Going the distance

Skiing Your Age a Growing Trend

73 kilometres for 73 years: Gunner Rasmussen celebrated his birthday by skiing the same distance as his age. - Photo Submitted
73 kilometres for 73 years: Gunner Rasmussen celebrated his birthday by skiing the same distance as his age. – Photo Submitted

One man’s birthday tradition has turned into a new challenge for local Nordic skiers.
Seventy-three-year-old Gunner Rasmussen celebrated his birthday on Jan. 24 by hitting the cross country trails and skiing his age in kilometres. It’s a tradition he began on his 65th birthday and has continued for the past nine years.

“I decided to do something special every time on my birthday and of course my birthday is, lucky enough for me, in January. Most of the time we’re at Sun Peaks so I said why not go out and ski my age every birthday and that’s what I’ve been doing since,” Rasmussen said.

This year’s birthday celebration took Rasmussen, accompanied by Tourism Sun Peaks (TSP) president Christopher Nicolson, seven hours and three minutes of total ski time. Including breaks for food and waxing skis, they were active for nearly eight hours.

“Christopher and I found around the 35-km mark we would feel a little bit of fatigue but after that we picked it up and I would say the last piece back home I could’ve went out again and done another loop of the top no problem,” Rasmussen said.

“Even at 73 I can do the same I did 20 years ago. As you get older it just takes a little longer time,” he added with a laugh.

The two men started from the village and made their way to McGillivray Lake where they skied five laps of a 12.4 kilometre loop Rasmussen mapped out. The highlight for the birthday boy was when a group gathered to help him celebrate.

“He (Nicolson) was skiing ahead at one time. Halfway down one trail system he assembled four or five people and started singing happy birthday when I was passing by, so that was quite a highlight,” Rasmussen said.

“Word kind of spread that Gunner was skiing 73 km so everybody after awhile knew and everyone was cheering him on ‘go Gunner go,’” Nicolson said.

“I tell my wife when I turn 100 it’s going to be a long day”

The Sun Peaks Nordic Club has now challenged its members to follow Rasmussen’s example. Cross country skiers of all ages are encouraged to ski their age in kilometres, although the challenge can be completed over the course of a week instead of a single day.

“It’s a great challenge out there and other Nordic skiers in Sun Peaks are starting to rise up to the challenge,” said Phil Youwe, Nordic operations co-ordinator for Sun Peaks Resort LLP. “Some of them have already skied their age on the day, some of them are skiing it over a week’s time, so that’s encouraging the adult skiers to get out and ski more and keep track of their kilometres.”

It is one of two challenges promoted by the Nordic club this ski season. Groups of eight skiers are tasked with skiing the distance from Sun Peaks to San Francisco before the end of the season. Each week skiers track their kilometres with the goal of compiling over 18,000.

“There are a lot of people skiing a whole lot of (kilometres) right now. Within the Nordic Club there’s a whole energy, it’s a lot of fun,” Nicolson said. “It’s a conversation piece and it’s motivating.

“If you have a goal, it’s just like going skiing, but at least you have a goal to go for and you push yourself a little bit more and put more kilometres in. It’s a good way to be more ambitious,” Rasmussen said.

Rasmussen said he hoped to see his tradition catch on with more skiers and he expects to continue as long as his body will allow him.

“I tell my wife when I turn 100 it’s going to be a long day,” he said.

Photo Submmitted
Photo Submmitted