The past week had highlights and lowlights as the dreaded polar vortex ended its two-week imprisonment.
Cabin fever can be hazardous to your health if you take chances in the frigid air. Last Sunday, temperatures ranged from –22 C at Kelowna Nordic to –27 C at Nickel Plate Nordic Centre. But Kelowna had sunny skies and Constant Companion Carmen went for a fast walk up Knox Mountain with female friends.
So the Sheriff decided to investigate whether lithium-ion batteries do lose their power in sub-zero temperatures as reported. Not recommended. The e-bike had no problem powering down the multi-use path beside Glenmore Road in Kelowna, but the wind on bare facial skin was unpleasant even after pulling up a neck warmer. Wool socks weren’t warm enough for icicle feet. And mitts didn’t keep hands warm.
Even hiking buddy Jim and his friend George had to keep moving (and not chat) while walking along the Waterfront Park Promenade.
By Wednesday, Kelowna Nordic reported –12 C at 8:30 a.m. with partly overcast skies and sunny patches, and good conditions for classic-style skiing.
So we waited until late morning and found only a few vehicles in the parking lot and virtually no one on the trails — until we ran into hiking/biking/skiing buddies Mike and Stuart.
We didn’t find anyone in the Meadow Cabin so we decided not to light the fire until six other people showed up, wondering whether they would be mentioned in the Making Tracks column.
The sparkling snow along the trails was magical, heightened every time soft snow would fall off tree branches and give you a powdery shower.
Colder temperatures are in the forecast with more snow likely, but that probably won’t stop many from attending the Moonlight Ski and Snowshoe at Kelowna Nordic tonight.
Everyone is asked to bring food to share for a potluck dinner at 5:30 p.m. “Simple is best. We have the wood stove to heat items in oven or on stove if needed. There’s no electricity … The main cabin is cozily lit with lanterns,” the website says. Hot drinks will be supplied. Bring your own plates, bowls, mugs and cutlery.
The guided ski and snowshoe outing will begin at 7 p.m. Participants should dress warm and bring headlamps. However, if you are planning to join the guided snowshoe, please register by emailing Rick Gee at email@example.com. There is a limit of 50 people for the guided snowshoe. Skiers do not need to register.
This is also Family Day weekend so Silver Star Mountain Resort is selling alpine day passes for half-price on Family Day, Monday.
“We are extremely excited to be one of the only ski resorts across the province with such a great discount on Family Day,” said Chantelle Deacon, the resort’s media relations manager. “We are dedicated to providing families with the best ski experience possible, and this is another great opportunity for us to do just that.”
This offer is for Canadian residents who can show a piece of valid ID. SilverStar is also hosting free kids shows — the Bubble Wonders Show and Kiki the Eco Elf — inside the National Training Centre auditorium from 12:30 to 2:30 p.m.
For information on tickets and packages, call 250-558-6083 or go to skisilverstar.com.
For Family Day weekend, Big White Ski Resort is promoting its Biggie Card, which is available in Kelowna. It saves guests $40 on their first day — and even more on additional days — and it can be reloaded online, says Mason Buettner, the resort’s communications manager.
“The more you ski, the more you save.” Go to bigwhite.com/card.
“We also have some fun family events going on this weekend.”
The popular Coast Capital Savings Cruz the Blues Weekend is today and Sunday, a family-friendly event for those who want to ski all the blue runs.
Pick up a pass at the concierge desk in the Village Centre Mall, then explore each blue run until you locate the sign. Write down the corresponding letter to discover the secret phrases on the pass. Look carefully since the signs might be nestled among trees, hidden behind bumps or tucked away on the side of the run.
Then head to Happy Valley Day Lodge for a free T-shirt, available from 3:45 p.m. on Sunday. A prize ceremony kicks off at 4 p.m. on Sunday.
The next Coast Capital Savings Cruz the Blues weekends will be March 12-13 and March 26-27.
Family Channel is also presenting Big White’s Snow Ninja Challenge, one of Big White’s newest family fun events.
Competitors will race through a ski resort-inspired ninja course featuring a ‘snow wall,’ maze gate, obstacle course and a rope line crawl.
All racers will be given their time on completion of the course with prizes for the winners of each category and a top prize for the fastest ninja.
Big White is holding its second of three Masters’ Weeks for all 50-plus skiers from Feb. 25 to March 1.
You can meet like-minded snow sports enthusiasts and take your skiing to a whole new level with lessons from some of the top ski instructors in B.C. followed by a number of exclusive apres-ski events and other optional activities.
Space is limited so register asap at bigwhite.com/ski-school-rentals/camps-special-programs/masters-week.
The third session is April 1-5.
You can bid on a piece of Silver Star Mountain Resort history at the annual Emergency Services Day today.
The Silver Star Fire Department is accepting bids on a two-person lift from the old Summit Chair which was removed last spring and replaced with a new gondola.
Since 1970, the Summit Chair brought skiers and boarders to the top of the mountain. Proceeds from the Summit Chair bidding will go to the volunteer fire department. For more information or to bid by proxy, call or text Brad Baker at 250-558-8105.
The auction will end at 3 p.m. today.
Everyone is invited to participate in Emergency Services Day with a percentage of each lift ticket sold donated to the Vernon Jubilee Hospital Foundation. VJHF will also be in the village accepting donations throughout the day.
You can watch live demos, learn about avalanche rescue techniques, and watch and assist in live firefighting demonstrations by the Silver Star Fire Hall.
“It’s an awareness day for the community. It showcases some of the services that are available and a few of the things they are able to do in an emergency situation,” said Jessica Crick, the resort’s safety co-ordinator. “This event provides members of the public with the opportunity to meet the services outside of the stressful situations these meeting generally take place in.”
Any volunteers from fire departments, B.C. Ambulance Service, RCMP, Red Cross, St. John’s Ambulance, search and rescue, the Dragoons and PepAir will receive 50 per cent off day tickets today.
Volunteers will require some form of ID to show they are associated with the above organizations.
After last week’s column on staying warm through a polar vortex, readers submitted a number of suggestions. And the Sheriff should have mentioned that the Aeroskin head covering goes under your padded ski helmet.
— Your coat zipper should be totally zipped up to your throat and snaps or velcro fastened to keep the wind out.
— Longer coats are better. The better jackets have an elastic powder ring around the bottom to keep out powder (and airflow up your coat) so don’t forget to fasten the snaps to keep it tight around your ski pants.
— Take chemical handwarmers out of the plastic outer layer while driving up. Shake them to activate the chemicals and place them inside your mitts so you have warmth as soon as you put them on.
— Established long underwear brands have different grades, weights or thicknesses for tops and bottoms.
— When you try on downhill boots for the first time, bring your usual downhill socks.
— The Sheriff gets cold hands and cold feet, thanks for the cold genes, Mom. So he has tried numerous options since 1983-84. The electric socks — D cells at the top of the socks — worked well for the first half of the season. Then, the electric wires running down to a heat strip must have broken. The wiring in electric mitts — D cells on the back of the gloves — also broke with the broken wire then regularly poking his hands.
— The Sheriff also found electric boot warmers in which a rechargeable battery with heat control was attached to the back of the boots and wires ran down into boot warming pads. They worked well for several seasons but the batteries tend to pop off the boots and you have to lift your ski pants off the boots to adjust the temperature.
— The current solution is rechargeable ThermaCell boot warmers, basically an insole with built-in battery that you have to slip in and out (to recharge) every time you use them. The insoles come with a remote control. Careful with bending the insole since you don’t want to break the electrical connection.
Your boots have to be large enough to accommodate them so take them to your boot fitting. The existing boot insole can be removed from some models for extra space.
— Several years ago, the Sheriff found electric boot heaters that plug into a vehicle cigarette lighter with two warming pads that you slide into empty boots to warm them on the way up to the hill.
— Boot covers are also available for downhill boots. The Sheriff doesn’t have them. You can also remove your boots during a break or lunch and place chemical handwarmers inside your arch or on top of or under your toes.
Graham, a regular reader, wrote in about what he used to carry with him in ‘the good old days.’
“I’ll be 73 in June and gave up x-country a couple decades ago when I realized my knees were too valuable and too vulnerable. In any case, when I did ski x-c, I always took an emergency replacement aluminum ski tip. You might never use it but it’s kind of like a spare tire in a vehicle. You hope you never need it but if you do, it can be a lifesaver.
“I never had to use mine but over the years, I saw a few people avoid a long and exhausting hike by simply tightening the replacement tip onto their ski and continue back-to-base at a pretty decent pace. I also saw a couple of people try to ski out with a missing tip. Good luck!”
His experience of seeing “a very few people” with broken tips was going back 40 years or so on bush trails around Edmonton and Calgary that were never professionally groomed.
“I suspect it might relate to less snow depth on the Prairies than on B.C.’s mountains which exposed occasional rocks. Skis were often hand-me-down wood or early-days laminated synthetics that were not as strong as they are now. I’m glad to hear that skis are much sturdier these days.
“I haven’t done cross-country since the early ‘90s but I think if I were heading off into the wilderness for a day trip these days that I’d still take my emergency tip. I get the feeling that a certain tranche of young skiers won’t even consider carrying an extra tip as if it reflects on their ability. It’s kind of like my habit of carrying a small sealed box with a decent jack knife, a cheap plastic poncho and some waterproof matches on back country rambles. I’ve never had to open it but it buys me peace of mind.”
Spring break is approaching so the Central Okanagan regional parks department is lining up some fun.
Nature Detectives Spring Break Camps will be offered on the mornings of March 19-21 and March 26-28 at the Environmental Education Centre for the Okanagan (EECO) in Mission Creek Regional Park, Springfield and Durnin roads in Kelowna.
Youngsters age five to seven can take part in indoor and outdoor activities during the camps which run from 9 a.m. to noon.
Register in advance at the EECO. The cost is $75 per youngster for each Tuesday-to-Thursday morning camp.
J.P. Squire, aka the Ski Sheriff, is a retired reporter. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.