If you tend to feel a little bit blue whendays shorten and skies turn grey, raising your spirits might be as easy as getting high……in altitude. Head for the hills of the Okanagan for winter activities to suit every age, taste and pocketbook.
SCHUSSING AND RIDING THE SLOPES
A day at one of the Okanagan’s magical mountain resorts, Big White, SilverStar or Apex, surrounded by the natural beauty of snow-covered trees under a bluebird sky will leave you with a sunnier outlook no matter what activity you choose. Each day downhill skiers and snowboarders spend on the slopes, experts and beginners alike will notice an improvement in lower body and core strength, better balance, and an increase in joint and bone strength. Added bonus: all that fresh air promotes deep sleep.
Whether you’re looking for a peaceful excursion or a cardio workout, cross country skiing, classic or skate, in the serenity of snowy forests is perfect for you. The Okanagan has countless kilometres of groomed trails. While the resorts mentioned above all offer cross-country skiing, various areas specialize in nordic skiing. Closest to Kelowna, Telemark Cross-country Ski Club and McCulloch cross-country ski area offer extensive groomed trails. In the North Okanagan, Sovereign Lake Nordic Centre and SilverStar Ski Resort combine forces for a total of more than 175 km of trails, groomed daily. National teams from all over the globe converge there for early season high altitude training, so keep your eyes open for tips on technique as they speed by in a blur of powder.
FUN ON FAT TIRES
Knees sore from skiing? Here’s something to get you out on the snow, in comfort. Originating in the 1980’s when regular bikes were modified to allow riders to compete in the Iditabike in Alaska, fat tire bikes now specially designed for riding and racing on snow are the latest craze to hit winter trails throughout the Okanagan. Designed with tires 3.75 inches or wider, on a modified frame, they allow the rider to tackle unstable surfaces like snow or sand. Rentals are usually available.
CLIMBING THE GREAT BIG ICICLE
For indoor climbing wall aficionados, and all others looking for a new climbing adventure, winter is a good time to take your skills outdoors and ramp them up. The top of the 18 metre high ice climbing tower in Happy Valley Adventure Park at Big White Ski Resort is a good place to start. Constructed out of four telephone poles and ice a metre thick, the tower has four sides, offering challenges from beginners to experts of all ages. Boots, crampons and ice axes are all provided.
BACK COUNTRY DELIGHTS
Back country skiing is all about earning your turns by trekking up slopes with climbing skins on your skis, then turning around and skiing down through untracked powder. Comfort levels vary greatly from posh lodges with gourmet meals and cozy comforters, to rustic cabins or snow camping on multi-day trips. Excellent route finding skills, a thorough knowledge of avalanche rescue skills and a licensed backcountry ski guide are essential for a safe experience. Don’t even think about going it alone.
SHREDDING ON A SLED
If motorized vehicles are more your style, a day of snowmobiling is a great way to enjoy alpine vistas and sunny snowy meadows. Several Okanagan clubs gather to create family friendly outings. Graystokes Park, the largest groomed trail system in BC, has more than 150 km snowmobile trails leading to five cabins. Find a club with experienced sledders to help you get started, grab a picnic and get out there and enjoy the pristine environment. But, before you go, get snowmobile specific avalanche training and check the Canadian Avalanche Centre bulletin for the day.