Sovereign Lake Organizers Celebrate Solid Weekend

Alex KochonDecember 12, 2011
Alaska Pacific University team members volunteered to break down the course after the NorAm Cup races at Sovereign Lake in Vernon, British Columbia, from Dec. 10-11. (Photo by Jesse Winter/

VERNON, British Columbia — In the tech center high above the stadium at the Sovereign Lake Nordic Centre, several race organizers looked outside at the Alaska Pacific University (APU) skiers.

They were doing it again.

At the end of the NorAm Cup competition Sunday — after the men’s and women’s distance races, and the boys’ and girls’ junior and juvenile races — those wearing the black APU jackets went to work. According to Chief of Stadium Don Wylie, it was the third straight year they broke down the course without being asked.

“It’s fantastic,” Wylie said as he watched those who had raced 10 and 15 k an hour or two earlier fold banners and carry barriers into a storage room.

“It’s a stadium that takes hours to put together and hours of hours to take down,” he said. “(With their help), it’s done in 15 minutes, and it really helps my people out.”

NorAm, Silver Star
APU skiers helping put away barriers after the NorAm Cup races on Sunday at Sovereign Lake. (Photo by Jesse Winter/

APU skier Peter Kling said it was practically a no-brainer after they spent three weeks in the area.

“They do a lot for us here and it’s a great way to give back,” Kling said. “It’s one of the best places to come race.”

Becca Rorabaugh, who placed fourth in Sunday’s 10 k classic, said it was a good way to kill time.

“We’re hanging out at the venue (waiting) for the awards and stuff anyway so why the heck not? It seems like a good thing to do,” she said.

In their fifth year of traveling to Silver Star, they said they wanted to be invited back.

“It’s probably one of my favorite places to ski ever because there’s so many trails and there’s always perfect snow,” Rorabaugh said. “And you get to stay in really whimsically colored houses. Silver Star is just a really fun atmosphere.”

Wylie said they’d be invited back regardless.

The impromptu cleanup appropriately capped off what many organizers considered one of the most successful NorAm Cup weekends yet at Sovereign Lake.

For the last five or six years, Chief of Race Sharon Clarke said they had built an experienced team of chiefs. This year’s crew included three from the Vancouver Olympics. Theytrained for three years to work at the Olympics and brought that experience to Sovereign Lake’s races.

Aside from the organization, the nordic center’s head groomer, Bill Pifer, worked at the 2010 Winter Games. More than 100 volunteers, including local residents and those from various parts of Canada, flocked to the venue for a chance to ski there.

“We have reputation for putting on a good event,” Clarke said. “People like to be involved and like to help.”

She said they depended on the volunteers and credited Sovereign Lake club manager Scott Lemon for helping the event run as smoothly as possible. He took it upon himself to bring hot drinks to course volunteers.

“We have a very happy crowd right now,” Clarke said.

Cross Country Canada delegate James Cunningham, who oversaw the races to ensure it met NorAm standards, said the two-day event went off with any major hiccups.

“The sprint race (Saturday) was as good as we’ve ever had, and (Sunday) it seemed like there were no problems at all,” Cunningham said.

The only issue Lemon had to deal with came in the form of a wild animal. Toward the end of Sunday’s races, he had to scare a moose away from the trails with a few bursts of an air horn. Fortunately, the relatively large mammal wasn’t anywhere near the racers.

“I’m sure he’ll be back in the next couple days,” Lemon said, explaining that the lack of snow in the woods kept it from migrating down the mountain. The full-racked moose appeared near the trails once before in the last two weeks.

While it snowed as early as late October in the Silver Star area, the region had not seen much new snow in the time since. At an elevation of about 1,600 meters, or 5,200 feet, it was able to keep the solid base.

Lemon said the center’s maintenance crew did a lot of prep work over the summer to prepare for a lack of snow by flattening several trails to make sure they could work with less. Before the NorAm races, he said they groomed meticulously.

Their efforts paid off, as Sovereign Lake drew an estimated 500 people over the weekend.

“It’s great exposure for the ski center,” he said of hosting the NorAm Cup. “Because it’s the first race of the season, it brings people here about a week early so we get lots of skier traffic out of it as well.”

Alex Kochon

Alex Kochon ( is a former FasterSkier editor and roving reporter who never really lost touch with the nordic scene. A freelance writer, editor, and outdoor-loving mom of two, she lives in northeastern New York and enjoys adventuring in the Adirondacks. She shares her passion for sports and recreation as the co-founder of "Ride On! Mountain Bike Trail Guide" and a sales and content contributor at When she's not skiing or chasing her kids around, Alex assists authors as a production and marketing coordinator for iPub Global Connection.

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