3 Things I Learned Moving to the Okanagan

by Teresa Pavlin • Telemark Nordic Club

We were ready for a change. Both of us have lived in Toronto, Ontario for most of our lives but we had a taste of the west as visitors for I had worked in Squamish as a student and my husband had visited friends in Vancouver. This time, things were different. We had a family, responsibilities and our little snow globe of a life looked like it needed a shake up. We decided to immerse ourselves and our family in all that living near the mountains had to offer. Little did we know what great many changes we would encounter and how the world would change around us.


Lesson #1 Change is constant.


My husband Jamie was recruited by Marc Anthony Group to lead marketing at the Okanagan wineries, based in Kelowna at Mission Hill. Our twins were ten and on the cusp of their tweens. I was ready to move on from my corporate communications role for a large pharmaceutical company. It was basically now or never. Jamie started his drive out west very early one morning but not before an unfortunate encounter with a skunk who ran across our backyard path to the driveway. Should this have been taken as a bad omen? Not sure.


Lesson #2 Go with it, be resilient.


I somewhat frantically arranged our family home for rental, organized our things and planned many farewells with our family and friends. Part of the deal with our girls was, if we moved out west, they would finally get the dog they had asked for since they could speak. Five days after my 50th birthday, we bid adieu to our city life and took off to meet Jamie in Kelowna.


We landed on a Sunday morning in the rain. Now, for anyone familiar with the Valley, this was unusual. For me, leaving a perfectly blue sky with leaves starting to turn and autumn colours at their finest, I was a bit worried, ‘How would we survive a dreary winter, with no friends or family in a new town?’ So, one of the first things we discussed over a glass of fine Okanagan wine was how to best enjoy the coming winter and keep ourselves healthy. We cross-country skied as a family in Ontario, so naturally we investigated local options. Low and behold, Telemark Nordic Club, a short twenty-kilometer drive away from downtown Kelowna offered us everything we wanted. With a variety of Jack Rabbit programs for kids and youth, along with spectacularly groomed trails and a family friendly feel. With our affordable season pass, we enjoyed a winter of lessons for the girls and ski adventures for us. I even volunteered with the Ski S’ Kool program teaching school-age kids all about Nordic skiing (i.e., how to get up after you fall with sticks attached to your feet) and guiding them through the trails.


We met so many like-minded, adventure-loving, cross-country fans just like us. Between night skiing on the lit trails and perfecting our skate and classic technique on some unforgiving hills, we grew to love the club and made the most of every visit. Then, at one of the last events of 2020, we heard about a virus that seemed to be making its way across the globe. Just before the world recognized the pandemic for what it was, the girls participated in the BC Midget Race in Kamloops’ Overlander Nordic Club and BC Champs at Telemark. After a season spent skiing, frankly, more than we ever had in a winter before, these events were a fantastic way to showcase new skills and amazing development. It was a great way to also bond with their new friends and end the season on a high note.


The global pandemic happened just as we were getting our bearings and adjusting to our new life minus family and close friends. While Jamie worked from home, I explored the Okanagan with the girls – now 11 and out of school. We skied until the snow disappeared, we hiked, played at the beach and made the most of our isolated life. We bought a house close to the girls’ school and made the most of the weather, the location and the outdoors. And as COVID slowly took more and more away from us and everyone else, Jamie lost his job along with others at the company, leaving us wondering what we had done. We were forced to decide: do we stay and continue to forge a life in the Okanagan with so many unknowns, or do we go back to Toronto and what we knew?


Lesson #3 Take risks, nothing ventured, nothing gained.


Our decision to stay was rewarded with a renewed commitment to getting to know our new town, hiking, backpacking and mountain biking with our new Telemark friends and making the most of a difficult situation. Did it make it easier knowing that everyone was going through something and we were not alone? Maybe. And over the course of another year (who imagined we would still be dealing with this situation) we pivoted, starting a new business, finding a new job and encouraging the girls to continue skiing and getting to know new friends. Oh, and we got a puppy. I made the most of the K-9 trails at Telemark after Pepper joined our family.


If someone had told me what changes we would face with a move away from everything we knew, I would have laughed and thought they were crazy. It’s hard to say if we would have grown to value Telemark as much as we do now, without a global pandemic to force decisions and solidify commitments embracing the Okanagan lifestyle, but we do and we will forever be grateful to our new cross-country ski family for helping us feel welcome and helping our family thrive in our chosen home away from home.

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Teresa is the social media manager for Telemark and leads communications for Pack4U, a personalized medication delivery and digital health company with offices in Kelowna. She is the mother of two girls and a Labradoodle named Pepper. Together with her husband and girls she skis, bikes, hikes and likes to tell people she completed an Ironman triathlon many years ago.

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