Newfoundland's best finish of the day with a 9th in the Juvenile Boys. For all the results of the final day see:
Open Men making their way out of the Stadium

59 skiers were in the Open Men Category
Sochi Olympian Ivan Babikov won the Open Men
All races started with a mass start
The courses were demanding with many  hills
Patrick McIlroy of Newfoundland came in 9th in the Juvenile Boys Race

Thursday, 20 March 2014

More Exciting Cross Country Ski Racing at the Haywood Cross Country Ski Nationals in Corner Brook

by Keith and Heather Nicol
     Thursday, March 20 it was more sprint racing at the Haywood Cross Country Ski Nationals in Corner
Brook. Again the weather was perfect for skiing with highs around 0C with light winds and the Junior Men and Women, Open Men and Women and University students took to the trails. The format was similar to the previous day with interval starts to determine which skiers would go on the heats where only the fastest 2 skiers would continue to advance to the finals.The women skied 1.4 km while the men skied over a 1.6 km course. The trail had significant climbs and difficult corners which made for challenging racing. It was exciting to watch some of Canada's Olympic Cross Country Skiers take on this course and the men's open final was particularly close with the three top finishers doing the splits for the medals. The next race is a classic race on Saturday, March 22 which is the last day of the Nationals Cross Country Ski Races. Again spectators are encouraged to come out and cheer on the racers which have come from across the country to ski in Corner Brook.  For more information see:
The action out of the start was fast and furious

The Men's Open Final was very close !
The corner caused several falls as skiers had to quickly step turn on the hard packed snow
Many of the women's races were very close
Into the finish chute
There were several steep climbs through the course

Wednesday, 19 March 2014

Newfoundland on the podium in the National Cross Country Skiing Sprints

by Keith and Heather Nicol
     The National Cross Country Juvenile and Junior Boys and Girls sprints were held under sunny skies with light winds - perfect skating conditions. The race took the form of interval starts to determine the fastest skiers that would ski in the final heats of 6 skiers.  The slowest skiers were eliminated as the heats progressed making for some exciting racing around the 1.2 km course. The course had lots of ups and downs with some sharp corners that caused several skiers to fall. And a highlight for all of the Newfoundlanders in attendance was the podium finish for Patrick McIlroy. He finished 3rd in the Juvenile Boys and hails from Avalon Nordic on the East Coast of the province. More great racing tomorrow when the older men and women hit the trails in more sprint action. This is a great chance to see some top notch cross country skiers perform and visitors are encouraged to attend. See   for more information.
The weather was perfect for racing

Patrick McIlroy of Newfoundland picked up a bronze in the sprints
Heading for the stadium 
6 skiers headed out on the course in the sprints
This corner saw lots of spills
Many races were very close

Tuesday, 18 March 2014

Olympic Cross Country Skiers shine in Corner Brook

 by Keith and Heather Nicol
     We are at the midway point of the National Cross Country Ski Championships and today was the free   for the upcoming races which continue until Saturday, March 22.
technique interval start. Temperatures were - 6 C and the wind was gusty but the hard pack snow made for fast skiing conditions. Racers of different categories skied distances ranging from 5 km to 15 km. Over 400 racers competed including several members of Canada's National Ski Team who recently competed at the Olympics in Sochi. It was impressive to see these skiers turn in some very fast times as they skated the race trails at the Blow Me Down Ski Park in Corner Brook. This is the biggest cross country ski event ever held in Newfoundland and the caliber of skiers here this week is impressive. This is a great chance to come out and see some of Canada's best cross country skiers compete and spectators are encouraged to come up to the ski park to see all the action. For more information see :
Rounding a corner in the stadium
Open Women skating through the stadium

Olympian Daria Gaiazova skating toward the finish
The Open Men Category skied 15 km
Skating past the flags in the stadium
Olympian Ivan Babikov won the Open Men's 15 km race

Saturday, 15 March 2014

Cross Country Skiers from across Canada descend on Corner Brook's Blow me down Ski Park.

by Keith and Heather Nicol
   The 2014 Cross Country Ski Nationals started Saturday, March 15th  in Corner Brook, Newfoundland 
with the classic team sprints. Temperatures were around -5 C with light winds and the racers from across Canada competed. There were several age categories of racers but we were there for the open men and women. This is an exciting format since the skiers come through the start finish area 6 times and tag their team mate in the process. The men's open race was particularly close with the top three sprinting toward the finish line with only 1.3 seconds separating first from third place. This is a great chance to see some of Canada's best skiers compete in Corner Brook in the largest cross country skiing event ever held in the province. The Nationals continue until March 22. For more information see:
Women's Open skiers in the classic team sprints

The start of the Men's Open team sprint
Around a sharp turn
The fastest men were separated by just a 1.3 seconds

Tuesday, 11 March 2014

Avalanche Skills Training course held in Corner Brook, Newfoundland

   by Keith and Heather Nicol 
Digging snowpits
 On Sunday March 9th , 2014 we wrapped up an Avalanche Skills Training (AST) course which was held in Corner Brook for a group of 7 avid backcountry skiers, snowboarders and snowmobilers. We had a great day for the field work component which involved beacon searching and probe line practice as well as snowpit analysis. We dug 3 separate snowpits on a lee slope where snow depths were around 130-140 cm. We performed a variety of stability tests including a shovel shear, compression, extended column and we even got in a rutschblock test.  Most of the tests showed moderate stability of the snow at the test site. If anyone is interested in more information on avalanche awareness training in Newfoundland then contact Keith Nicol at This year the awareness training is being subsided by the Canadian Avalanche Centre (CAC) and includes sessions that run anywhere from 1 hour to 2 days. Thanks to CAC for supporting avalanche awareness training in Newfoundland in the winter of 2014.

Determining the different layers of snow

Many of the tests showed clean fractures within the snow pack

Practicing mock rescues

Thursday, 6 March 2014

Avalanche Awareness Presentations to Schools in Western Newfoundland

by Keith and Heather Nicol      
     On March 4 and 5, 2014 we visited 2 schools in Western Newfoundland to do avalanche awareness presentations. These presentations are generally to physical education classes and our first visit was to Gros Morne Academy in Rocky Harbour on March 4th. We gave two 1 hour presentations to a grade 10 and 12 class and we focused on where avalanches have been seen in Gros Morne Park as well as what terrain and snow factors are associated with avalanches. Each student received a handout which summarized this information and we also showed several videos of people’s experiences with avalanches in Gros Morne. We also demonstrated how avalanche beacons work and stressed the importance of carrying a shovel and probe when heading into avalanche terrain.
Talking to students at Gros Morne Academy in Rocky Harbour
  The next day (March 5th) we visited St. Peter’s Academy in Benoit’s Cove and we had around 25 grade 8-9’s attend the talk. In addition looking at the main terrain and snow factors that are associated with avalanches we also looked at where avalanches have occurred just behind the school in the Blow me down Mountains. Two students used the avalanche beacons to find one that was hidden in the classroom and each student received an avalanche awareness handout. 
A girl at St. Peter's Academy searches for a hidden beacon
  If you have a school group or other group that would like a free 1 hour avalanche awareness presentation then contact Keith Nicol at In the past we have done these sessions for snowmobile groups, search and rescue teams and many others.Also if anyone is interested in taking a Level 1 Avalanche Skills Training course then contact Keith Nicol at the above email address. If you would like to see on line maps of where avalanches have been seen in Western Newfoundland as well as other information about avalanches see:   and click on the 2014 Avalanche Awareness Link.