There’s a reason why Canada’s Paralympic Nordic Team is currently training for Beijing 2022 at Nickel Plate Nordic Centre near Penticton — the elevation at the site is identical to where the team will compete in China this March.
But to the centre’s general manager Tricia Wilson, it’s much more than that.
It has to do with the pride she has in her centre and where the country’s Paralympic team arrived from — Canmore, Alta.
“These are all my friends from Canmore,” she explained. “I just want to share this place (Nickel Plate Nordic Centre). We’re a small club that not a lot of people know about and I just want to let the world know.”
Wilson came to the South Okanagan from Canmore and has since found herself managing the ski track 45 minutes southwest of Penticton, above Apex Mountain Resort. Her connection with Canmore has resulted in her developing friendships with the Para-Nordic team’s coaches.
That’s why the arrival of the Beijing-bound squad on Feb. 1 couldn’t have made Wilson happier.
“Our elevation is great and we have one of the longest ski seasons in the Western hemisphere,” she said when asked about what makes Nickel Plate Nordic Centre an appealing destination for the Paralympic team. “We have a good variety of green and blue trails but we also have these beautiful longer outer loops that make it feel like you’re on an adventure.
“But also the people…the people here are amazing. We have a core group of volunteers and members that make this a cozy place.”
For the rest of the week, Canada’s Para-Nordic Team will be preparing for the 2022 Paralympics.
Even though the team has only been training in the South Okanagan for a few days, Canada’s coaches are already praising the location of the ski hill.
“We’re at 1,800 metres here and we need to be at a similar altitude for what the Beijing Paralympic race courses will be,” said Team Canada’s Para-Nordic head coach Robin McKeever. “Coming to ski in an area that is close to those altitudes is very hard to find in Canada, there’s really only a few places (like this).”
Among those athletes training at Nickel Plate is one of Canada’s most successful Olympians Brian McKeever.
He is the country’s most decorated winter Paralympian with 17 medals including 13 gold and is one of the top visually impaired cross-country skiers in the world.
Beijing 2022 will be McKeever’s sixth Paralympic Winter Games and he will be once again in the medal hunt.
The team is leaving for Beijing on Feb. 25 and will have “six or seven days on the ground” before the competitions begin.
Para-Nordic athletes representing Canada on the world stage will be competing in both cross country skiing events and biathlon events.
McKeever’s hope is that his team can come home with several medals.