Sunday, 10 March 2019

Fat biking is worth checking out at Mount Washington Alpine Resort

By Keith and Heather Nicol
    Fat biking is new to Mount Washington Alpine Resort this season and before it got too slushy out we decided to try it. Since you need snow temperatures below zero and firm snow- the whole month of February and early March has pretty much been ideal for a test run. With warmer temperatures in the forecast we decided to head out on Sunday, March 10 since early morning temperatures showed -5 C at Raven Lodge.
The scenery is impressive from West Passage
      Fat bikes are pretty much like a regular bike except that they come with huge tires for reducing the pressure on soft surfaces like sand or snow.  For our test trip we just ventured along the West Passage trail which is an all purpose trail between Raven Lodge and the Hawk Chairlift. It is wide and although it is groomed for skiing many people also snowshoe or walk on it. It has just a few ups and downs so it is an ideal place to try fat biking out.  We were impressed by the fact that the bike left just a slight track in the snow and that it climbed up the hills just fine.  Given that fat bikes have brakes they must give way to all other users but this trail is so wide that it isn’t really an issue most of the time.  Braking on the downhills was also easy and the bike handled very well with no sign of skidding out on this dry firm snow.
The West Passage trail is a perfect place to try out fat biking
 Next time out I want to try Raven’s Revenge which is a steeper, longer trail and it will provide a good workout.  Mount Washington has fat bikes (and helmets) to rent at Raven Lodge (the cross country ski centre) but cyclists are invited to bring their own bikes as long as they meet the tire and pressure standards.  Also remember that unlike skiing or snowshoeing you are not allowed on the trail when temperatures climb above zero since slushy snow, bikes and skiers don’t mix.  So check the temperatures before you head up.  For more information see:
The bikes left just a light imprint on the snow surface

Thursday, 21 February 2019

Ski Touring at Hollyburn Mountain near Vancouver, BC

by Keith and Heather Nicol
Eric and Kristie heading up
     It had been several years since we had gotten out our ski touring gear so when we decided to head over to Vancouver for the family day long weekend we decided to try a route that was close to town and where route finding should be easy. So on Saturday, February 16 we headed up to Cypress Mountain Resort and the start of the trail to the summit of Hollyburn Mountain. Overnight 20 cm of new snow had fallen so we decided thought we might even get some turns in some fresh snow. We were joined by our daughter Kristie and her boyfriend Eric who also was keen to get his alpine touring gear out as well. Since this area is very popular we decided to leave Vancouver by 8:00 am which meant that we got a parking place close to the trail head at 49.379 N and 123.191 W. The trail head is fairly obvious if you head to the Cypress Mountain Nordic ski area (the route starts near the Nordic ticket office).  Note that this route is outside the formal xc ski trails and snowshoe trails of Cypress Mountain resort so is free but is not patrolled. Most people heading up the mountain were on snowshoes although there were a few people on telemark or alpine touring gear. 
Lunch at the summit
 The route winds mainly to the left of the cross country ski trails and ascends up for just over 3 km. The first 2 km are generally in the trees but then it opens up and the last part resembles an alpine ski area run. This last section is quite steep and we opted not to follow the snowshoe trail so cut a shallower ascent route. By now we had run into so other ski tourers who led us to the top of the mountain by winding around the side instead of climbing directly up the steep front side. It took us about 1 hour and 45 minutes to reach our lunch spot at the summit (440 m above start)  The ski tourers we had followed suggested that we take a slightly different way down and they offered to show us the route.

Getting some turns in the open areas
  By now the sun had come out and we did in some turns in the open areas but we ended up too far down the slope to be able to cut back to our original trail. So we ended up skiing down through the trees to Baden Powell hiking trail (marked by reflective markers) and proceeded to follow it back toward the alpine ski area. At one point could hear the traffic on the road and decided to head straight down instead of traversing on the Baden Powell trail. Our adventure was not over yet when we found that there was a small cliff between us and the overflow alpine parking lot. Fortunately we found a rope that had been placed which allowed us to slip down the steep slope to the road. From there we traversed back to our car at the Nordic parking lot. Lessons learned – We found that the open slopes definitely allow some turns to be had especially near the top. But it is very easy to get off track in this area so stay to the established trails unless you want to explore.  Slopes are steep so you should have intermediate to advanced ski skills and don’t take this area too lightly since skier and snowshoers regularly get lost on these North Shore Mountains. 
Coming down the rope at the end

Monday, 11 February 2019

The ice skating near Cumberland is awesome!

By Keith and Heather Nicol
      On February 11 with the school children in the Comox Valley getting a snow day we opted for
Keith checking out the ice
one as well.  We decided to head to Cumberland to check out the snowy trails and ice skating and were happy to report that both were in fine shape. But you need to act soon to check this out since warm temperatures are forecast for the end of week.  We drove through Cumberland and took the road toward Comox Lake. At “Jumbo’s Cabin” (a can’t miss log building on the left) there is a small parking lot.  From there we headed down a few meters to a trail that connects some of the ponds in this area. We could hear people shouting and first veered left to check out that pond and it had a game of hockey going on plus a couple of other smaller rinks that people were busy clearing snow of snow.
There were 3 ice rinks of various sizes when we were there
 The ice turned out to be hard and fast and it was great to go for an outdoor skate. There were a steady stream of people coming out to see how the ice was and many brought skates and shovels. After skating we decided to walk on the Wellington Colliery Trail which is just below the log cabin and there were even ski tracks in the snow from some skiers that had passed by earlier. We walked to another pond that looked like people had tried to clear for skating but had quit due to the amount of water on the ice. We took the trail a signpost highlighting the Japanese townsite that once was in this area before returning back to the car. Check this area out for its outdoor skating opportunities (when the weather cooperates)  and nice winter walking. Bring a shovel in case snow needs to be cleared. 
Heather on the Wellington Colliery trail


Wednesday, 30 January 2019

Check out Auclair’s Cross Country Ski Gloves and Mitts

By Keith and Heather Nicol
     Basically you want cross country ski gloves or mitts to fit well, keep you warm and easily fit into your ski pole straps.  Recently I have had a chance to test a variety of gloves and mitts from Auclair and am certainly impressed by their fit and warmth. Also they all seem to have a slim profile so they fit smoothly into your ski straps. I am especially taken with their cross country ski mitts which fit into my straps so easily compared with the struggles I would have with my old mitts. 

Note the slim fit of the Auclair mitt compared to the bulky size of my old mitt
   Some innovative products to check out from Auclair include their over mitts which fit over either their gloves or mitts for skiing on those really cold days. I have not tested them yet in those conditions but am sure they will provide some extra warmth. As well  their Honeycomb glove has a built in overmitt tucked into the wrist band. Granted these overmitts are not thick but since they are with the gloves already and can easily deployed they are a great innovation. I have used them and they certainly provide some extra protection especially on windy days. 
Here is the Honeycomb glove with built in overmitt seen on my left hand 
Their Lillehammer glove is the ‘standard’ glove worn by many skiers where temperatures are cooler. At the Cross Country Supercamps  held every fall at Sovereign Lake -Silver Star Resort , near Vernon , B.C. these gloves were the skier’s choice from my observations. They are warm and yet their slim fit means they can easily fit into ski straps. Another new product from Auclair are their new light racing gloves which Canadian Olympian Alex Harvey helped design. They fit very nicely and I find them great for spring skiing. So have a look at the variety of Auclair gloves and mitts out there and for more information see:
These light gloves had input from racer Alex Harvey

Wednesday, 23 January 2019

The 28th Annual World Community Film Fest is coming up soon in Courtenay

By Keith and Heather Nicol
    A couple of days ago we picked up a copy of the 28th Annual World Community Film Festival  (WCFF) newspaper at the Sid Williams Theatre box office in Courtenay and began to have a look at what films we wanted to check out for this year. Since we moved to the Comox Valley 4.5 years ago we have taken in the WCFF every year and this year’s lineup looks impressive again.  The WCFF runs February 1 and 2 this year so it is right around the corner and will take place at the Sid Williams Theatre, the Native Sons Hall and the Florence Filberg Centre.  The committee has selected over 30 films dealing with various social justice and environmental issues. It seems like this year there is abit more of a focus on the local Comox Valley and we counted 6 films that deal with our immediate area. We are looking forward to seeing “Flying with Ravens” which takes place at Mount Washington and also “Save Space Nugget” about protecting the forest in around Cumberland. There is even a set of films for children which look interesting for kids of all ages. The Friday night feature film is “Gurrumul” about the music of indigenous artist Geoffrey Gurrumul from Australia. The Saturday night feature film is “Soufra” about a group of women who have launched a catering company in a refugee camp near Beirut, Lebanon. Both sound intriguing! The organizing committee should be commended for searching out these films and organizing this Film Festival. 
The Native Sons Hall is one of the venues for the event

The World Community Film Fest attracts a large following
Since there are 4 venues showing films at the same time you can’t possibly see all the films but the good news is that if you join the World Community you can view the films you didn’t see by borrowing them from the film library at the Bayside CafĂ© opposite the Driftwood Mall in Courtenay. There will also be a Community Action Hive (formerly the bazaar) on Saturday from 9:30 am to 3:30 pm in the Upper Filberg Hall in Courtenay which is central to where the films are being shown. There is always interesting booths to check out at the bazaar and you can find out how to get more involved in various initiatives right here in the Comox Valley. You can also grab a bite to eat there as well from the Elevate Canteen.  Entry to the Community Action Hive is free and the film festival admission is either $40 for the weekend or you can buy a daily pass for the Friday night feature film ($15) or all day Saturday ($36). You can order tickets on line at: There is even a closing banquet for just $22. This year the meal will be a vegetarian feast with dishes from the West Indies, North Africa, and India. All in all it looks to be a great weekend with films that will inspire as well as raise awareness of what we need to change in the world around us.  For more information on the World Community Film Fest see:

The Bazaar is well worth attending and you can grab a bite to eat there as well