Thursday, 11 December 2014

Skating tips for improving your “no poles” roller skiing technique

by Keith and Heather Nicol
              Roller skiing without poles is a great way to get ready for the cross country ski season since it helps skiers develop the all important skill of balance. I usually practice the basic free skate action to start with which means balancing momentarily on a single ski roller.  I swing my arms directly down the track as shown in photo 1.  I stand tall while I glide and I then flex at the ankles, knees and hips to develop power as I skate off to glide on the other roller ski.  As well as practicing the conventional free skate I also like to practice the arm timing for some of the other skating actions. In this case I simulate the various poling techniques that I would use while skate skiing. 
Actively swing your arms down the track when you practice the free skate
    In the following video I demonstrate some tips for working on your no poles skating. This video provides tips for improving your free skate as well as other skating techniques. For instance, in the 2 skate (or V2 alternate) I try to focus on my arms going through a full range of motion-flexing to start and extending well past my hips to finish. With the 1 skate (or V2) you will need to recover your arms faster and I try to stand tall in between skating actions which will help lengthen your glide. Be sure to adjust the terrain you pick for roller skiing since you want to have fast conditions for the 1 and 2 skate and then choose an uphill for practicing the offset skate (or V1 skate). It also pays to practice the offset skate on your left side as well as the right side.  As with all of these simulated skating actions I try to work on developing a strong leg push as well as performing the proper arm actions. The following video  shows examples of these drills and I thank  Rossignol, Jenex Roller skis and Infinity Ski poles for their help with this blog and video.Always wear a helmet when roller skiing and some skiers like to wear other safety equipment like knee and elbow pads. I find that the best roads for roller skiing are those that have been recently paved and are generally flat like the road shown above.

When I simulate the 2 skate I work on finishing with my arms well past my hips


Friday, 5 December 2014

Enchanted by the tall trees of Cathedral Grove on Vancouver Island

 by Keith and Heather Nicol
This Douglas Fir is over 800 years old
Vancouver Island is known for its tall trees and Cathedral Grove in MacMillian Provincial Park is one of the easily accessible and most visited areas to see some of these giants up close. We stopped into see Cathedral Grove on Thursday, December 4 and although it was cool and raining lightly we still were enchanted by this magical setting. Cathedral Grove is located just over 20 kilometers west on highway 4 from the main island highway.  Highway 4 is also the route to Port Alberni and Tofino and so it is well marked. 

 Cathedral Grove is especially known for its tall stands of douglas fir located on the south side of the road. One massive douglas fir is 76 meters tall, 9 meters around at the base and is over 800 years old! There are also impressive stands of ancient Western red cedar on the north side of road. Our only regret is that we didn’t bring a tripod since the trails that wind through the large stands of trees are quite dark even during the day. We ended up having to balance to the camera on some of the wooden fencing to get these pictures.For more information see:
The vegetation is lush and comes in numerous shades of green
Heather looking up toward the tree tops

Thursday, 27 November 2014

Sea kayaking at Comox Lake

by Keith and Heather Nicol

On Sunday, November 23 we decided to check out Comox Lake with our kayaks since the sun was shining and the wind was forecast to be light. We drove through Cumberland and put in at the boat launch at Cumberland Lake Park (GPS coordinates - 10 U 0349475 E 5449247 N). Since the boat launch was in the shade we decided to paddle across the lake to some of the beaches that were facing into the sun. We had fine views of the snow capped mountains in the distance and the late November sun even seemed to have some warmth while we had lunch on one of the beaches. After lunch we paddled back around the edge of the lake to the boat launch.   

The snow capped mountains in the distance really add to the scenery
Arriving at our lunch spot on Comox Lake

Thursday, 20 November 2014

Sea kayaking at Goose Spit and the Courtenay River, Courtenay. B.C.

   by Keith and Heather Nicol                         
     Sea kayakers have lots of options in the Courtenay – Comox area of Vancouver Island. With the good weather continuing through mid November we decided to explore Goose Spit and the Courtenay River. Goose Spit is also a popular place to walk since it juts out into Comox Harbour for a couple of kilometers and provides good views of the Comox Icefield as well as the surrounding countryside. We put in on the protected harbour side at : 10 U 0362746 E 5503155 N on Saturday, November 15. Since it was high tide we had only a short carry to the water and we paddled past many different sea birds as we headed in a westerly direction around the spit. We stopped for a rest where a sailboat had blown ashore during the last big wind storm. After a short break we decided to return following the same route back to the car.
At the put in on Goose Spit
     Two days later on Monday, November 17 we decided to paddle down the Courtenay River from the boat launch at the marina near the Air Park in Courtenay (coordinates : 10 U 0356855 E 5505141 N).  This is a convenient put in since you can basically drive right to the water. The Courtenay River is teeming with waterfowl as well as seals at this time of year. We also saw an eagle and a blue heron. We paddled around a small island at the end of the estuary before heading back up stream to our launching point. This area has so much bird life that you could paddle in this area repeatedly and see lots of interesting things on each trip. 
There were lots of waterfowl around on our most recent paddle in this area

 Also while at this location be sure to drop in and chat to the people at Comox Valley Kayaks and Canoes. They are a great source of information about sea kayaking and we have chatted on several occasions to Gabriela Brunschwiler about various aspects of kayaking in this area. Since we have just arrived she told us about many places to kayak in this area as well as provided advice on roof racks and kayak carts. They not only have a large well equipped retail store but they also provide instruction and tours. For more information see:

Be sure to check out Comox Valley Kayaks and Canoes while in Courtenay

Sunday, 16 November 2014

Sea kayaking with the sea lions at Fanny Bay, B.C.

by Keith and Heather Nicol
Heather checking out the sea lions
    Friday, November 14 was another sunny day with light winds and so we decided to head to Fanny Bay where we had heard there were sea lions just offshore and a place to launch sea kayaks next to the wharf. Fanny Bay is 20 kilometers south of Courtenay, B.C. along the old island highway. We had not visited Fanny Bay before but it didn’t take us long to hear the sea lions which had hauled out on a raft just in front of the wharf. The GPS coordinates for where we parked are: 10 U 0367671 E and 5485591 N. We launched our sea kayaks just before high tide which meant we had just a short carry to the water and we initially paddled out to the sea lions. We didn’t get too close since these are big animals with a large mouth and after getting some photos we headed for the headland to the south. The weather was perfect for paddling despite the cool 5 C temperatures. The flat calm conditions made paddling easy and we explored the shoreline for 45 minutes before heading back to check out the sea lions again. This is a great place to paddle if you want to photograph the sea lions and the other bird life in the area. 
The sea lions enjoying the sun

Fanny  Bay is great spot for sea birds and sea lions