Beat the WINTER GREYS – get above the Clouds

If you tend to feel a little bit blue when days 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.


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.


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.


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 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.


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.


Dig your snowsuit out of the cupboard, zip it up, grab a toque and no matter what your age get out there and have some fun. It’s time to search the garage for that forgotten flying saucer, toboggan or childhood wooden sled you could never bear to part with. You don’t have to be a kid to play in the snow, but it is definitely more fun with children or grandchildren. Stress will melt away after a day of building snow forts, waging snowball fights, or building snow creatures. For extra thrills try tubing at one of the local ski resorts. End the day by collapsing in the snow and carving a snow angel. Lie there and let the snowflakes kiss your cheeks.


Prefer to observe the winter wonderland from a slightly different perspective? Sign up for an exhilarating excursion through the backcountry of Big White Resort, wrapped in layers of cozy blankets, on the back of a sled pulled by Canadian sled dogs. Candle Creek Kennels will begin your trip with an introduction to the dogs, the sled and the process of harnessing before heading out on the trails. This traditional, exciting and educational experience for all family members over the age of three, offers a special treat for participants age fourteen and above, helping to drive the sled, or take your own dog for a fresh air outing. Most resorts designate separate trails for walking alone or with your dog, but don’t forget the leash and plastic bag. You’ll both benefit from bright skies and crisp winter air.


What could be more magical than skating on an outdoor rink surrounded by snow covered trees and mountain views? Bring the entire family and become part of your own Currier and Ives winter scene. SilverStar, Big White and Apex all boast outdoor ice surfaces where you can rent skates and enjoy hockey and pleasure skating. Clubs looking to host a bonspiel or skating practice should check out the resort websites for details. When you’re done, soak up the rays while sipping a hot chocolate and watching the Zamboni go round and round.


Some studies suggest vitamin D might help to counteract the winter blues. The two main ways to get vitamin D are by exposing your bare skin to sunlight and by taking vitamin D tablets. If the former sounds a bit chilly, check with your doctor about supplements.


A latte or hot chocolate with lots of whipped cream or a steaming hot buttered rum somehow always tastes better on an outdoor deck on a bluebird day in the mountains.

Whatever your activity, take some time to relax and enjoy the view.

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