The skiers plying the Caledonia Nordic Ski Centre trails also had to cover hundreds of kilometres of highway before they arrived at the 2022 Teck BC Cross-Country Ski Championships. One of the realities of Canadian sport in general is the widespread landscape.
The BC context has its own geographical realities to contend with. This province is about 1,200 kilometres from top to bottom. It’s a landmass approximately the size of France, Germany and Netherlands combined.
Maeve Macleod from Revelstoke (left) and Marin Lowe from the Hollyburn ski club
in West Vancouver (right) get together in Prince George for cross-country
friendship that crosses the province.
Yet, when a ski centre announces an event, the entries pour in from all corners. In the case of the 2022 Teck BC Championships, the competitors came from the Toby Creek Nordic Ski Club based in Invermere, the Larch Hills Nordic Society from Salmon Arm, Telemark Nordic Club out of West Kelowna, Nechako Nordics from Vanderhoof, Bulkley Valley’s ski club, Williams Lake’s ski club, the Black Jack squad from Rossland, Whistler Nordic, Revelstoke Nordic, Hollyburn Cross-Country Ski Club from North Vancouver, Spud Valley Nordics from Pemberton, Vernon’s Sovereign Lake skiers, Strathcona Nordics from Vancouver Island, the Overlander Ski Club from Kamloops, the Morice Mountain club out of Houston, Nelson’s club, Kimberley’s club, Fernie’s skiers, a pair from Whitehorse, and one from Cariboo Ski Touring in Quesnel.
On the map it looks like an advantage that the host Caledonia Nordic Ski Club (CNSC) is based in the dead centre of the province, Prince George. But the way the highways meander, it can be a long way to travel for a lot of the southern-based ski clubs. However, it’s actually one of the closer destinations for the Whitehorse Ski Club that has few options for high-level competition without booking a long flight. Even to Prince George, their drive is close to 19 hours in favourable conditions.
For the two 13-year-old Yukon skiers competing this year in Prince George, Nicolas Giangrande and Finegand Bradford, it was all worth it.
“I think it’s awesome,” said Giangrande, looking around the Caledonia Nordic Ski Centre and the hundreds of athletes, officials, volunteers and supporters milling about under sunny southern (for them) skies. “It’s a bigger environment and more people than we’re used to, so it’s great to experience that.”
Bradford said he enjoyed the social aspect, with a larger skiing event crowd and almost all of them new faces.
“It’s nicer to have these numbers,” he said. “It feels much different, and it’s a lot better than the same trails we’re used to. The visibility is better here. We have a lot of trees along our trails, and here, there’re trees but you see the trail a lot more.”
The two of them said they would be talking back home about the high level of competition, the array of race-day amenities, and how many other skiers their own age they get to mingle with and learn from.
There are long distances from within the province as well. The Kootenays have a large contingent, and their treks were in the neighbourhood of 10 to 12 hours, depending on their chosen road.
The Strathcona Nordic Ski Club is the only one of its kind on Vancouver Island, located at Mount Washington between Courtney and Campbell River. For them, travel to Prince George has all the highway clicks that Vancouver has, plus all the added distance up-island and the time on the ferry.
Talia Macphail-Mcgrady of the Strathcona Nordic Ski Club was one of the Vancouver Island
athletes who took cars, vans and boats before finally getting to use their skis in Prince George.
The Strathcona skiers and their parents and coaches have been to the CNSC facility before, and they calculate every minute, especially on the final day of racing. As the last Strathcona skier comes off the course, they slide almost literally into the loaded team van and hit the road.
This year’s Teck BC Championship announced a time change, during the competition, getting underway an hour earlier on the Sunday than originally stated. This pleased the Strathcona contingent greatly.
“It could make the difference in getting home (often arriving in the wee hours of the morning) that night, or getting stuck having an unscheduled night in Vancouver,” said team driver and athlete father Paul Chatterton. He was pleased that the forecast on travel day was clear and dry. Even the possibility of a half-hour of construction delays weighed on their minds. They even had a plan to order pizza on the road for swift pickup at the halfway point on the highway, and combine that with a bathroom break at the restaurant because they knew from experience that gas station bathrooms cause too much of a lineup and slowed them down.
The stress of missing the last ferry was their constant companion, on Sunday, but the rest of the weekend was enjoyable for them all, said Chatterton.
“There’s a lot of good stuff going on here in Prince George. They’ve figured a lot of good stuff out,” he said, citing details like backing all the waxing tents against the thick biathlon wall for a windbreak, the ample power supplies for each team’s waxing tools, the secure storage space, the team parking spots, the office cabins, and all of it consolidated in convenient locations.
“And the courses are great, the kids love them,” Chatterton said.
|Ava Fei Clark of Kimberley is just ahead of Williams Lake’s Nadia Wallin rounding a corner at the Caledonia Nordic Ski Centre. Events like the Teck BC Championships are one of the few opportunities for athletes from such distances apart on the map can meet and compete.|
The road is the same length both ways, of course. Nicole Botten is mother to three Caledonia Nordic Ski Club skiers, James (8), Lillianna (11) and Sebastian (14). Almost every competition for the Prince George athletes is a significant road trip. It was a strange sensation to be home, for once, Botten said.
“It’s nice, after so much driving,” but she was certainly grateful to be involved in a sport that was based outdoors instead of all the indoor sports that had to shut down almost completely during the COVID pandemic.
With all the provincial, national and even international events being held at the CNSC, the distance between BC Nordic skiers and this facility will undoubtedly become a welcome road to travel in the years to come. Club organizers know they can’t shrink the map, but they can make the travel experience worth everyone’s while.