VERNON, B.C. – Sovereign Lake Nordic Center’s annual Summer Ski camp from May 10-19 attracted the usual collection of hard-core skiers, a mixture of teams and day trippers who need a last fix of snow before the inevitable arrival of summer. With neighbour Silver Star Mountain Resort gearing up for a summer of mountain biking, and the city of Vernon already in full-summer mode in the valley below, Sovereign’s weeklong camp is the last chance for set tracks in the region.
Canmore Nordic was the first group to arrive on May 10, with a four-day camp justifying the six-hour drive to Vernon. Another Canmore-based team, the Alberta World Cup Academy (AWCA) arrived next for a seven-day, sleep-low (train-high) camp beginning May 12. Black Jack skiers trickled in for the final four days, and biathletes and Para-Nordic team members flocked to the snow-covered trails as well.
The week preceding the camp featured five consecutive days of temperatures at or about 30 degrees Celsius (86 Fahrenheit) in the valley below and significant snow loss even at the 1600-metre low point of the early season trails. After four days of skiing and a major thunderstorm, the track setters shifted to a higher set of trails.
AWCA brought most of its athletes, including last season’s NorAm winners Emily Nishikawa and Michael Somppi, as well as Canmore World Cup top-15 finishers Jess Cockney and Phil Widmer, and perennial domestic podium contenders Kevin Sandau and Alysson Marshall.
“We are up here in the mornings for skiing a few hours at least and then we’re downtown [in Vernon],” said AWCA coach Mike Cavaliere. “We do some cycling, or running in Ellison Park, or go to the gym.”
While the team is expecting to return to crust skiing in Canmore, this camp was attractive for set tracks and the nearby low elevation (380 meters), with accommodation on a beach near the Ellison Park mountain biking area.
“Part of the goal is to let people enjoy summer,” Cavaliere said.
One day, the AWCA women got out their road bikes for a training ride to Marshall’s parent’s house in nearby Salmon Arm for lunch. The next day, the men rode from their lakeside accommodation to Silver Star Village – ascending some 1,200 metres – for their post-ski workout.
Former Canadian national team coach Dave Wood, now happily “retired” in Rossland, B.C., persuaded his small Black Jack team to drive five hours to start the new training season on groomed trails.
“We started skiing [in Rossland] in October, and they set track until April 27th,” he said.
And what about those masters athletes? Most stayed down in the valley, mostly for all the biking, mountain biking, running, rowing, and stand-up paddling recreational options. Skiers from at least four nearby nordic areas were spotted up at Sovereign, having driven by the summer alternatives to get here.
Despite the example set by the elite athletes, middle-aged journalists are simply not capable of skiing two hours in the morning and then running or biking in the evening for more than five consecutive days. Lesson learned. Or lesson not really learned, because it was so much fun.