The pandemic has provided some people the opportunity to pursue new outdoor activities or reignite a passion for pursuits from the past, leading to eager but potentially inexperienced and rusty users on regional Nordic trails.
Phil Youwe, the Sun Peaks Resort Nordic co-ordinator, has seen many new and experienced Nordic skiers, snowshoers and fat bikers flocking to the trails.
“Certainly all users are up on the trail system,” Youwe said. “There’s more snowshoers and fat bikes have shown an increase.”
Aidan Kelly, the Sun Peaks Resort LLP chief marketing officer, explained that the increase is due to Kamloopsians looking to Sun Peaks as their local gateway for safe outdoor recreation and existing Sun Peaks season pass holders who are trying out Nordic skiing as it’s included with the alpine skiing seasons pass.
He said Nordic pass sales have also jumped this year, alongside locals’ programs, lessons and equipment rentals.
“It indicates that the number of Nordic only skiers in Sun Peaks is growing. Lessons and rentals are seeing great growth which is driven by new participants wanting to try before they buy and a decreased inventory of Nordic skis at shops.”
Of course, growth doesn’t come without at least some growing pains.
Identification of valid Nordic trail tickets has been an issue this year due to the new radio frequency identification (RFID) tickets.
“In the past, we’ve asked people to carry proof of a ticket. This year with the RFID system it’s been more difficult. We ask them to carry their RFID or ticket with them and people are very forthcoming in respecting that request,” said Youwe. “Sometimes the tickets get left in peoples’ alpine jacket, so some sort of proof from a smartphone is also a good way to identify passes.”
Youwe also recognized that Nordic skiers love their dogs and therefore select identified trails are set up to allow for pets.
“We just ask people on certain trails to have their dogs leashed and that they always pick up after their dogs, there’s lots of bags out there to do so,” he said. “It’s generally been respectfully handled. When we opened up the trails to on-leash [dogs] there was reluctance but people are getting the routine.”
Youwe recommended people stay hydrated while on the trails, bring an extra layer and a snack.
“Our trails gain elevation on the way to the lake so the way back can be quite cool, throwing an extra layer on the way back is a really good idea. It’s also important not to over-exert yourself. Sweating and getting clothing wet can be bad,” Youwe warned.
He also encouraged new users to set themselves up for success with a lesson.
“It can be a lot easier than people make it out to be so the lesson is really important.”
Youwe noted Nordic trails are a great way to get some exercise, fresh air and socialize with friends while physically distanced, and that users are receptive to the COVID-19 safety procedures and protocols new for this year.
“People are responsible out on the trails when it comes to COVID. They understand distancing is important. There’s messaging at the Nordic centre and the cabin where masks are required,” said Youwe.
Masks are also available at the Nordic Centre and it has enough space for physical distancing as well as different entry and exit points.
Kelly added he expects the growth of Nordic skiing to remain for the foreseeable future and user feedback has been positive, which is likely to spark Nordic product development and expansion for the resort.