XC Ottawa is just back from it's most successful early season snow camp ever. Why was it so much more successful? Because nothing more than a sweat was broken - not a ski, not a pole, not even a tailbone!
On top of that there was more than enough snow which made for the best mid-winter skiing conditions imagineable. Unbelievable actually for skiing in November, at sea level, East of the Rockies.
We were a bit skeptical of what the skiing conditions might be like, since early in the week rumour was that there had been melting and only 5-10 cm of snow on the ground. So we dispatched our fastest scouts - Karl and Dave. Along with their NADC teammate and translator Bruno Leduc, went bravely off to the forest to test the skiing and report back. These guinea pigs left on Tuesday and reported that things were decent. They weren't exactly enthusiastic or assuring in their comments and thus fears of past trips spent rock skiing on marginal snow crept into our minds. We decided to go for it anyway and to hope for the best.
We left on a very rainy Thursday morning, not uncommon for November in Ottawa. After driving for 5 hours in the pouring rain, we turned off Hwy 40 at Quebec City and started the climb up Hwy 75/173 toward the Foret Montmorency. A few minutes up the road we noticed a something that had never been there in our previous visits - there was snow on the front lawns of houses lining the road! At this point we dared to be hopeful. Ten minutes later we were excited to see small snowbanks along the side of the highway and the rain that was falling was now mixed with snow. It wasn't long after that we were driving in the middle of a blizzard. Good thing for those new winter tires!
We arrived a kilometer 103 to a deeply snow covered road. Apparently it snowed all day and night and by the time we arrived in mid-afternoon it had been transformed into a winter paradise! We rushed to unpack the car and get on skis. Our first ski was amazing! No rocks skis needed, it was straight onto the good racing boards. I don't think I've ever skied in such good conditions in November before. We skied until it got really dark out and we were in danger of missing super.
The camp crew consisted of Craig, Laura, our coach John Suuronen and myself. Karl and Dave were also there with the NADC and joined us periodically. The focus of the camp was easy distance skiing with John giving us technique tips along the way. A sprint workout on Saturday was our first introduction to fast skiing this year (other than those times when it just felt too good to be skiing to stay in Zone 1....especially that first ski in the dark!) It was a big treat to be able to sprint without poles slipping on the pavement and skis sliding out on wet leaves. On Sunday, with more than 12 hours of skiing under our belts, Dave and I joined the Quebec team in a time trial. It was held on a 2 km loop with one really long climb. Although it hurt, it felt great to be racing and made me very excited to get this school thing over with and go out west to race! (Results)
Now I'm back in Ottawa where its raining and I'm stuck doing tonnes of school work, but those 5 days of skiing have me pumped for the season ahead. It's also a relief for Karl, Dave and the rest of the NADC athletes to actually have some on-snow time before next weekends early season races out West. Lets just hope it snows here soon and we can put our rollerskis and running poles away till next year!
Photos: Megan McTavish