Salmon Arm’s ties to Ottawa are deepening, at least for some young Canadian cross-country skiers.
Last Tuesday, Dec. 2, 16 members of Ottawa’s Nakkertok Nordic Cross-Country Ski Club, all 13 years old, arrived in Salmon Arm for a one-week stay to be hosted by 20 counterparts in the Larch Hills Ski Club.
They came thanks to SEVEC, the Society for Educational Visits and Exchanges in Canada.
The Ottawa club participates in the exchange every year, explains one of the Salmon Arm organizers, Suzy Beckner. The exchange must include at least a 30 per cent cultural or historical component.
During their week in the Shuswap, the skiers’ itinerary included a trip to the railway museum in Revelstoke, First Nations cultural activities at Quaaout Lodge, as well as a cross-country ski race in Vernon.
The Observer caught up with the skiers on their second day, when they were making artist trading cards at the Salmon Arm Art Gallery, to be followed by a scavenger hunt at the SASCU Downtown Activity Centre.
Although the visitors hadn’t much time to acclimatize, Carter Saunders from Ottawa said it was already “really fun.” He was being billeted with David Bakker’s family, and Bakker agreed.
“It’s a lot of fun. We haven’t done any skiing yet – but it’s very interesting to learn what life is like in a larger city.”
Saunders said one of the first things he noticed in Salmon Arm is it’s a lot less busy than Ottawa, while his friend Cameron Pouw took note of how spread apart houses are.
Also unlike Salmon Arm and the Larch Hills, the boys said there was no snow in Ottawa.
The Nakkertok club is considerably larger, too, with 1,400 members, compared to Larch Hills’ current 660 members, although the local total is expected to climb to more than 900 in January. The Nakkertok website describes it as the largest cross-country ski club in Canada, with 75 kilometres of expertly groomed trails on privately-owned land in the Gatineau Hills.
Teagan Shapansky and Ella Barney came from Ottawa and were both excited to be in another province to ski, as well as to experience life in different homes with different families.
Beckner explained the Ottawa club contacted Larch Hills with the proposal. It’s an affordable endeavour because SEVEC pays for the flights while the host club is responsible only for the cost of the activities.
All the students must miss a week of school, something which Larch Hills skier Emma Levins, who is happy to be participating, described as both good and bad – bad only because the students are still responsible for all the school work they miss.
Come January, the Larch Hills skiers will be heading off on an adventure of their own – joining their new friends in their homes and on their ski trails in Ottawa.