Wilden hills

The rolling hills of the Wilden residential development in Kelowna mean you can get panoramic views with a short climb off Upper Canyon Drive North, above. This rocky lookout is just around the corner from the Union Road roundabout with a short steep walk from a small parking area.

After a warm January and the departure of the polar vortex, the third week of February saw a return to, um, relatively normal winter weather in the Okanagan Valley.

Normal, as defined by regular snowfalls and mild sub-zero temperatures in the mountains, and plus-zero temperatures in the Valley bottom.

It was perfect early-spring conditions for a hike in the rolling hills surrounding Wilden residential development in Kelowna last weekend.

Wednesday’s winter normal in the Okanagan was reflected in a snow report of “–6 C, 5 cm new. and a mix of blue skies and clouds” at Kelowna Nordic Ski and Snowshoe Club.

Prez Ryland Garton reported trail grooming with both machines and most trails were completed to produce “excellent conditions for classic, may be a bit soft for skate.”

It was indeed perfect mid-winter snow conditions. There were also outdoor buddies from the Central Okanagan Outdoors Club to see.

Lyle Nicholson, co-ordinator with Kelowna Nordic’s events team, had news about this week’s virtual fundraiser, Stride and Glide for the KGH Foundation, which had a goal of raising $25,000 for advanced stroke care.

“We reached $38,700 as of today. We’re confident we’ll surpass 40K. According to the KGH Foundation, they are blown away by any organization hitting this goal in a pandemic. I feel this is a testament to the community spirit of Kelowna Nordic!”

On Thursday afternoon, Nicholson had just finished the latest Zoom meeting with the events team to discuss the last day of Stride and Glide on Sunday. It’s the last official day for those who want to post XC ski or snowshoe distances for their fundraising efforts.

“KGH Foundation will have a tent set up to accept any last-minute donations and we’ll be handing out the prizes (in a socially-distanced manner) to those who raised $100 or more, plus the prize for the top team,” he said. At 1 p.m., Kelowna Nordic will present a big cheque ($40,000-plus dollars) to the KGH Foundation.

“We’ll have a large banner/poster with the fundraising thermometer to show our goal and how much we’ve surpassed that goal. Teams and individuals can have selfies taken at the poster. Should be a fun socially-distanced day!”

On Thursday, the Big White snow report showed a –14 C temperature at 7 a.m. but it was only –7 C at 10 a.m. when we arrived. No new snow was reported but there was a soft layer of powder heaven on the groomed runs. Another fantastic ski.

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Big White Ski Resort is celebrating the apparent conclusion of its COVID-19 cluster.

“Now is not a time to celebrate — but, from a distance, we are high-fiving and hugging all of you. It truly feels as though a great weight has been lifted off our shoulders,” said vice-president Michael J. Ballingall.

The Regional District of Kootenay Boundary closed its Emergency Operations Centre, but Interior Health will continue COVID testing weekly on the mountain on Wednesdays until April 7.

Perhaps belatedly, the provincial ministries of Tourism, Arts, Culture and Sport; Health; and Municipal Affairs; in conjunction with WorkSafeBC; six local governments; and the Canada West Ski Area Association have launched an education campaign to reduce COVID-19 transmission in ski communities.

“Those who are mixing households, throwing parties and ignoring the rules are putting jobs, our economy and our health at risk. Now is the time for each of us to step up and do our part so we can continue to enjoy all that ski communities have to offer,” said Melanie Mark, minister of tourism, arts, culture and sport.

Here are some facts for your next winter trivia contest:

— There are 37 ski areas throughout B.C., most of which are community-based and primarily serve rural communities.

— There are 13 ski areas considered destination ski areas.

— The ski industry in B.C. is a significant contributor to the provincial economy through $2 billion in expenditures annually and more than 21,000 jobs.

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The longest serving board member in the Friends of the South Slopes organization has retired.

At the recent AGM, Isabel Pritchard’s 23 years of service were recognized with the presentation of a picture collage of her volunteering and horseback riding on the South Slopes, and the comment: “We know that you will continue to assist the board — your ‘history’ and knowledge of the South Slopes is such a valuable resource.”

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Telemark Nordic Club recently received a $3,500 grant-in-aid from the City of West Kelowna. “This year, the grant is being used as a part of our project to get electrical power to our biathlon area,” said GM Troy Hudson. “No more stinky, noisy, costly and environmentally-unfriendly generators. This project has helped to enhance our programs and also increase the skiing/snowshoeing enjoyment of our members and public skiers.”

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Members of the Central Okanagan Naturalists’ Club were recently saddened to hear that long-time CONC and Kelowna Nordic Ski and Snowshoe Club member Alice Hargreaves has died.

She was the moving force behind reconstruction work on the High Rim Trail done by Cabin Forestry, and was behind Kelowna Nordic providing maintenance during the summer on the High Rim Trail.

She was also the moving force (and editor-in-chief) behind the CONC history book: Tracks, Trails and Naturalists’ Tales, a history of the Central Okanagan Naturalists’ Club 1962-2000. Copies are available in the CONC library.

Sherrell Davidson produced an album showing her activities at: photos.app.goo.gl/6ua55XBqjMEx3Xw36

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Silver Star Mountain Resort has suspended reciprocal programs with partner resorts, including passholder offers at Apex, Sun Peaks, Whitewater and Mount Seymour. Silver Star will re-evaluate on Feb. 28 when new health orders are announced.

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