Category Archives: Things of Interest

Snow Art by Simon Beck

See world-renowned snowshoe artist, Simon Beck’s amazing and beautiful snow art creations for Banff National Park:

More about Simon Beck:


Meet Our New Instructors: John and Hilary!

Trakkers “Roving Reporting” (aka, the club pres) recently sat down with John Van Nostrand and Hilary Linton, to get their take on becoming new CANSI-certified instructors to teach with the club:

What’s your skiing background?

John: I learned to downhill ski when I was six and took up cross country skiing when I was a teenager. In high school I joined the cross country ski team and raced in OFSAA. (I didn’t win any races, but I did compete for a few years).  Then I put my skis away for a few decades, until I joined Trakkers in 2009.

Hilary: I learned to ski in Finland, where I lived for a year in my teens. Later, I joined the Carleton University cross country ski team. They let me on because all the good skiers belonged to an Ottawa club. I got great training and went to all these races where I invariably came last.  But I still have the racing-boot warmers I got then, and they have come in handy these past two winters!

What made you decide to get your CANSI certification to teach with the club?

John: I like to teach and I found myself helping Trakkers members who wanted to improve their classic ski technique.  I offered to be an assistant instructor in 2014 and found that I enjoyed the experience.

Hilary: I really liked the vibe of this club from my first trip. I had never skated before, so I took some lessons with Xavier and Sylvia and  was really impressed with their skills and professionalism. I decided I wanted to be just like them!!

You both did the prep course before taking the Level 1 certification – what was that like?

Hilary: The prep course was fantastic. Aside from the social aspect— a great group of like-minded people from across the province—the quality of the instruction was superb. Very intensive one-on-one training  with useful video feedback. The prep course really got me ready and confident enough to pass the certification. It is well-timed too; there is about 6 weeks for practice between the two courses. I would encourage anyone who wants to improve their technique to attend this course—you may surprise yourself and be more ready for certification than you knew by the end of it!

John: The prep course was tougher than I thought it would be.  The instructors were very good skiers who were good at demonstrating the proper technique and were critical of the weaknesses that all skiers have.  They wanted us to be able to demonstrate the best technique possible to our students.  They wanted us to be able to create and deliver lesson plans that are fun and have the right level of detail. They also wanted us be able to analyze the weakness in our student’s technique.  Having said that, the prep course was fun, the instructors were very positive and either encouraged us to sign up for the Level 1 Test, or encouraged us to take some time to improve and try the test in another year.

How did you find the Level 1 course itself?

Hilary: Well, it was cold, very cold. But, as Wendy Grater, our fearless leader relentlessly reminded us, “We ARE Canadian!!” It was also gorgeous; I had never been to Arrowhead before. We pretty much had the place to ourselves because it was…. Cold!! The quality of the training was, again, outstanding, building on what we learned in the prep course. We had a small group and just incredible, positive, supportive lessons with enormously valuable feedback. It was hard work, and we all made a lot of progress over those two days. Everyone passed the course, which is gratifying. We also got lots of tips about what we need to keep working on, which was humbling. And our other Trakkers instructors were there for a refresher course — so it was fun too!

John: The Level 1 Test was also demanding. Like Hilary said, it was really cold (-25C).  Everyone was encouraged to plan their lessons with short explanations and lots of movement on skis.  I was very happy that the wind was light.  The Level 1 Course has the same goals as the Prep Course (plan, demonstrate, deliver and analyze the technique), and I learned as much, if not more, from the lessons here as I did on the Prep Course.  However, the instructor’s responses and encouragement were much more guarded.  If the prep course was Young Drivers of Canada, then Level 1 was our visit to the Driver Test Centre and most of us didn’t know if we had passed or failed until the end of the second day.  The one suggestion I would make, if you are planning to take the test, practice planning lessons for beginners.  When you read through the CANSI ski manual it talks about preparing lessons for all levels of students, but when you arrive for the test, a few of the “students” will be asked to modify their techniques and act like beginners (this gives you some problem techniques to analyze), as a result, all the “test lesson plans” are delivered at the beginner level.

Preference: classic or skate?

John: Classic, I’ve only been skating for 3 days, but skating is fun!

Hilary: Love both! No preference at all — it depends on the conditions and the terrain and the company!

What’s your favourite ski trail? Why?

John: I like quiet trails such as Back Red at Highland Nordic, Kenner at Kawartha Nordic and High Dunes at Wasaga Nordic.  Trails that make you think you might be 100 miles away from civilization.

Hilary: It’s not a ski trail at all; it’s a seldom-used snowmobile trail along a disused rail line up near Owen Sound. I go there with my husky-cross in a ski-joring harness and he just pulls me, we go like the wind.

What’s the most number of times you’ve fallen in one day? – be honest!

John: Probably twice, but I like to limit myself to one fall a day, if possible :-).  My worst fall was on a hill. I fell forward and rolled. I was ok, but I broke the tips off both my skis.

Hilary: Well, given that I am still working on the most fundamental of CANSI skills — “stance and balance”— I  fall often, especially when I am trying something new, practicing or tired at the end of the day. So I am going to take the fifth on that* because I have a reputation to uphold as a Trakkers Instructor!

How much did it help to ski with other good skiers and instructors in the club?

John: Good skiers can provide excellent feedback on improving your technique.  Personally, I would not have been able to pass the skate portion of the Level 1 Test without lessons and the helpful advice of Gleb and Xavier.

Hilary: It’s always great to learn from other skiers. Xavier had me watching the Olympics last winter, and CANSI sends you a DVD that is worth watching. They teach us in CANSI that most students are visual learners, and that certainly is true for me.

How helpful was it being an assistant instructor to improve your teaching skills and achieve your certification?

John: See previous!

Hilary: It helped enormously. Barb, Steve, Xavier and Sylvia are all great teachers. Plus I got to be a groupie!!

Anything you’re still working on technique-wise?

John: Skating!

Hilary: Everything! What I have learned in all of this is that (a) cross-country skiing is far more technical then I knew and (b) cross-country skiing is much easier and a lot more fun if you have good technique.

If someone’s thinking about getting their certification what advice would you give them?

John: Try being an assistant instructor.  You’ll have to give demonstrations of the proper techniques, the instructor will let you teach part of the lesson and you’ll get to try analyzing your student’s technique.  The biggest bonus is that after assisting four or five times, you will have seen many of the drills that you should include in your lesson plans for the test (diagonal stride, double pole, snow-plow turn and one skate).

Hilary: 1) Take the next available prep course; 2) Buy the Cansi manual on how to teach cross-country skiing; and, 3) Take Trakkers lessons!

* of course, “We ARE Canadian!!” doesn’t apply when one is taking the fifth.

If you’d like to consider becoming a volunteer instructor please contact Steve Favell, Ski School Coordinator, at or 416-233-5324. For anyone who completes the Level I training and commits to teach with Trakkers for a period of time, the club reimburses the costs of the CANSI training and certification, and covers trail/bus fees while teaching as an incentive.

For the Love of Books | ‘Two Planks and a Passion: The Dramatic History of Skiing’ by Roland Huntford

Huntford is likely best known as the author of the controversial book, ‘The Last Place on Earth’, which was first published in 1979 with the title “Scott and Amundsen” (Wikipedia).

In fact, Huntford begins ‘Two Planks and a Passion’ (2008) by declaring that on December 14, 1911, Roald Amundsen “won the longest ski race in the world.”

We learn that the word “ski” is derived from an Old Norse word for “split”.

The book tracks the evolution of the use and construction of the ski, and how it was adapted for various terrain, climates, and activities.

There is archaeological evidence that skiing has its origins 20,000 years ago, i.e. “The ski is older than the wheel.”  

The invention of the ski (and the snowshoe) allowed prehistoric man to explore new territory.  “Man is a travelling animal and skiing began as a means of survival.”  Over time, skiing became the sport we know today.

Interested in becoming a Trakkers member?  Click to join!