I was shuffling along in the set tracks at Lost Lake Park last week, when a blur of black spandex passed from behind. Strong rhythmic strides powered her up the hill. I wouldn’t have minded so much had she been a young Olympic hopeful, but she wasn’t.
Judy is in her lat 60s. Although few of us will ever achieve her grace and stamina, cross-country skiing is the perfect activity for the older Whistler body. It’s safe and performed at relatively low speeds. It’s relatively cheap. A day pass is about $20; a season’s pass is only $179 for early birds.
The health benefits are compelling. It’s a total body workout. Cross-country skiers — especially older ones — are fit, buff and have buns of steel. How can you resist? According to Mike Winters, “It’s so easy on the body — there’s no stress on the joints. And once you get going, it’s pretty easy to sustain the pace. It provides a great cardio-vascular workout — really gets the old heart pumping!”
A retired teacher, Mike and his wife Linda love living in Whistler for the active lifestyle it affords. Like so many Whistler seniors, Mike is hooked on volunteering. He is a Mountain Host, volunteers at Meadow Park’s gym, and does a regular shift at the Lost Lake cross-country trails where he checks tickets and answers questions. Apart from the satisfaction of helping people out, and being an ambassador for Whistler, there are tangible benefits. A two-hour shift per week at Lost Lake earns a cross-country pass. Double that gets you a Meadow Park pass as well.
New tricks for old dogs aside, most people, including relatively fit seniors, can learn how to get around on cross-country skis fairly easily. Whether you prefer classic or skate technique, it’s a good idea to take a couple of lessons if you’re new to the sport. Something as apparently simple as getting up can be a big challenge if you don’t know the proper technique — particularly for the recovering couch potato. Of course, as Mike says there’s always the option to “… just take the damn things off and get up!” Persevere, and the sky’s the limit — you too could join the flying spandex brigade!
Finally, cross-country skiing gets you out there — out of the house, out of the hustle and bustle of the Village. You’ll experience the magic that has always been here — the stunning vistas of mountains and lakes alternating with stretches of forest — quiet, dark and deep.
Whistler has two main cross-country areas — Lost Lake Park Ski Trails (www.crosscountryconncection.ca), and the Callaghan Valley (www.skicallaghan.ca), home to the 2010 Olympic Nordic events. The Lost Lake trails and main ticket booth are adjacent to the Village, and accessible from Day Lot 5. There are 34 kilometres of well-groomed, well-signed trails, ranging from an easy loop around the lake, to longer trails featuring rolling terrain for a good workout. The Lost Lake Loop is lit at night. Lost Lake’s Cross Country Connections, which operates out of the Austrian Passive Haus, sells day passes, provides rentals, and arranges lessons. The trail between Meadow Park and Rainbow Park is free and welcomes dogs. Callaghan Valley is a 20-minute drive south of Whistler and features two Nordic venues with a combined total of 87 kilometres of groomed trails as well as rentals, lessons, and three day lodges. Prices are comparable to Lost Lake.
Did you know: ‘Jack Rabbit’ Johannsen, who popularized cross-country skiing in Canada, lived to the ripe old age of 111. Get out there.