.: Ski XCOttawa.ca :: Skiing in Ottawa and Gatineau Park

From a “ski training while sightseeing on a work trip” perspective
By:  Karl Saidla   (2012/05/28)


Sometimes life hands you unexpected opportunities, and the challenge you face is to figure out how to take advantage without running yourself into the ground. My recent trip to Bend and Portland is an example of this. It felt like a bit of a reflection of my life in general lately. There were so many things that I wanted to do while I was there, and really not enough time to reasonably do them all. I knew this ahead of time, and I thought I had a plan. The fact that I am sitting in an airplane on a runway in Denver, and not on my way home to Ottawa (because I got to the airport late and missed my flight) would support the argument that maybe I overshot the mark a bit.

I was in Portland to participate in a conference about making cities more liveable. Briefly, this involves designing cities to promote health and well-being and includes prioritizing walking, cycling, public transit, access to parks, and social interaction. I like this kind of thing.

The conference ran from Monday to Thursday, and when I realized that there would be some fairly nice skiing available not far away in Bend, it was easy to decide to spend the weekend leading up to the conference there. So last Friday, I flew from Ottawa to Toronto to Calgary to Vancouver to Portland and then drove to Bend. I got there at about 1:30 AM Bend time (or 4:30 AM Ottawa time). I didn’t exactly have time to waste, so I got up early enough, ate those “make your own” waffles they have in most upper echelon north American motel chains, took my suit jacket and tie out of my ski bag and hung them up to de-wrinkle, and then drove to Mt. Bachelor. There, I scraped my skis in the sunshine of the parking lot and started skiing, marking the third time in my life that I have skied in May, with all of these occasions having been documented at www.xcottawa.ca.

1: Chic Chocs, May 2001 http://www.xcottawa.ca/articles.php?id=2

2: Montmorency, May 2006 http://www.xcottawa.ca/articles.php?id=492

As you can see, it wasn’t exactly terrible. Of course, I had to do more than just ski. I walked around Bend, sampled the local coffee, went trail running, and briefly swam in the Deschutes River. I managed some skiing and socializing with old friends who are either training relentlessly or helping others with that project (coaching), and finally, Patrick Stewart-Jones cooked me a great curry before I drove back to Portland.


Bend: It wasn't exactly terrible.

Skiing with Patrick Stewart-Jones.

Alana Thomas skiing in Bend.


Running trail with Deschutes River in the background.

In Portland, I was mostly occupied with the conference. At the same time, I had heard lots of good things about the city, particularly with respect to the abovementioned liveability, so my lunch hours and evenings were busy. I went to one of those hipster bike stores where the owner told me that liveability in Portland depends on two things: great cycling and great beer. Visiting one of the famous breweries was already on my list, but this underscored the importance of knocking it off. Portland has all kinds of interesting shops, cafes, outdoor markets, and restaurants and is also well known for having relatively easy access to parks and wilderness. Finally, as you can see from my pictures, Portland also has great options for public transit, cycling and walking. (Portlandia seems to suggest that all this has slightly gone to the heads of some Portlanders: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V3nMnr8ZirI I concede this is possible, but I wasn’t really there long enough to judge) Given that I wanted to see all of this, and that I only had lunch hours and evenings, my days and nights were full.


Yellow Line train.

Bike/Pedestrian overpass.


Bikes obviously matter here.

From a “ski training while sightseeing on a work trip” perspective, probably the most notable thing I did was complete the 4T trail loop. This would fall into the category of “if you’re ever in Portland, do this!” category. The 4T is an established loop for seeing Portland using multiple modes of transportation. I started with jogging from my hotel to the aerial tram station. The aerial tram connects south Portland with a hospital, located on top of the escarpment  adjacent to downtown. When I exited the hospital I discovered the signs taking me to the “trailhead” with a map for the 4T trail (I didn’t actually know about the 4T trail/loop it until I got up there). I ran/hiked along the 4T for about 4 miles. It included narrow single track trail with lush vegetation and major elevation changes, a city park with good views of the city, and some cutting through residential areas before bringing me to the transit station located at the Oregon Zoo. If the Zoo were open I could have toured that as well. From there, I got on Portland’s yellow line train that took me back to my hotel. I wasn’t really watching the time, but the whole trip took less than 3 hours. For sure, I highly recommend it, as I do visiting Portland and Bend if you get the chance.

Bike parking beside aerial tram.


View from aerial tram.


4T trail.


 Bike on train back to the city.

In terms of the trip overall, on the one hand, I had a great time and managed to see and do a lot. On the other, I missed my flight home. What do I make of this? Well, I guess this trip parallels my life trying to combine my work and outside interests with skiing, while not forgetting to enjoy it and while also not messing up any one of these things in the process. This is not the kind of challenge that has readily available solutions and obviously, I need to continue to refine my approach. To some degree, maybe you have to accept a certain amount of “muddling through” (as they say in politics sometimes) in order to teach you the lessons that eventually lead you to improve your methods.



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