By LeRae Haynes —
People looking for outdoor, winter family fun in the Cariboo can find the perfect answer close to home at the Bull Mountain Ski area just 16 km north of Williams Lake. Cross country skiing, one of the fastest-growing sports in Canada, is not only a top-notch cardio workout, it’s accessible to all ages and is a great opportunity for a family to spend outdoor time together in a beautiful wilderness environment.
The Williams Lake Cross Country Ski Club, a non-profit organization, runs the facility at Bull Mountain, according to member Kirsty Gartshore. “We have parking lots, numerous trails from beginner to advanced, and a warming hut with a big wood stove,” she said. “There’s also a small frame hut higher up in the trail systems where people can have a fire and a picnic; it’s a nice destination.”
Bull Mountain also features a snow shoe trail and some dog-friendly trails. “There’s a total of 28 km of trails, and 3.5 km can be lit,” said Gartshore. “We also have an adventure trail with life-sized cartoon characters.”
She volunteers with the ski club because she believes in the sport and sees it as a wonderful benefit to kids and families. “This is a sport accessible to everyone, and it is very economical,” she said. “And the other thing is the parents of our young skiers. They’re a fantastic group – it’s so refreshing – a big, extended family feeling.”
Children up to 12 years old can join programs at the club, beginning with Bunnyrabbits, followed by Jackrabbits and concluding with Track Attack. There’s also a racing team called Bull Mountain Racers, which welcomes adult racers.
There is an emphasis on fun, participation, skill development, and safety. The objective of the program is to provide the opportunity for children to move through the sport at their own speed based on their ability, skills, and interests.
“Kids love this—we have toddlers on skis,” said Gartshore. “People come here and pull their babies behind them on a ski sled; it’s a great way to get out and enjoy the sun, the smells, and the fresh air.
“This is something you can do all together, without dividing people by age,” she added.
Gartshore explained she started downhill skiing at age three, and began cross country skiing at about the same time. “I grew up with a mom who loved winter,” she said. “We escaped the rainy, dark Vancouver weather by going to our cabin in Whistler to ski on the weekends. Mom was a downhill ski racer, and at 82 still goes to Whistler to ski almost every weekend.
“There’s nothing like cross country skiing to beat the winter blues,” she added.“You just need to get outside and get some exercise: you feel so good, mentally and physically.”
Coming up November 21 is an open house for the Williams Lake Cross Country Ski Club at the CRD Library from 9:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. in the activity room.
Another date to put in your calendar is January 10. From 1:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m. there will be a Family Fun Day at Bull Mountain with free ski gear for people to try, free coaching, and a free day pass.
The Elementary School Cross Country Ski Tournament will take place February 28, 2016.