Friday, 11 December 2015

Silver Star comes through with amazing early season skiing

by Keith and Heather Nicol    
     We were recently at Silver Star Mountain Resort near Vernon, B.C. to take in the CANSI (Canadian Association of Nordic Ski Instructors) Telemark Refresher and do some free skiing on some great early season snow. Many ski areas in B.C. suffered last year through a poor snow year, but so far the early winter of 2015-16 is proving to be much better in terms of steady snow falls. This is especially true of places like Silver Star where the storms just seemed to roll in one after another. On December 5th and 6th the front side lifts were turning at Silver Star and we spent most of our time on the Comet Express- a 6 person lift which serves a good mix of beginner and intermediate terrain. Another bonus was the pleasant temperatures which hovered just a few degrees below 0 C. 
Silver Star is has lots of instructors to improve your tele turns
   Silver Star Mountain Resort is known as a great family resort and we saw a large range of people enjoying the boarding and skiing over the weekend. They cater to young skiers and have a perfect place for them to learn right in the village. Silver Star also offers a wide range of other activities like cross country skiing, snowshoeing, ice skating, tubing and their latest offering:  fat tire biking. There should be something for everyone with that large mix of activities. Also with your day ticket you can access all of these activities as well which means that after your day of skiing you can go skating or tubing in the evening or get in a quick cross country ski before dinner. Also you might want to check out Silver Star’s Powpass which gets you 3 days of skiing for a very good price. But act fast since this deal only lasts until December 24. For more information see:

Silver Star nicely blends alpine skiing and riding with tons of x-c ski trails

Silver Star has a popular learn to ski programme for the kids

Sunday, 6 December 2015

Try a Supercamp at Sovereign Lake- Silver Star to improve your cross country skiing !

by Keith and Heather Nicol
There is a variety of Rossignol ski equipment to try out
      We just returned from a great Supercamp experience at Canada’s largest cross country ski trail network at the Sovereign Lake-Silver Star Nordic facility located near Vernon, B.C. The main Supercamps ran from November 20 to December 6, 2015 and they included 3 weekend camps and two 5 day mid week camps. These camps are worth looking at for many reasons including: amazing early season snow, well qualified CANSI instructors and coaches and a 105 km long trail system that is well groomed for classic and skate technique. Add to this presentations by waxing experts, access to a well -equipped weight room and high quality Rossignol ski equipment and what more could you ask for? And did I mention that many cross country ski teams use this area for their early season training camps so you are sharing the trails with some of the continent’s best cross country skiers. Guy Paulsen who helps organize the Supercamps told us that the number of skiers taking part keeps increasing and many skiers come back year after year. This year there were close to 200 who took part and they came from all over North America as well as England!
Our class tried juggling and striding at the same time!
    These camps are geared to everyone from first timers to advanced skiers wanting to improve their technique.  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 15-17, 2016, February 19-21, 2016 and a May camp with dates to be determined. For more information see:
The views from the trails can be spectacular
There are 105 km of trails at Silver Star and Sovereign Lake Nordic ski area

We really appreciated the well groomed tracks for skate and classic skiing


Thursday, 12 November 2015

Picturesque fall hikes in Strathcona Provincial Park on Vancouver Island

Buttle Lake is surrounded by scenic mountains

by Keith and Heather Nicol
   On Wednesday November 11 with the sun shining we headed for a trip into the main part of Strathcona Provincial Park. We drove from Courtenay through Campbell River and then turned off on highway 28 toward Upper Campbell Lake and Buttle Lake.  Snow had fallen along the mountain tops which added to the striking scenery. The last time we had been through this area was about 40 years ago and we were looking forward to hiking some of the easier trails near Buttle Lake. We had searched out some likely hikes on the Strathcona Provincial Park web site ( but discovered that at this time of year some signs have been removed so you need to watch more carefully for trailheads in the offseason. We have also noted GPS locations to help interested hikers find the trail starting points.  Our first hike was to Lower Myra Falls which is a fine hike for a variety of ages. The trail is well marked  and descends downhill from the trailhead at 10 U 0314536E and 5494800N. There are a series of falls here and the main trail gives views of both the upper and lower falls. Overall the trail is about 1 km so allow 30 -40 minutes to complete it. 

Lower Myra Falls is well worth checking out
   The next trail we walked was the Karst Creek Trail and the trail head is at: 10 U 0317626E 5503853N. You can park your car in the parking lot on the opposite side of the road. This trail is definitely rougher than the preceding trail but it is still easy to follow. It is about 1.5 km long and features many aspects of karst (limestone eroded) terrain. For instance, the trail passes by a sinkhole where a stream disappears and in another place a stream appears out of nowhere. This trail also features a small waterfall. Note that you do have to cross a stream which may be a problem in higher water. Allow about  45 minutes for this walk.
Heather walking through the leaves on the Karst Creek Trail
   Our final trail of the day was the Lupin Falls Trail (10 U 0313036E 5519487N) which is about 600 meters long and features a tall, skinny waterfall. This trail is the easiest of the 3 trails and would suit a wide range of walkers from young children to older adults. Allow about 20-25 minutes to walk this loop. There are still some nice fall colours out there and we noted quite a few other short nature trails that we plan to do on our next visit to this area.
Lupin Falls is striking


Sunday, 25 October 2015

Sea kayaking at Fanny Bay with lots of sea lions and birds

by Keith and Heather Nicol 

 On Saturday, October 24 we decided to check out the birds and sea lions at Fanny Bay which is just south of Courtenay. Last fall we had a great time paddling in this area and so we thought we would spend an afternoon on the water since the forecast was calling for light winds with sunny periods.

The sea lions are fun to photograph
There were certainly a steady stream of people walking out on the wharf at Fanny Bay to photograph the sea lions which sit just offshore on a large float. There is a good place to launch kayaks next to the wharf and after circling the barking sea lions on the float we headed to Ship Point to see what birds were in that area. We saw lots of large groupings of surf scoters as well as harlequin ducks and cormorants. There were also a few horned grebes. This area is often quite protected since Denman Island is just offshore and we recommend it for the sea lions and variety of birdlife. 
Harlequin ducks are very photogenic

We saw lots of surf scoters

Wednesday, 14 October 2015

Hiking Dog Mountain in Mt Seymour Provincial Park, Vancouver B.C.

by Keith and Heather Nicol
      On Thanksgiving Sunday while on a visit to Vancouver we decided to take advantage of a break in the wet weather to head up to Mt Seymour Provincial Park and check out the Dog Mountain hike. We were joined by our daughter Kristie and her cousins, Ryan and Gillian Nicol as well Maya the dog. On Saturday, October 10 it had rained heavily at times but Sunday dawned with broken cloud so we decided to do a morning hike. Dog Mountain is a short hike of about 2.3 km in length (1 way) and it has little elevation gain so is a popular hike for those wanting an  ½ day trip. There were certainly lots of people hiking this trail on this day and true to its name there were lots of dogs. But keep your dog on a leash since this is a Provincial Park.
The clouds swirled around the adjacent mountains
   To access the start of this trail drive to the top parking lot of Mt Seymour and walk toward the northwest end of the parking lot where the trailhead is located. The trail is well marked and although it starts off looking like it might be an easy walk in the park, it quickly becomes rocky and full of roots with lots of small dips and rises so it is much more of a work out than you might expect.  The trail winds through a lush forest and First Pond before it gets to an impressive lookout which provides views of Vancouver and the adjacent mountains. We enjoyed a snack at the lookout before returning via the same trail. Allow about 2 – 2 ½ hours for the entire hike depending on how long you linger at the lookout. We saw small kids as well as people in their 70’s completing this hike so it will appeal to a wide range of hikers. For more information see
Gillian, Ryan,  Maya the dog and Kristie at the lookout