The 1978 Snowfest Hardanger Loppet was led by Nils Nissen, consul general of Norway at McCulloch Lake.
As winter approaches, many locals look forward to the snow allowing us to venture out on the trails to participate in one of our favourite winter activities.
Cross-country skiing provides huge benefits, both physical and mental, for all ages.
The environment for participation is second to none with the only drawback being one must usually travel to participate.
I became involved at firstÂ with the sport in December 1972, not long after graduating from university and moving to Prince George. Prior to this, the aerobics movement was in full swing with the publication of the book Aerobics, by Dr. Ken Cooper in 1968.
Many of us baby boomers were exposed to this, took the bull by the horns and started to get aerobically fit. Cross-country skiing is generally regarded as the King of Aerobic Sports, and living in Prince George at the time, I was exposed to the cross-country national team using the local trails as their training base. This was also the time of heightened interest in cross-country skiing in Canada, with most competitive skiers coming from the Northwest Territories. The Firth twins from Inuvik were prominent in the sports headlines, along with their Norwegian coach, Bjorger Pettersen.
I decided to make this my winter-time aerobic sport as the wintersÂ were indeed long. This was the beginning of my long time love for the sport. Once we returned to Kelowna in 1976, after a two- year stay in Washington State, I resumed this passion.
My first exposure to cross-country skiing in the Okanagan was in December 1976 on the trails at McCulloch Lake and the Kelowna Golf and Country Club, which at the timeÂ was often skiable for about six to eight weeks of the year.
Organized local cross-country skiing dates back to the early 1970s, with the two major clubs evolving about the same time.
In 1974, a log cabin was rented at McCulloch Lake to make skiing more appealing to the members of Sons of Norway during the winter of 1974-75.
There wasÂ plenty of interest for cross-country skiing outside of the lodge membership. On Jan. 15, 1975, at a general meeting, the Nordic Ski Club was born, with lodge director Neil Williams as president. The club was to function under the auspices of the Hardanger Lodge. This initiative did much to put Sons of Norway on the map in Kelowna, through the clubs' drive for membership and announcements in the media.
Within a short time, Nordic Ski Club had a large membership that later branched out to Telemark Ski Club in Westbank and a ski club in Winfield . This development had had a profound importance for cross-country skiing as a family sport in the Okanagan.
The Nordic Ski Club in co-operation with the Sons of Norway elected to organize a family ski contest - Hardanger Loppet. This was the first ever local public ski event and part of the Snowfest celebrations. The first Hardanger Loppet was held on McCulloch Lake on Jan. 25, 1976 with 225 participants. Several more were held in the following years with great success.
The Sons of Norway skied on the trails at Hydraulic (McCulloch) Lake and the Nordic Ski Club at the Joe Riche Summit area (junction of Hwy. 33 and Big White Road), where several trails had been developed starting from the gravel pit, which housed a trailer clubhouse. Both the Nordic Ski Club and the Sons of Norway contributed to the development and maintenance of the McCulloch Cross-Country Ski Area.
Gerry Morrison was born in Kelowna in 1947, and received his early education here , after which he left for university at both UBC and the University of Washington at Seattle. Following this, he moved back to Kelowna in 1976 with his wife Susan. He has now been retired for several years from an active periotontal practice in Kelowna, but continues to pursue his lifelong love of sports: cycling, rowing and cross country skiing.
This article is part of a series submitted by the Kelowna Branch, Okanagan Historical Society. Further information would be welcome at P.O.Box 22105, Capri P.O., Kelowna, B.C. V1YÂ 9N9.