Cross-country skiing is a great way to enjoy the outdoors during the winter months. Contributed photos

Cross-country skiing is a great way to enjoy the outdoors during the winter months. Contributed photos

Quesnel’s Cariboo Ski Touring Club’s lodge opens today

Facility offers many options for the active resident who wants to enjoy winter

The first week of December is barely in the books and some reading this are already wishing winter was over.

That is excusable.

You have been waking up when it is still dark out, going to work or school and then coming home again and bracing yourself to repeat the same again.

Maybe you wish there was something to break the monotony; preferably close to town, ideally doesn’t break the bank and –fingers crossed – the whole family can join in on.

Cariboo Ski Touring Club’s lodge opens this Saturday (Dec. 8). They would love you to come try out cross-country skiing or snowshoeing and make use of their fantastic facilities this winter.

The club, which has been a mainstay within Quesnel since the late 1970s, caters to the active Quesnel resident who wants to enjoy a bit of fresh air and get some exercise during the winter months.

With four kilometres of lit, groomed trails on its grounds surrounding Hallis Lake, members do not have to wait until the weekend to take advantage of the facilities.

Even Fido, who is probably more annoyed by being cooped up indoors, is welcome on a few of the loops.

A dedicated kids area, with the delightfully named “Wascally Wabbit” trail, is perfect for young ones to figure out how to move around on skis; while the Big Rock Adventure Park, complete with bumps, a hill and a bridge to cross is enjoyed by youngsters with a little more experience.

Lessons are available for adults and a robust kids program is still in place where Bunnies (ages 2-4) and Jackrabbits (ages 4-9) can master the craft. For those who want to get competitive, there is Track Attack for racers and biathlon for shooters. The club also host a Special Olympic program too.

Publicity director, ski instructor and long time-member Ron Watteyne says he would like to see an influx of members this year.

“We have a New-To-Nordic camp starting December 30,” he says. ” If you’ve never skied before and you want to find out what it’s all about, you can get on skis and take a lesson.

“If you like it, we’re one of the largest clubs in town, so rather than just come out here and spend a couple dollars on a day pass, help the club by buying a membership,” he says.

“We’re probably the cheapest cross-country ski venue in B.C.”

A great time to explore the club is its open house, which will take place on January 6.

Free ski lessons, rentals and ski passes are offered as well as a $2 breakfast.

An exciting year lies ahead for members.

The B.C. Cup Biathlon will be held on the grounds on January 19-20.

“We have athletes from all over the province coming here,” Watteyne points out. “There are usually around 100 to 120 competitors.”

Following that will be the ever popular Loppet, a 32km ski around the outskirts of the Hallis Lake facility’s property.

Although that might sound intimidating, Watteyne says it is not as scary as it seems.

“It depends on the snow conditions,” he says. “If it’s soft or fluffy snow and you’re a high beginner, you’re fine.

“Although it is recommended that you are intermediate, as there are some big hills on some sections.”

He adds the Loppet is more of a participation activity than a race, with many of the club’s members skiing the course to say they have taken part.

“However, there is that faction out there that goes out and wants to be first,” he admits.

READ MORE: Cross-country skiers enjoyed trails at annual Hallis Lake Loppet

Some cross-country skiers also enjoy getting off the freshly groomed trails and exploring the more rugged country around the Cariboo.

The club itself started as a back-country skiing group and some of the old contingent, who like to slog their way through deep snow, still take advantage of one of the four cabins they own and operate.

Mt. Waverly Cabin, Cariboo Mountain Cabin, Moncton Cabin and Mt Murray Cabin are all stocked with sleeping mats, kitchens, stoves and emergency supplies for the more adventurous of the members.

“When you go out there, you’re climbing up 1,500 to 1,800 vertical feet and you might be breaking trails through a foot and a half of snow,” Watteyne says.

“By the time you get [to a cabin], you’re sweated right up, so it’s a nice place to go in, warm up, have a bite to eat and go for a ski around.”

Of course, venturing off the beaten path is not without its risks.

“We highly recommend that anyone who goes into the back country takes a back-country course, ” Watteyne advises, “and that they at least take the proper equipment like a beacon, a shovel and a probe.

“You wouldn’t want to out the door without those things and knowing how to use them.”

Of course, the club offers an excellent course, which includes classroom sessions as well as a practical element.

“We go out into the mountains and dig a pit and profile the snow to see where the unstable layers are to see how the snow looks,” Watteyne says.

So whether it is some light exercise in beautiful surroundings to get you through the darker months or some adventurous exploration of the alpine, Cariboo Ski Touring Club has a wide range of activities for you.

Check for more information on hours, conditions and snow availability.

Quesnel Cariboo Observer