Grateful for early trail work

“Ignore the weather in town! We had a great time today in the misty woods and meadows!”

So its’s raining in town. To quote Eleanor Marshall, reporting on conditions on the hill as she organized a Wednesday Wenches outing this week, “Ignore the weather in town! We had a great time today in the misty woods and meadows!” That was our experience also on Tuesday afternoon as we skied up Metford Road, across Bilbo’s Bog, onto Reino’s Run, around Cottonwood Cut-off, down to South Hub and down Larch Hills Road to the chalet. It was a quick ski but brilliant with the snow in the trees, good set track and the quiet that is the Larch Hills – welcome in this busy pre-Christmas time.

As we were driving down the hill to town, Jim recalled the first time he skied the Larch Hills. Summer of 1977 there was a group of students funded to cut cross-country ski trails in what we know now as the Larch Hills ski area. Shuswap Outdoors was pivotal in making this trail cutting happen.

That fall, when the snow was adequate, Shuswap Outdoors organized a celebratory ski. In those days one parked where John’s Ski Shack is now and skied up the ski-out, which was the road to the homestead on the left as you skied up. The group, led by Tom and Connie Crowley and including a number of SO members, skied up and up and into what is now the parking area, which was not cleared of trees this early in our history – only a log landing. Up Metford Road they went, across Moose Hollow, onto Ermine Frolic where Jim remembers they met their first downhill, finally! Then down the homestead road to the vehicles. Almost 40 years has passed since this inaugural outing but the memory burns bright. I was on an early SO outing with the Crowleys up to Larch Lake where I learned there are some conditions for which you just cannot wax! (Thankful for no-wax skis these days!) All the wonderful trail names are courtesy of early SO. When you ski the trails and see the signs for Moose Hollow, Bruins Ramble, Ermine Frolic, Frodo’s Bog, and Bilbo’s Bog, know that they have a long, colourful history.

For the full history of the Shuswap Outdoors  and the beginning of the Larch Hills trail system, see Connie Crowley’s article on the Larch Hills Nordics web site under “About Us,” then down to “History.” Great reading at

The annual Lantern Ski, that magical evening, is slated for Tuesday, Dec. 29. Co-ordinator Ed Bouma has all his volunteers lined up, the lanterns cleaned, the route mapped. Join us 5 to 9 p.m. at the chalet. Bring goodies for the goodie table (should be easy with all that Christmas leftover baking!) Hot cider/hot chocolate provided. My job is to gather and co-ordinate lamp lighters. The gang heads out early that evening to light the lanterns, check them for smoking chimneys, make sure the wicks are the right height. By the time we get back to the chalet, Aloise Schonenberger has his sweet Christmas tree lit on one of the trails and Kari Dukeshire and family have a gaggle of candle-lit paper bags defining the route in the stadium. Stunning effect!

Think snow!