Cross-country craze in the Okanagan
Cross-country skiing is enjoying a revival throughout B.C.
Membership surged 60 percent at Telemark Nordic Club in West Kelowna post-pandemic, from 1,100 to 1,800 people. At one point, the club’s membership hit 2,100.
“It was a trend across the sport,” said Mike Edwards, general manager at Telemark.
Cross-country skiing is an affordable and accessible sport that has drawn families with kids. More than 200 children aged three to 12 now participate in Telemark’s programs.
It’s also an attractive pastime for middle-aged and older adults, as a great low-impact workout and a serene venture through the wilderness.
There’s also a K-9 trail where dogs can accompany skiers off-leash.
“You’re right in the middle of the woods. You feel like you’re on an adventure,” says Edwards, adding there are moose tracks all along the trails.
Cross-country skiing’s history dates back 5,000 years, starting in Scandinavia. According to The Canadian Encyclopedia, its Canadian roots date back to the 1890s. The sport had a considerable boost in popularity during the fitness boom in the 1970s.
Today, the equipment is evolving with a throwback to the past. As Edwards says, skin skis, a wax-less type of ski, are taking off. Also, the binding system used to attach boots to skis is heading toward a single style instead of two, adding consistency to that piece of equipment.
The not-for-profit club focuses its energy on creating a great experience. To that end, they used the off-season to increase the size of the parking lot to accommodate greater numbers and do significant work opening up and maintaining the trails.
They are well-known for their snow grooming, says Edwards.
The season got off to a great start. A nice blanket of snow covered the Thompson-Okanagan landscape in early November and has stuck around.
“We got lucky with that early snowfall,” he says.
New members are experiencing the fireplace inside the lodge this season for the first time, as the space has been closed since COVID restrictions hit. “People are really happy to be back in the day lodge,” he says.
Chelsea Francis, general manager of the Overlander Ski Club at Stake Lake Nordic Centre near Kamloops, says she also saw memberships climb during the pandemic.
Pre-COVID, the club had about 1,000 season pass holders. That number peaked at 1,800 and has since levelled out to 1,300.
The busiest day during the heart of the pandemic saw 850 day passes sold at the club.
“It was really fun seeing that many people get out and try something,” says Francis. “It’s something anyone can enjoy.”
Besides enjoying skiing through old-growth trees, there’s also a strong chance of a wildlife encounter.
The uptick in skiers does pose some challenges for operators, including parking and extra grooming.
“I’m sure we’ll continue to see it grow,” she says.
Where to ski
Overlander Ski Club
30 km outside Kamloops
Sun Peaks Resort
57 km outside Kamloops
Silver Star Mountain Resort
24 km outside Vernon
Sovereign Lake Nordic Club
23 km outside Vernon
The Larch Hills Nordic Society
24 km outside Salmon Arm
Revelstoke Nordic Ski Club
11 km outside Revelstoke
Telemark Nordic Club
22 km outside West Kelowna
50 km outside Kelowna
Big White Ski Resort
62 km outside Kelowna
Nickel Plate Nordic Centre
41 km outside Penticton
Manning Park Nordic Centre
180 km outside Osoyoos