B.C. cross-country offers ski workouts in solitude

    1 of 4 2 of 4

      When Jenn Dickie isn’t at her desk, the Nordic-area manager at Cypress Mountain Resort prefers the pace and tranquillity of cross-country skiing over the zooming swooshes of downhill. 

      The activity is even more rewarding for outdoors lovers who know that a downpour in downtown Vancouver often means a winter wonderland atop the West Vancouver mountain.

      “I enjoy that quiet, calm winter experience,” Dickie says on the line from her office. “It’s a beautiful way to experience winter—you get to enjoy fresh air, you get exercise....It’s peaceful. I don’t like speed, so the downhill stuff is less my style.

      “And there’s nothing like getting out of the rain in the city; and, 15 minutes up the road, we’re truly in another world.”

      With 19 kilometres of Nordic trails, nearly half of them illuminated for night skiing, Cypress is the only cross-country ski area in Greater Vancouver. The terrain features two warming huts and everything from green to black runs, the latter having lots of hills, giving those who want to build up a sweat a serious workout.

      Nicholas Sills

      The physical benefits of cross-country skiing are well known. One hour of moderate cross-country can burn approximately 470 calories for someone weighing 130 pounds and about 700 calories for someone weighing 190 pounds, according to the website for Human Kinetics, a publisher of information about physical activity.

      A full-body workout that has tremendous effects on people’s cardiovascular system, cross-country is also an efficient way to exercise several muscles at once, including the biceps, triceps, pectoralis major, deltoids, latissimus dorsi, quadriceps, gastrocnemius (the large, powerful muscles of the calves), and core.

      Cross-country skiers at Cypress have the newly constructed Hollyburn Lodge to look forward to this season, with a projected opening date of December 15. 

      A West Vancouver landmark and the only surviving commercial lodge built on the North Shore mountains before 1960, it is nestled on the western shore of First Lake. It has been rebuilt in the same footprint as the 1926 original but with upgrades like a proper sewage line. The licensed lodge offers food and drink and, every Saturday night, live music.

      Those who wish to travel a little farther for their snow can head to the Callaghan Valley. Just southwest of Whistler (where Nordic skiing is available at Lost Lake Park), the area is a microclimate known for its abundant, soft, fluffy snow.

      Journeyman Lodge

      The same warm, moist maritime air that moves up the valley from Howe Sound to Whistler climbs more than 2,300 metres and across seven kilometres of permanent snowfield before dropping the white stuff on the Upper Callaghan Valley. The area receives an average annual snowfall of 36 feet (1,097 centimetres).

      A Ski Callaghan trail pass gives people access to the integrated trail system of Callaghan Country Wilderness Adventures and Whistler Olympic Park, for a total of more than 130 kilometres of groomed trails set over 7,000 hectares.

      Those willing and able to ski about 14 kilometres over an elevation gain of about 560 metres can turn their Nordic trek into a getaway with a stay at the 5,000-square-foot backcountry Journeyman Lodge in the heart of an area called Solitude Valley.

      That name is apt, the way Callaghan Country Wilderness Adventures assistant general manager Kim Ebers sees things.

      “What I love about cross-country skiing is the solitude of it,” she says by phone. “It’s not as busy as alpine [skiing] has gotten. I find it comparable to hiking in that you can explore the geography and cover a lot of terrain while you’re doing it.

      Callaghan Country

      “It’s good for fitness; and even though it offers solitude, it can also be fairly social. You can bring a friend and talk, unlike alpine, where it’s ‘You take your run and I’ll take mine.’

      “In the Callaghan, you’ve basically got it all,” she adds. “You’ve got everything from dense, blanketed forest to open meadows in the lower terrain, and as you go up in elevation, the trails bring you up to the subalpine, right at the foot of the mountain. I don’t think that experience is available too many other places on the planet.”

      Another benefit of Nordic skiing, Ebers says, is that it’s for all ages. Although many baby boomers are looking for an alternative to downhill, many younger people enjoy it because of the level of fitness it fosters. “It’s great for families,” she says. “It’s multigenerational.

      “One of our objectives is to connect people with the natural world,” she adds. “You can be on a trail and have no other skiers around.

      “You can stop and immerse yourself in the environment and have that connection. a deeper experience people can have when they’re out on the trails. It’s almost spiritual.”