Category Archives: Sunday Trips

Brief blog about the latest Sunday trip

Dress for Success on the Trails

By Gillian Kranias (aka Trakkers’ investigative fashion journalist)

When skiing as part of a community, and one that involves collective bus rides, it’s fun to explore our diversity, as it intersects with our common love for winter. For this blog post, I interviewed several Trakkers skiers about “what is essential in how you dress for the trails?”

Besides being a fun collection of human-interest snapshots, I hope this post will provide helpful guidance to new skiers, and a new idea or two for any of us still refining our personal ski fashion.

Add a layer to your hiking gear

In the bus on the way up, I chatted with Trakker’s social events coordinator Gina Ang. She had a simple rule: wear hiking gear, plus a water-resistant layer. Now, that keeps a wardrobe simple!

Invest in the base and the extremities

In the cabin at lunch I talked with Pascal. He shared more specific details, such as wear a synthetic base layer that fits close to your skin, for “wicking” (this brings the sweat out, keeps you dry). Care for your extremities with an athletic wear (or wool) hat and gloves (switch to mittens when it is cold). Pascal wears no scarf. He says it gets in the way. Learning this, I inquired about the collar on his base layer – which raises slightly over the neck.

Pascal gracefully agreed to pose for you all, so you can see the very particular zippered neck on his synthetic base layer. (I realized my outfit benefits from a similar-shaped neck which is both fashionable and “snug”, but unlike Pascal, I add a scarf on top.)

The good ol’ (or new) balaclava

While we were speaking about extremities, another Trakkers member chimed in about the multiple benefits of a balaclava for protecting her from the wind. We took a series of pictures as she demonstrated how versatile this one piece of gear can be.

There are essentially three ways to wear it. Apparently MEC has several styles to choose from, all black. Looking online just now, I also find cheaper and more colourful varieties for those who prefer.

Wear what you’ve got

So far, the people I have talked to are wearing newer, high-tech ski fashions. So, in the interests of being a balanced journalist (or perhaps to highlight some of my own tendencies) I started to seek out some less conventional ski fashion models.

Lindsay, our bus captain coordinator, was snacking outside in her oversize downhill pants. When I asked about them, she explained that she is originally from Vancouver, and started cross-country skiing in Ontario because our hills are too small. She has been skiing in these old downhill pants for 4 years:

Lindsay said she still hasn’t gotten around to “getting something more appropriate”. In response, I asked : “When has it been a problem…?” and she laughed, “It’s never been a problem!”

The hoodie takes [care of] all

The Trakkers teen contingent was straight forward. You need the hoodie. Like the balaclava, it can be worn many ways and, when needed, block the wind (it was a windy day).

Unlike Lindsay, who encountered no problems with her unconventional gear, these boys did: “The only problem is … it obstructs your view.”

The best advice from a beginner, for beginners

None of the folks I interviewed have a PhD in winter dressing. And I remind you, reader, that “the opinions expressed in this blogpost are only the views of those interviewed and do not necessarily reflect the views of this writer, nor Trakkers Ski Club.”

I asked myself if there was something to learn from the people new to skiing, so I went to chat with the group of women who had just come in from Trakkers’ Absolute Beginners Class. They were eating their packed lunches, speaking a language other than English, and laughing a lot. Their table exuded that energy of refueling, warming up and bonding after the delights of fun in the snow. I wondered how they felt about their clothing choices and options, so I inquired.

There was a strong consensus that having padding on your pants would be the most critical advice for a beginner – to protect from all those hard falls! And the more waterproof, the better.

Everyone has cost-saving tips

As I chatted more with one of the women in the beginners’ group, Yvonne, other Trakkers members around the cabin started chipping in with shopping recommendations. A problem, noted Yvonne, is the high costs of new gear – it adds up.

To economize on costs, the following suggestions were shared:

  • “Look for fleece pants plus a [waterproof] shell.”
  • “You are small [mentioned another small woman]. I buy in the children’s section at MEC, it’s much cheaper.”
  • I recommended that Yvonne take a look at Lindsay’s lovely downhill ski pants (see pic above) and noted that larger second-hand shops tend to have these, for only a few dollars.

More scoop on pants

I later saw that Yvonne and her friends spent the afternoon playing in the snow – a great snowball fight. She told me she had packed extra pants to change into for the bus back. I agree with this advice – I always change into a dry cozy top for my trip home.

At the end of the day, before we boarded the bus home, another Trakkers teen was pleased to pose with his mom in their matching high-tech pants (more satisfied MEC customers!)

Style matches style

From talking to others, I have learned that we all dress for our own style of skiing (or snowshoeing, which I did that day). If you ski hard and sweat a lot, that top layer matters most. If you head out to distant trails (up to cliff-tops or across a farmer’s fields), you need backup options for wind protection. For beginners, who interact more with the snow on the ground, good protection on your bottom layer is key.

In my next blogpost (mid-season), I will report on equipment preferences and advice from within our diverse Trakkers community. All those choices in boots, bindings, skis and poles! Until then, keep warm and happy on the trails.

 

Kawartha Nordic – a Wintery Best

Gillian is a long-time cross-country skier. She joined Trakkers this season after many years of cross-country skiing at Kawartha Nordic with her family. Read about their second visit back to this idyllic park with the club.

On our second Trakkers trip to Kawartha Nordic, it was Family Day weekend.

My mother used to live next to this non-profit community-run ski club. 20 years ago, all members volunteered, and they used to spend two weekends a year as “cabin keepers” starting and tending the fire in what used to be a small trailhead cabin. With growth in community, and new resources from partners and Trillium Foundation, the club has grown. But it maintains a distinct non-commercial feel.

My daughter (17) agreed to come along. She joined our regular Trakkers gang – myself, my partner, my son (13), and his school friend (who keeps pace with us after just two lessons through the club). And the gang was larger as we also skied with another Trakkers member and her son (14) who we had met on our first Sunday trip. There was fresh snow, and lots of energy as we set out on the trails.

My kids learned to ski here, on the easier Beaver and Kawartha trails, but we headed straight to our favorite intermediate trail: Red Fox. This trail is narrow and isolated, following slight winds, dips and rises. We are spellbound again by the exquisite sunlight cast through the trees. It is 1km of heaven, between two of the larger routes in the 46km trail network.

Kawartha Nordic is also special for the two trail-side cabins heated by wood stove. From Trakkers weekly posting of insider information for the coming Sunday’s destination, I gained a tip to wrap our sandwiches in foil and heat them directly on the stove. We brought cheese sandwiches, for melting! And a new invention: a foil bundle of black and green olives, which we warmed and shared with other Trakkers members in the cabin 🙂

We usually ski to our favorite Laderach cabin (we like the classic trails around there), but today we had ventured farther to the Tanney cabin. Both cabins stock birdseed so skiers can commune with local winged creatures. All three boys spent their entire lunch outside, feeding the delightful soft-bellied chickadees and nuthatches.   

The return trail was a slight downhill most of the way, so we glided back quicker than expected.

… despite irresistible stops for nature pics.

With time to spare, the youth in our gang sought the thrills of downhill: my daughter hit the informal toboggan hill near the main cabin, and the boys headed to a newer switchback trail called “the hills”. We adults couldn’t resist a return loop to run the Red Fox … yet again. 

As time neared 4pm, all Trakkers skiers converged towards the two-storey trailhead cabin.

Outside, some members sunned on the porch. While inside, others sat around the wood stoves. I enjoyed a snack huddle with the kids, while we perched on homey, member-built tree-trunk stools. It was a perfect wind-down to an energetic day.

On the bus home, we continued to snack, in style with our cheese and fruit tray. Then, most of the bus dozed off and I got back into my second read of a fine book set in a fictional country of beautiful East Africa. I enjoyed immersing myself in the sensuously described paysage. Of course, returning from another ski Sunday with Trakkers in the “rugged Canadian Shield at its wintery best” … I couldn’t be envious at all.

Review on Beginner Hill Lessons

Trakkers offers free lessons to members and guests. Lessons range from absolute beginners to advanced skiers, for classic skiing and skating. CANSI (Canadian Association of Nordic Ski Instructors) certified instructors provide lessons on Sunday Trips. Sylvia has been an instructor for many year and tell about her latest Beginner Hill Lesson.

Sunday, January 20 was a cold day for Trakkers who headed to Hardwood Hills Ski and Bike. I was happy to have five keen students for my Beginner Hill Lesson despite the -34° wind chill!

Because everyone was at different levels, we started on a very small hill. Getting the right body stance was important to practise to build confidence. We gradually moved to snowplows. We didn’t move to higher hill until everyone was comfortable.

The benefit of having a lesson dedicated to hills is there is plenty of time to practise.

Some highlights were:

  • learning herring bone technique to get up the hill
  • body position and straight run
  • snowplow
  • snowplow turns to manage turns on trails

In addition to the many skills learned, we all managed to stay warm for the 75-minute lesson!

The special moment came when everyone skied snow plow and snowplow turn on a higher hill.  Applause and cheers rang out for an absolute beginner who clearly made the most progress.

If you’re hesitant on hills, sign up for the Beginner Hill lesson. With the guidance of your instructor, working at your comfort level and having lots of time to practise you will feel the difference!

Learn more about the ski lessons and tips to ski at trakkers.ca/lessons.