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

Silver Star Training Camp
By:  Edward McCarthy   (2007/11/12)

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It's become a fall tradition; every year on Remembrance Day weekend, XC Ottawa heads to the woods north of Quebec City to get in some early season snow time at Foret Montmorency. For the first year in quite a while, geography made it a bit impractical for me to go. Fortunately, BC's usually not short of snow in November, so I was able to make do with a trip to Silver Star Mountain with the UBC ski team for some early snow, Western style.



Silver Star, a mountain resort above Vernon with a very colourful village, is a bit legendary for early season snow. For as long as I've been racing, there have been races there or at Sovereign Lakes Nordic, the ski club on the mountain, in November and December, and they have been free of the snow worries that we've become so familiar with recently. In all my memories of Silver Star, bottomless powder features prominently. Having spent the week before the camp following weather patterns, however, I almost wished I were going to Montmorency instead. Silver Star, which got a big dump in October, seemed to be dodging any and all snow. Regardless, I packed up the car, picked up Mike and Elliot, and made the trip to the Star on Thursday night. Despite snow doubts, rollerskis were left behind, partly as an act of faith and partly due to the impossibility of fitting three guys, skis, stuff, AND rollerskis in one Toyota Tercel. The closer we got to the mountain, the worse this decision seemed; there was snow only at the very highest section of road, and virtually none on Silver Star until we reached the village.



My car arrived at about 9:30 Thursday night, with the others coming Friday evening. The three of us decided Thursday that we wanted to do our best to scout out the skiing - right then. We set off in the dark from the village, walking up to, and then on, the normal ski trails up the mountain in our ski boots, carrying skis and poles. As we climbed, the dusting of snow got thicker and gradually thicker, until after about 20 minutes of walking we put on skis and had a quick skate up a road in the dark on what was actually a pretty good cover - certainly something that would bring up the early season crowds in the Gatineau park. It would be about a 10-15 minute run at Silver Star's 1600-odd metre elevation, however, so it wasn't the best option.



Fortunately, we had inside information that there might be skiing at Sovereign Lakes, so we headed there Friday morning. Arriving at the stadium that hosted World Cup races in 2005, we saw it covered with - dirt. And virtually no snow. Our source (Sovereign Lakes skier and all-around good guy Cam Egan) was there at the parking lot, and told us that they were skiing from a higher lot. We drove up, and the difference was night and day. Rather than the trails from the stadium, which were dirt with a bare skiff of snow, all we had to do up top was walk 100 metres up a trail until we reached trail with enough snow to have been rolled and machine tracked. It turned out that the difference in elevation had made the difference between no skiing and great skiing. Sovereign Lakes had been grooming about 12 km of trail from that point up to the top of the mountain with a few loops off it. The trail started with a long gradual uphill, as to be expected from a trail going up the mountain, but the upper portions of it had some nice rolls and a bit of varied terrain. The added bonus of being able to ski right to the summit, with a panoramic mountain view, certainly didn't hurt.



These trails made for three days of great skiing. It was pretty wet on Friday, but cooled and dried up for the weekend, making an easy wax job with Vauhti Purple. We mostly focused on getting in good easy hours, getting comfortable on skis and working on technique. Training at that altitude is a bit different from Vancouver's dizzying sea level elevation, so it was important not to go too hard off the bat. We did a good set of intervals on Sunday, which went largely without mishap. Our team certainly weren't the only ones to think the skiing was good; Sovereign was also playing host to a CCBC training camp, their own team, Thunder Bay and Callaghan Valley training centres, and members of both X-C.com and INDI 2010. The atmosphere was, come to think of it, a lot like that at Montmorency at this time of year.



Overall, it was a great intro to the season. For those of you looking for somewhere to ski early season, you can be assured that even with very little snow Sovereign Lakes can put on a good show. Many thanks to them for the great work with marginal conditions, and to my UBC teammates for running an awesome camp. I'm pretty sure I had more fun than the rest of XC Ottawa.


 
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