Marcia and Jim Beckner explore the backcountry in the Larch Hills on Dec. 30, 2020. (Contributed)

Marcia and Jim Beckner explore the backcountry in the Larch Hills on Dec. 30, 2020. (Contributed)

Column: Pandemic prompts more people to head for Larch Hills

Trail Tales by Marcia Beckner

By Marcia Beckner

Contributor

“Let’s do the Whoopies!” exclaimed one of the intrepid backcountry skiers as we emerged from Moonwalk onto Larch Lake Loop.

We had just completed a five-hour backcountry ski, out to Far East summit, but the keenness to keep skiing managed to override any fatigue. So we did the Whoopies. So glad we did so when we got back to the chalet.

With the excellent conditions on the hill, our backcountry outings have been wonderful. Doing the Great Circle clockwise was a new experience for me. It has its advantages in that you are not faced with the long Caribou Memory climb at the end, as you would doing it counter-clockwise.

Our ski to the Far East summit took us into new territory for some of us. Blaine and Judy have spent many hours clearing access to various trails in off-season, and leading us enthusiasts during ski season into wonderful backcountry terrain.

Much appreciated!

With Covid shutting down most indoor activities and all adult team sports, plus many children’s sports, cross-country skiing has become the go-to activity for lots of folks new to the sport.

The membership in the Larch Hills Nordic Society has grown from 1,000+ last year to more than 1,400 this ski season.

One only needs to check out the parking lot on the weekends – I’ve never seen the parking lot so full other than for the loppet or major BC Cup/racing events.

Last Sunday was so much fun skiing the lower trails and seeing all the young families having a marvellous time. There is one notable thing about cross-country skiing: everyone is smiling! Not a grouch among the crowd! Same could be said for the myriad snowshoers exploring the woods.

Read more: More leisurely event planned for 2021 iteration of popular Salmon Arm loppet

Read more: Larch Hills Nordic Society sees more trouble at ski area

Due to Covid, the 2021 Reino Keski-Salmi Loppet had to be cancelled. In normal times, it would have been held right about now. So the loppet committee got creative, and are encouraging interested skiers to ski the virtual loppet. Between January 17th and 31st, the tracksetters are hoping to trackset the 30km loop every day. Signs have already been put out for the 30-kilometre route which includes the 17-km plus the 5-km. Pick a distance and ski it. Then let Karen at the LHNS office know you have done it by email at manager@skilarchhills.ca. Great if you can include a photo of yourself, and others, along the route. Great draw prizes for those who email in.

A positive side effect of Covid: folks who have always been the support staff at the loppet – timers, course marshals, calculators, food preparation and serving – can now ski in the event. What a boon! You must be a member for the 2020/21 season or pay for a day use ticket and sign in to use the Larch Hills trails. Just remember the Covid restrictions: adults ski in a maximum group of four skiers, and keep a three-metre distance between skiers.

I am so looking forward to skiing the 30km at a leisurely pace, and enjoying the no-pressure event! The chalet, unfortunately, has restricted access: only seven people at a time allowed either upstairs or downstairs. And keep your inside time to 30 minutes. The washrooms are accessible from the outside.

Will it ever be nice when Covid recedes and we can have full use of this marvellous facility!

Stay safe. Stay healthy. And think snow!

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