By Robyn Goldsmith
So, you’re thinking of taking up cross-country skiing? Don’t worry — you won’t be alone. The Revelstoke Nordic Ski Club has more than 600 members, a number that has grown steadily in recent years. I’m one of those newcomers and I’m here to give you rookie advice on the sport and the club.
Downhill skiers aren’t the only ones who are excited for the snow line to creep down to the valley — local Nordic skiers also restlessly await that winter day when the snow fills in the trails enough to get out and glide through the forests and clearings that makeup the Mount Macpherson trail network, Revelstoke’s prime cross-country skiing area. It features 26 kilometres of beginner, intermediate and expert trails, including six that are lit up at night. There’s even a loop you can bring your dogs on.
When Nordic skiing comes to mind, you may think of sleek Scandinavians in spandex, gliding effortlessly through snowy woods. While the RNSC is home to many talented Nordic skiers, including some of the best junior racers in Canada, there’s a few of us who bring some diversity to the tracks. I dream of the day I look like I know what I’m doing, but for now my efforts are accompanied by the sounds of my own heavy-breathing and swearing. It’s a tough sport, so don’t be fooled by anyone who tells you otherwise.
With that in mind, here are some tips for those of you who are new to the world of Nordic skiing, from someone who is far from an expert:
1. Uphill is easier than downhill. You may sweat your way up and think, “No problem, once I get to the top it’ll be smooth sailing.” That is incorrect. Going down on Nordic skis is death defying. If you make it to the top of Hydro Hill, you know what I mean. As you begin to slide downhill, brace yourself for the snowplow of your life. Drop your bum as low to the ground as possible, dig your skis in, and hope for the best.
2. Uphill is also very hard. I’ve watched people somehow manage to gracefully glide up the steeper hills at MacPherson, and how they manage it is a complete mystery to me. I am fairly certain the only way I can get up some of the steeps is to waddle with the same grace as a pregnant duck.
3. If you want to exhaust yourself within 10 minutes, skate skiing is a great choice. Your shoulders, forearms, thighs, feet, abs, calves, and muscles you’ve never heard of will feel the burn almost immediately.
4. Classic skiing can be mellow and relaxing and a great way to get out and enjoy nature, but don’t let your guard down. Those skinny skis can get away from you. Look up to admire the majesty of the gently falling flakes and you’ll be down in no time.
Photo: Skiers race below the evergreens around Mount Macpherson.
The struggles of Nordic skiing aside, it is a great sport, but not one that is mastered easily. Those Norwegians striding to Olympic gold didn’t just strap on a pair of edgeless skis and end up at the finish line. If you’re a newbie, there are lots of options for getting out on the trails. The RNSC offers affordable rentals, as well as both skate and classic programs for beginners. Classic programs run on Mondays in January, while skate programs run on Mondays in February.
I spoke to club President Gary Graf, who notes the club is one of the oldest in British Columbia and can trace its roots back to 1891.
The club accommodates large numbers of Nordic enthusiasts. It benefits from a solid member base and a number of dedicated and enthusiastic volunteers. Kelsey Knoll, the club manager, is a self-described “diehard recreational” cross-country skier. She says the club had 653 members last year and this year they’re hovering around 400, but the number is expected to grow once the snow falls.
The club dedicates considerable effort into skier development, led by coach Matt Smider. Graf believes Smider has “made it possible for youth to achieve higher levels than they otherwise would.” The youth ski team had a very active summer, including dry land training and camps, and anticipates a great season on the snow.
The big news is a brand new grooming machine. Thanks in part to tourism infrastructure grants and money diligently saved by the club, it was able to replace its aging groomer with a brand new one. The volunteers who groom the trail will no doubt appreciate the better machine, as will those who get out and ski the trails.
Graf says the trail network benefits from top quality grooming, and the new groomer will add to that.
Nordic skiing is what you make of it. It can be a great fitness builder, a social activity, a way to walk your dog, or a way to connect with nature and get out of the house in the winter months.
The experience of silently gliding along a groomed trail lit by a headlamp is a unique experience that will leave you feeling refreshed, invigorated, and depending on your pace and ability, a little bit sore.