I’ve wanted to try cross-country skiing for a while now, so when I heard about the Nordic Winter Festival at Otway Nordic Ski Center, the opportunity to try a bit of everything the ski club offered couldn’t have been more perfect.
Located a mere fifteen minutes from my home in downtown Prince George, Otway is an amazing recreational hub for cross-country skiing and snowshoeing enthusiasts. They claim 55 kilometres (34 miles) of groomed trails, including lighted trails for night skiing and dog friendly trails, a big lodge with concession, equipment rentals and a brand new biathlon range – with all this so close to home, I had to ask myself what kind of PG-er I could claim to be never having been here before!
We arrived at the Otway mid-morning and got in line for our rentals. The equipment was such high quality – I could swear my boots had never even been worn before. The Festival was offering beginners’ lessons, but we opted to just wing it, with some fantastic basic instruction from a friend of mine who is a regular at Otway. After finding a somewhat wobbly rhythm, we glided down a short trail to the gravel pit and the smell of a campfire where they were holding a hot dog roast.
Not being much of a skier (I’m more inclined towards snowboarding – see my previous post!), going up and down even the small hills was a tad frightening, until a very kind member of the Caledonia Nordic Ski Club must have taken pity on us and offered up some tips (for which I was grateful… that is, until he made me test my newfound knowledge by actually climbing shakily up a hill and screaming my way back down). But really, everyone I met at the Festival was relaxed, smiling and beyond friendly!
We headed back to the lodge for their chili lunch – a delicious hot bowl of homemade chili, a bun, hot chocolate and a cookie – a perfect fit for the beautiful winter day. We sat outside on the lodge’s big balcony, watching the families having fun below and enjoying the live fiddle music being played next to us.
After lunch, we signed up to try out the biathlon range. This special addition to the Otway Ski Centre was just finished for our upcoming 2015 Canada Winter Games and is quite impressive. We received a quick orientation and actually got to try out shooting (without the pressure of slowing our breathing and heart rate from a fast pace race first, thankfully!). Having shot plenty before, I was happy to hit five out of five targets (my hubby only hit four, but I promised not to mention that part, so don’t tell!).
At the end of the day, we took some time to explore some of the trails and practice our “not falling going down hills” (I’ve got a lot of work to do there, it seems). After an hour of this, I know we barely scratched the surface of the trail circuit. It was a beautiful day – gorgeous scenery, friendly people and incredibly well planned activities by the Caledonia Nordic Ski Club (thank you!). I’m definitely adding cross-country skiing to my (growing) list of favourite things to do during our northern winters.
Click here for more information on this season’s Nordic Winter Festival happening on January 12, 2015.