Strap on the skiis

Cross-country skiing is affordable, accessible and fun for the entire family

Young cross-country ski enthusiasts learn the sport at Hallis Lake.

With winter upon us, more and more people are taking to the snowy trails including the short drive to Hallis Lake where the finest in cross-country skiing can be found.

In an effort to increase awareness and activity at the facility the Cariboo Ski Touring Club, which has always encouraged people, young, old and everyone in between, to consider cross-country skiing when choosing their sport options.

Last year they took that commitment to the next level with the addition of ski rentals and a ski school at the Hallis Lake facility. After securing the funding for refurbishing the basement of the ski lodge, the club purchased 100 sets of classic skis, eight sets of skating skis, 121 pairs of classic boots, nine pairs of combo

boots and 127 sets of poles.

“That really opened the sport up to so many people,” CSTC youth program ski school coordinator Tania Gruene said.

“With Hallis Lake only 15 minutes from downtown, people looking to include a little cross-country skiing in their day can easily accomplish that.”

CSTC spokesperson Ron Watteyne added cross-country skiing is considered a lifestyle sport.

“It’s easy to access, Hallis Lake is open seven days a week, 24/7 with a nominal fee,” he said.

“We even have evening skiing with 3.5 km of lit trails or if they prefer, strap on a headlamp and enjoy a moonlit ski.”

At Hallis Lake, the club offers guided headlamp ski tours Wednesday evening.

“Night skiing is beautiful,” Gruene said.

With the new ski rentals, CSTC was able to begin a school program where students could experience cross-country skiing through their school with fully-trained coaches.

Starting slowly, with three elementary schools signing on, Gruene organized three visits for each school with a total of 411 student visits in the 2011/2012 season.

This year, they are looking to double that number.

In addition to students using the ski rentals, the club was also able to rent out good equipment to local people who may not have their own, thus widening the cross-country experience in the community.

In the first year, CSTC had a total of 290 equipment rentals in addition to the Ski S’Kool program. Of the 79 participants in adult lessons, 51 rented skis.

Gruene has the rental shop open on Saturday, Sunday and Wednesday evenings.

Cross-country skiing is an activity the entire family can enjoy including children as young as two years.

Kids programs are offered at Hallis Lake for children 2 – 12 years old with all levels from basic introductory levels to accomplished and competitive levels.

“We also have a biathlon program for 12 – 18-year-olds which involves skiing and precision target shooting,” Watteyne said.

“This sport teaches students excellent body control.”

These programs help children develop a positive self-image and confidence, however Gruene said the in addition to the physical and mental benefits, kids have fun and that makes the learn easier and more popular.

“Any of these youth programs lend themselves to parents enjoying a bit of leisure skiing while their children are in lessons,” she said.

“We encourage parent participation in coaching and organizing these youth activities.”

Adult ski lessons are Wednesday evening and some Saturday sessions in both classic and skate style skiing.

“Cross-country skiing is a healthy active lifestyle choice and pairs well with snowshoeing and other non-motorized activities,” Watteyne said.

“It’s almost an extension of summertime non-motorized sports like hiking and canoeing which all help to reduce an individual’s carbon footprint.”

Adult season passes are $80, day passes are $7 (adult) and $5 (children.) As for rentals, they

are $10 (children) and $15 (adults.)

Over the Christmas season, Dec. 26 – Jan. 6, 2013, the rental shop will be open every day, 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. After Jan. 6, Saturday, 10 a.m. – 5 p.m., Sunday, 11 a.m. – 5 p.m. and Wednesday, 4 – 9 p.m.

One of the most popular attractions at Hallis Lake, at least for the younger set, is Big Rock Adventure Park.

With a series of rolling bumps, some small some large and the Wrascally Rabbit Trail, children

can experience cross-country skiing as it was originally intended – transportation through the wilderness.

“Both the adventure park and trail really appeal to young skiers and parents often find

it hard to tear them away when it’s time to go home,” Watteyne said.

“Hallis Lake has become a popular meeting place where skiing, gathering by the fireplace in the lodge and enjoying active friendship are highly prized.”

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