Ski tracks are being made in the city in October for the first time in nearly a decade and not everybody is mad about Mother Nature bringing early winter conditions.
Otway Nordic Centre is already open to members of the Caledonia Nordic Ski Club and that boot-high dump of snow that fell late Sunday and in the wee hours of Monday morning left a thick white blanket. Coming off one of the latest ski seasons in recent memory, which allowed skiers to do their thing into late April, Otway appears to be heading to one of its earliest openings since the club adopted the area as its home in 1984.
Caledonia club general manager Angela LeFebvre says there’s enough snow to ski but the trails still have a few rough patches that could damage the bases of their skis.
“Bring your rock skis,” said LeFebvre. “We definitely have snowfall but it’s for people who want to come out but they have a set of (older) skis and they’re definitely going to get exposed to rocks. They will need rock skis and a membership because we’re not selling (day) passes, just because we can’t send people out (to check for passes).”
The Caledonia club decided last year not to charge drop-in fees for day passes right after the pandemic broke out in March, realizing the lockdown left very few recreational opportunities for people worried about exposure to the virus. That resulted in hundreds of new users coming by to check out the trails and it appears many of those newcomers are joining the club this season. Already the Caledonia club has 1,042 members, nearly double the 525 memberships it had sold by the same date last year. The club had 1,754 members in 2019-20, second only to Sovereign Lakes near Vernon as the largest nordic club In B.C.
This season’s memberships are available at early-bird rates until Nov. 9.
For backcountry skiing enthusiasts a new touring trail – Ridgerunner – was cleared this fall to connect the dog trails with the Lynx run.
The club is accepting registration for ski lessons. The Jackrabbits learn-to-ski program for kids which starts in January is already close to full capacity, with wait lists for most of the age groups unless more instructors sign up.
“We’re always looking for coaches,” said LeFebvre. “We’re going to need more coaches so that we can open up more spots.
“For families who might have a challenge affording things we’ve linked in with two things where families can look for funding – KidSport and JumpStart.”
Caledonia is starting a new program this year - Winter Fit - for skiers aged 9-18 who want to continue with instruction beyond the Skier Development Program but don’t want to race competitively. New members are being accepted for the Track Attack and Biathlon Bears programs. The club also teaches ski lessons to adults and is trying to organize a learn-to biathlon program for adults.
Not-for-profit organizations can apply for use of Santa’s Cabin at the former biathlon range where they will be able raise money this winter on Saturdays selling hot chocolate and snacks.
“We’re trying to support the not-for-profits who are struggling under COVID to do their fundraising, so we’re opening up space for them and they’ll get to keep 100 per cent of their proceeds,” said LeFebvre.
This season the club is offering free wifi coverage for members as a convenience for people who want to use their phones for email or internet connections.
Due to pandemic restrictions, large events such as the Iceman have been cancelled this winter. As one alternative, Caledonia is organizing a virtual multi-stage loppet ski race between Jan. 4 and March 28. Each racer who enters the Grand Tour of Caledonia will time themselves as they complete the set course and submit their best time to see how they stack up against everyone else.
More information on Otway trail conditions and club activities is available at caledonianordic.com.