Big White

Big White Ski Resort had spectacular sunshine and blue skies on Thursday. The top of the Alpine T-bar, above, had a panoramic view of the surrounding hills and valleys.

The Okanagan continues to experience an unusual winter: warmer-than-usual in the valley bottom, and regular snowfalls refreshing downhill resorts and cross-country ski areas in the hills.

Kelowna Nordic Ski and Snowshoe Club continues to offer excellent conditions for classic and skate skiing with overcast conditions last Saturday, but a glimmer of sunshine on Monday.

A glimpse of low cloud on downhill webcams Monday meant a quick switch from downhill to cross-country equipment.

Only the main trails at Kelowna Nordic were groomed but the Sheriff and Constant Companion Carmen added That Damn Trail (beaver dam spot) and then Spruce Glen to the ever-popular Upper and Lower Meadow Loop. Spruce Glen wasn’t groomed so –2 C meant a skiff of new snow in the track was sticky. We did this wonderful trail downhill so the classic skis were always moving and snow didn’t clump.

The benefit of going to the same ski area time after time is seeing the same friends, coincidentally on the same day, while also making new friends.

Like other valley XC areas, “our membership is up 115% (I think the most of any club),” said Kelowna Nordic president Ryland Garton. “We are around 1,165 and they keep coming in.”

All group events as well as moonlight ski and snowshoe nights were cancelled due to COVID-19, but the week-long inaugural Stride and Glide fundraiser for the KGH Foundation’s Advanced Stroke Care campaign is still on for Feb. 14-21.

For registration (individual or group of four) and more information, go to kelownanordic.com/club-activities/stride-and-glide-fundraiser/

The first 100 to register will receive a neck Ski Buff made exclusively for this event. For those who ski or snowshoe six, 12 or 18 kilometres and raise more than $100, there are more than 100 prizes, everything from wine, food coupons and dinners at restaurants to sports equipment from the two main sponsors, Kelowna Cycle and Fresh Air.

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It was a perfect Big White moment that lasted all day.

Brilliant sunshine and deep blue skies on Thursday meant a crowd heading up to Big White Ski Resort. The Gem Lake Parking Lot was filled by 9:30 a.m. and everyone was waiting for a lift ride.

So we headed for the Happy Valley Parking Lot, fourth row, and virtually no lineups at the Ridge/Snow Ghost lifts.

The snow report said it was –13 C but it wasn’t that cold, thanks to all that sunshine bathing the slopes. With an alpine base of 185 centimetres and 25 cm of new snow in the last seven days, it was downhill heaven.

Big White also issued a Tree Well Safety Bulletin after a recent death: “Please be reminded to ski or ride with a buddy; stay in each other’s sight lines; watch for soft spots; always turn below the tree; take your pole straps off before you enter any wooded area; carry a whistle zipped to your upper pocket to alert or call for help; and if you fall into a tree well, stay calm and don’t make any sudden movements — help is on the way.”

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A few updates from Silver Star Mountain Resort:

— Tube Town Cafe and Brewer’s Skating Pond will now operate during Tube Town hours only and be closed Tuesday-Wednesday. Please remember masks are required while tubing.

— This week’s storm caused a number of trees to fall; please ride with caution and alert ski patrol if a fallen tree is encountered on a groomed run.

— Check out the new features in the Terrain Park, including additions to the jump lanes.

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The annual Team Telemark raffle is back for another year as a fundraiser for the Team Telemark Youth Development cross-country and biathlon race Teams.

Tickets are $5 with 20 prizes from local businesses including a Swagman bike rack, woven art panel by Annabel Stanley, Waterfront Wines gift card, skis and snowshoes from Fresh Air, IFM Therapy massage, Kelowna Toyota detail package, Silver Star Nordic package, and one-night stay and dinner at The Cove.

You can purchase tickets from team members, at the raffle table outside the lodge on Saturdays or at the day lodge anytime.

The draw date is March 13.

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Friends of the South Slopes Society will hold its annual general meeting at 7 p.m. on Jan. 27.

On Tuesday, FOSS members were emailed the protocol for nominations to the board, additions to the agenda, the designated proxy and information about requesting a link via Zoom.

On Thursday, the AGM agenda, financial report, president’s report and board nominees will be emailed; and a designated proxy vote form will be emailed on Jan. 24 (to be returned by Jan. 26).

Before the pandemic, FOSS was looking forward to a busy year, said trail maintenance coordinator Herb Blamire. A COVID-19 safety plan was implemented until BC Parks closed provincial parks.

With a “very generous” donation from a friend of FOSS, “we were able to purchase another UTV and fully equip it to match our original unit (racks, trimmers, chain saws and all necessary hand tools). FOSS also purchased a walk-behind-brusher,” he said.  

When parks re-opened, “an incredible 30 kilometres of trails were cleared, providing for motorized evacuation of injured trail users as well as improved access for maintenance efforts in the future.”

FOSS (foss-kelowna.org) worked closely with Central Okanagan Search and Rescue to establish a heli-pad on the upper portion of Myra-Bellevue Provincial Park. 

FOSS also repaired the Priest Creek crossing on the Bellevue Access Trail and cleaned up debris in the Myra Wetland. Several

old bridges were repaired and plans made to replace at least two in 2021.

“FOSS has spent considerable time investigating the work needed to bring the Wild Horse Canyon Trail in Okanagan Mountain Provincial Park to a sustainable level of safety for recreational use,” said Blamire.  

FOSS continues to pursue its vision of an uninterrupted ‘green belt’ extending from Mission Creek Greenway to Naramata.

J.P. Squire, aka the Ski Sheriff, is a retired journalist. Email: jp.squire@telus.net