Thursday, 17 January 2019

Cross Country skiers should check out Infinity Ski Poles

By Keith and Heather Nicol
The Infinity Vise Strap makes controlling your pole easy
    Infinity Ski Poles have a strapping system that I really like which makes poling in either classic or skate skiing that much easier. The key is the their so called “ vise strap” which snuggly wraps around your glove or mitt which makes controlling your pole very easy. Infinity makes several different shafts depending on if you want lightness or durability as well a couple of different basket options. My “go to” Infinity Ski Poles have been the eLite shaft which is compromise in lightness and durability. It comes in at just 46 gm/m of shaft length!  The vice strap allows lots of adjustment for when you are wearing mitts or gloves  and the poles comes with a variety of grip options from synthetic to cork. Most of their poles also come with a 1 year warranty against breakage.  This year I am testing the eXtreme ski pole shaft which is slightly heavier but stiffer.  This shaft comes in at 54 gm/m. If you are in the market for new poles check these out at:  
Infinity Ski Poles in action

Friday, 14 December 2018

For the outdoor person on your Christmas list check out these BRBM water proof maps.

By Keith and Heather Nicol
Keith looking over one of the fold out maps for Vanc Island
      Since we like to explore on foot and sea kayak maps are indispensible tools for staying found.   They come into their own when planning a trip and of course while doing any backcountry trip. During our many years in Newfoundland we relied a great deal on topographic maps to help navigate in summer on hiking or canoe trips and in the winter on backcountry ski trips. We also often used them for sea kayaking although we often had marine charts as well for that activity. Since we have just arrived in the Comox Valley we have been keen to get out and see this area as well and we have logged many hours paddling, biking and hiking in this scenic part of Vancouver Island. But we also want to explore beyond the Comox Valley so we were very pleased to find the series of maps put out by Backroads Mapbooks (BRMB). 
The popular Helliwell Park trail on Hornby Island was identified on the maps
We had never come across these publications before although it looks like recently they have completed one for Newfoundland.  One of their products we were attracted to right away was their fold out waterproof maps of Vancouver island. They have 2 of these recently produced maps – one logically for the north part of the island and another for the southern part (the dividing line being roughly at Qualicum Beach/Parksville area). We feel these maps will be ideal for trip planning as we explore Vancouver Island since forestry backroads are shown as well as lots of camping, sea kayak and other information.  Their scale of 1:180.000 is ideal for broad planning and since the maps fold up nicely you can then use them along the way. At this scale they won’t replace detailed maps or marine charts but they certainly are big improvement over a provincial road map.

These maps are a good first step for identifying various trails - Hornby Island
    With our BRMB map of Vancouver Island (north) in hand we decided to do a fall trip to Hornby Island to check out the detail and accuracy of the maps. We had our car loaded with sea kayaks, hiking boots and mountain bikes and we were impressed with the information that it did show for Hornby Island. It identified most beaches and highlighted trailheads for some multi use trails. When we mountain biked on Hornby Island’s excellent trails we did use a detailed trail map produced by their mountain bike association since a map at a scale of 1:180,000 won’t show all the trails.  The BRMB map showed some campgrounds but didn’t identify any sea kayak routes perhaps since Hornby Island doesn’t have a well maintained boat launch. When we were there we simply launched off of sandy beaches. So what is our take away of these maps ...they are very useful for planning purposes since they show Vancouver Island at a perfect “big picture” scale and they are waterproof. And at just $14.95 each they would make a great stocking stuffer for the outdoor person on your Christmas list. They can be found at a variety of retail outlets or can be ordered at:  BRMB has other map products as well and they now have produced maps for all provinces of Canada so be sure to check them out.  

Tuesday, 4 December 2018

Supercamps are a perfect way to start the cross country ski season.

 by Keith and Heather Nicol

Skiing on the grid at Sovereign Lake Nordic Centre
    We in the middle of teaching in the early season Supercamps that are held every year at Silver Star and Sovereign Lake located near Vernon in B.C.’s Interior. The main Supercamps run from November 19 to December 9, 2018 and they include three 3 weekend camps and three 4.5 day mid week camps. This year this area has had early snow and conditions for the camps have been close to perfect. These camps have been running for many years but seem to be getting more popular and this year has been the largest with well over 360 participants. In fact all camps sold out quickly so next year if you want to get in on one of these camps be sure to sign up early.

Here is our group at the top of the mountain
     Classes involve instruction by some of Canada’s top cross country ski instructors and coaches and a chance to ski on the 105 km trail network which includes trails at Silver Star and Sovereign Lake Nordic ski areas.  The camps offer video analysis of your skiing plus afternoon lectures on nutrition, yoga, how to prepare for skiing a loppet and much more. There are a variety of specialized programmes including biathlon, a pro camp for aspiring masters racers and a popular   “Wild Women” programme which involves enjoying the nordic ski experience in a fun, friendly, female-focused environment. Spend your mornings and early afternoon on skis improving your technique, and then relax in the late afternoons with wine & yoga, a strength and conditioning session, and other exciting extras. Class size varies but is usually between 5-6 participants per instructor which makes for personalized instruction. 
A real bonus is that you can use the lifts at Silver Star Resort to access the upper trails
    These camps are geared to everyone from first timers to advanced skiers wanting to improve their technique and get in cross country skiing on a huge variety of trails. If you want a mid season tune up on your skiing you can still take in 2 more weekend camps which are scheduled for January 11-13, 2019 and February 1-3, 2019. For more information see:

The views from the trails are spectacular

Sunday, 25 November 2018

Sovereign Lake Nordic Centre is open for skiing and breaking attendance records

By Keith and Heather Nicol

By Keith and Heather Nicol
    You can always count on Sovereign Lake Nordic Centre to be open early and they did so again this
Getting in some "no poles" skiing in the stadium
year and set day ticket sales record in the process.  According to Sovereign’s General Manager  Troy Hudson they are doing so well in part due to lack of snow in other ski areas. We love coming to Sovereign Lake to get in our first cross country ski outings of the season and this year is was no different.  It has been a warm and relatively dry November along the coast in BC and this has meant virtually no snow at Mount Washington which is our regular ski spot on Vancouver Island.  But with Sovereign open on November 8 we knew we had to come up to check things out.  We arrived around noon on Saturday, November 24 and have never seen the parking lot so full! Fortunately we knew that some people like to get in their ski and then head home and we lucked out finding a parking spot right in front of the lodge. 
Sovereign is attracting large crowds due to the good skiing conditions
      We like to take it easy on our first day and we were especially appreciative of the fact that on this day Sovereign had a nicely groomed stadium area with over a dozen lanes of set tracks. So we spent the first 30-45 minutes skiing without poles to get our balance back and the flat lanes in the stadium were perfect for this. After that we headed out and enjoyed skiing Passmore and Woodland Bell. Woodland Bell had a few wet spots but Passmore was in excellent shape. Sovereign Lake Nordic Centre now has over 30 km of trails groomed for classic and skating and more are being added with each snowfall. With light snowfalls forecast over the next week as well as very pleasant temperatures and light winds you should check it out.  Snowshoe trails are currently closed at Sovereign since they need more snow in the trees. For more information and for updated conditions see:   
Heading out toward "Passmore" ski trail