Once considered the dullest of the snow activities, Nordic skiing has shed its wool knickers and leg gaiter persona to become one of winter’s fastest growing sports.
Increasing in participation by about 15 per cent a year (even before the pandemic caused a spike in popularity), cross-country skiing is becoming cool. Denys Lawrence, president of the Canadian Association of Nordic Ski Instructors (CANSI), says for longtime cross-country (XC) fans, the growth in interest isn’t a surprise: “the sport has it all; it’s an adventure, a workout and a meditation.”
While non-skiers often assume XC can be a physical slog that’s tough to get the hang of, in truth, once you nail the basics, it can be easier than walking. There’s also a much lower barrier for entry than downhill; trail passes are inexpensive; the gear’s affordable and few lessons will soon have you looking like poetry in motion (or at least keep you upright and skiing).
Whether you’re looking for a family adventure, wanting to develop a new skill or if you’re just interested in a leisurely way to soak up all the beauty BC has to offer, read on for the best places and reasons around BC to give the sport a try:
1. Learn a New Skill
Where: Silver Star Mountain Resort/ Sovereign Lake, Vernon
Home to the incredibly popular adult XCSupercamps—three-to-five-day camps where you can learn to ski from scratch or get technical about your glide—Silver Star and Sovereign Lake offer a joint network of 105 kilometres of groomed trails. Add in an extra-long season, powdery snow and great views, and it’s the perfect place to develop your skills.
2. It's a Family-Friendly Activity
Where: Hollyburn Ridge Cypress Mountain Provincial Park, West Vancouver
Popular with Vancouver families since the 1920s, the 19 kilometres of winding trails all lead back to the rebuilt historic lodge with its popular (non-Covid era) music nights and hearty home cooked meals. Over seven kilometres of lit trails turn chilly winter evenings into family adventures. You can even rent a paulk (for towing small children on the ski trails).
3. Bring Your Favourite Four-Legged Friend
Where: Olympic Park/ Callaghan Country, Whistler
If you have a sporty dog who loves to run, 30 of the park’s almost 90 kilometres of trails are open to dogs. Groomed for both classic and skate skiing, the dog-friendly trails are a great place for both you and your pooch to develop the skills needed to enjoy the winter magic.
4. Get in Touch with Your Wild Side
Where: Kimberley Nordic Centre
The 33-kilometre trail network connects with another 50 kilometres of trails through Kimberley Nature Park. Adventurous skiers who are ready for something new can try bushwhacking along the single track set secondary trails for an entry-level backcountry touring experience.
5. Skiing is For All Abilities
Where: Mount Washington, Courtenay
If you have a barrier that’s keeping you from the hills, check out the Strathcona Nordic Ski Club’s programs for people with accessibility needs ranging from physical to mental—the club has two sit skis and also offers options for the visually impaired.
Northern BC Tourism/Marty Clemens
6. See Wildlife
Where: Telemark Nordic Club, West Kelowna
Set on 3,000 acres (1,364 hectares) of land with streams, wetlands, forests and grassland, the possibility of spotting wildlife is high at the Telemark Nordic Club. Skiers have caught sight of bears, bobcats, cougars and deer on the diverse terrain. Rentals and lessons are available.
7. Soak up Incredible Views
Where: Manning Park
With 60 kilometres of classic and skate ski groomed trails, and 160 kilometres of backcountry trails, this is a great location for trying out a variety of terrains; all with a scenic mountain backdrop.
Chef Mark Filatow
8. Master Your Glide
Where: Bulkley Valley Nordic Centre, Smithers
The Bulkley Valley Cross-Country Ski Club maintains 45 kilometres of trails for members and guests. The trails offer skiing for all levels from easy to advanced. Masters lessons (an adult age category, not a description of skills) are regularly available for people who want to develop their skills.
9. Take a Shot at Biathlon
Where: Caledonia Nordic Ski Club, Prince George
CNSC has 55 kilometres of groomed trails, including lit trails for night skiing and dog-friendly trails. Want-to-be Olympians may want to head straight to the biathlon range for a lesson. After a challenging ski you’ll learn to steady your breath and try your hand at the exciting Olympic sport.
10. Ski One Hundred Miles
Where: 99 Mile Ski Centre, One Hundred Mile House
If you’re looking for unlimited space to skate or glide, the 150 kilometres of community network of trails around 100 Mile House includes 45 kilometres of trails that are maintained Nordic Ski Society. There are also groomed lakeside trails at the 108 Resort and Golf Club and unmaintained trails near the Spruce Hills Resort.