Nordic sports were born in the land of snow and ice, and those challenging conditions surprisingly make for the best kind of epic fun. And for the summer-lovers amongst us, these sports make the winter season pass by quickly. Cross-country skiing and snowshoeing give access to the solitude and peace of the snow laden forest and the natural beauty of wintertime. And the best thing is, these activities can be enjoyed by every member of the family, at any age.
While the Central Okanagan might be known for wine, beaches and hot summers, it’s a not-too-well-kept secret that it offers some of the best ‘self-propelled’ winter fun. The Telemark Nordic Centre on the west side offers great trails, facilities and programs for both skiing and snowshoeing as does Kelowna Nordic on the east side of Lake Okanagan, with a fun rustic, recreational atmosphere. Both clubs are open to the public and only 30 minutes from downtown Kelowna. Telemark offers rental snowshoe and ski equipment if you just want to sample these activities before you commit to buying gear.
To complement their skiing and snowshoeing, many members of the club and race team community participate in other ‘silent sports’ in the summer including biking, hiking, paddling and rowing. Take race team Telemark members sister and brother duo, Tayte and Seth Proulx-Royds who race mountain bikes on the provincial, national and international stage in the summer and train and race in biathlon and ski competitions (respectively) in the winter. They can attest to the benefits of skiing in the off-season to keep fit and enjoy the snow, instead of spending the winter longingly looking at their bikes.
The truth is cross-country skiing and snowshoeing offer so much more than just a way to get through the winter. Great family activities, both can be an excellent way to stay fit and keep up and even improve fitness gained through other aerobic or endurance-based sports like cycling, running, rowing or paddling. A low-impact, aerobic, full-body activity, Nordic skiing offers a way to enjoy nature while getting exercise even in the coldest and bleakest of winter days.
Physiotherapist, Telemark member and race team parent Greg Redman, who also owns Wave Physiotherapy and consults to several National Teams, including Nordiq Canada, is an advocate for participating in a variety of sports and activities for the many physical, social and mental health benefits it affords. “I encourage all aspiring athletes, whether 6 or 96, to enjoy different activities throughout the year. Cross-country skiing is a perfect complement to any summer sport. It is one of the best ways to improve cardiovascular fitness and provides an excellent full body workout,” says Redman. “If you are performance minded, consider there are several Olympians who have used cross-county skiing to cross-train for sports such as cycling, kayaking, triathlon, running, and soccer.”
For those that yearn for higher elevations and pristine snow, cross-country skiing helps develop and refine the skills that help us get into the backcountry. Ski touring requires strength, aerobic capacity, endurance, and practice to stay warm in all winter conditions.
Telemark Board Member and Construction Supervisor Deren Sentesy has many years of cross-country ski coaching, and back-country and lift-assisted skiing under his belt. “As a former ski-patroller at Big White, after starting a family, cross-country skiing was the best way to teach my kids to ski up-hill so that they could learn to downhill well and ski with confidence,” says Sentesy who started skiing as a child in Ottawa and joined Telemark just after he moved to Kelowna in 2003. It’s an activity he and his whole family enjoy, both as recreational athletes and race team members. “I’ve found a community of people through Telemark that enjoy many of the same outdoor, self-propelled, wilderness activities that I love to do too, they form my social and recreational network.”
So, whether you want to build fitness, meet like-minded people, take a calming break from work, or make the cold months pass more quickly, cross-country skiing and snowshoeing may be just the right sports for you. And by the end of your first season, you won’t be calling them ‘misery sticks’ anymore. They’ll be your new favourite way to enjoy winter.
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.