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Back in 2004, I wrote a story about the beautiful Kane Valley and its network of cross-country ski trails.
At the time, I called the area and its facilities a hidden and undiscovered jewel — little known and little used by not only outsiders but even the local population.
Nine years have gone by, and the Kane Valley continues to be a diamond in the rough — a winter wonderland of pristine beauty that includes over 50 km of undulating ski trails and unsurpassed natural scenery.
As for little known or little used — that’s a bit of a different story.
“It’s much more heavily used than in 2004,” Nicola Nordic Ski Club president John Anderson said. “Our club membership has almost doubled in recent years, and the amount of out-of-town cross-country skiers is significantly higher than it was eight years ago. People come from a long ways away. They recognize that it’s truly a unique place.”
This past weekend, for example, there were skiers from Vancouver on course at the Kane Valley trails, as well as visitors from as far away as Bellingham, Wash.
Despite the rising popularity of the Kane Valley ski trails, the Nicola Nordic Ski Club — the steward of the facilities — has stayed true to its founding mission statement: “to maintain a wilderness experience where skiers can enjoy nature in peace and quiet.”
Preserving the Kane Valley experience for its increasing population of users has been a challenge for the NNSC, Anderson said.
“There’s constant work to be done, and we have such limited funding. I’m not sure that people who ski Kane Valley are aware that there is absolutely no money from government like there used to be. We entirely depend on our annual membership fees ($40 individual, $80 family) and our day use fees ($7/person).
There is no one on site to collect the day-use fees, Anderson said. The club completely relies on the integrity and honesty of skiers to put their money in one of the on-site drop boxes at the start or finish of their day of skiing.
Like so many of the forested areas in south-central British Columbia, the Kane Valley suffered its share of the pine beetle infestation a few years back and the subsequent loss of valuable timber. Anderson prefers to dwell on the positives that came out of this natural disaster.
“The logging that had to be done actually resulted in a lot of good things happening to the ski trails,” he said. “Some of the existing ones were upgraded and enhanced, while new ones were also built.
“In addition, Parking Lot #2 was constructed, which allows for more people to be on site, and allows for immediate and easy access to some of our novice trails.”
Anderson said Tolko Wood Products worked hand-in-hand with the NNSC to make the many improvements.
Everyone welcome to Chili Sunday
Anyone and everyone interested in enjoying the Kane Valley cross-country ski experience is invited to take part in the Nicola Nordic Ski Club’s annual Chili Sunday — scheduled this year for January 13.
The fun begins at 11 a.m. at the NNSC shelter located at Parking Lot #3, four kilometres along the Kane Valley Road off of Highway 97C (The Connector) heading southeast of Merritt.
“There’ll be a big communal pot of chili cooking on an open fire,” Anderson said. “Participants are encouraged to bring a few ingredients to add to the pot, as well as their own bowls, cutlery and drinking cups. We’ll provide a hot drink as well as the condiments. If anyone wants to bring a dessert, that’d be great, too.”
The eating and social get-together will last until about 1 p.m., at which time some introductory ski lessons will be offered to anybody interested.
“With or without ski equipment, we encourage people to come and network with our club members,” Anderson said.
For more information on Chili Sunday, the Kane Valley Ski Trails and the Nicola Nordic Ski Club, go to the club’s website at nicolanordic.ca, or contact any of the following club directors: John and Kate Anderson, Mike and Shelly Hassel, Sheila Dinsdale, Linda Brown, Allan Burger or Andrea Lawrence.