Combining food, Nordic skiing and a whole lot of fun, the Wells International Gourmet Ski is an event that many people are quick to mark on their calendar.
And with registration limited to 100, Jan. 2 is an important date to highlight on the calendar as well, as this is when online registration opens. Organizers caution the event often sells out.
This year will be the 13th year volunteers from the Wells and Area Trails Society (WATS) have hosted the Wells International Gourmet Ski. WATS maintains and helps develop trails for non-motorized recreation in the Wells area.
“In Wells, there are a lot of people who are really great cooks and a lot of Nordic skiers, and we had this idea we could combine these for a fun event,” says Dave Jorgenson, president of WATS.
During the Wells International Gourmet Ski, participants cross-country ski over the WATS trail network, stopping at food stations featuring homemade international cuisine and socializing along the way. Skiers will gather for hot drinks and desserts at the finale, and those who dress up will have a chance to win prizes. Participants are encouraged to stay in Wells for the evening and join WATS at the Sunset Theatre for its popular Winter Film Fest.
“We started a Best Costume competition, and some people have gotten really carried away,” Jorgenson says with a laugh. “That’s a really fun element.”
Each year, a country or region theme is chosen for the food stations, and Jorgenson says the event has featured food from Mexico, Poland, Indonesia and much more. The country theme for this year’s food stations is still a surprise.
All the food stations are run by volunteers.
There are 25 kilometres of trail, and Jorgenson says they have quite a few loops, and people can ski as much or as little as they want.
“People who come with kids or don’t want to put a lot of effort can ski between the five stations quite easily,” he says, adding you don’t even need to know how to ski to have fun at this event.
The 2019 Wells International Gourmet Ski will take place Saturday, Feb. 23. Check-in will take place between 10 a.m. and noon at The Frog on the Bog, and skiers can start from behind the Bear’s Paw any time between 11 a.m. and noon. Parking will be at the Barkerville Gold Mines parking lot across from the Bear’s Paw.
Between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m., participants can ski the trails in any order or direction, visit the food stations in any order and visit up to four “Booty Basket” locations to see some new trail development and get extra treats. Food stations close at 3 p.m.
The Jack O’ Clubs pub will be open for drinks starting at 3 p.m., and desserts will be ready to sample. The prize giveaway will begin around 3:30 p.m., and there will be a group photo in front of the Jack O’ Clubs around 4 p.m.
Participants are encouraged to stay for dinner at the Jack O’ Clubs restaurant or in The Pooley Street Café at the Wells Hotel and then head to the Sunset Theatre for the Winter Film Festival, which begins at 7 p.m. The festival is a viewing of Dave’s Faves – the best of the films compiled from more than 10 years of film festivals.
Jorgenson believes the Wells International Gourmet Ski is so popular because the atmosphere is so fun.
“It’s pretty unique as a ski event,” he says. “There’s not ‘fastest’ or ‘hardest.’ I think it’s popular because people can engage with it at whatever level they want. It’s good food, and it’s very social. It’s a fun way to spend the day outside.”
The Wells International Gourmet Ski is the primary fundraiser for WATS.
“We just expanded our trail system this year and added 15 kilometres or so, and we need money to maintain the trails,” says Jorgenson.
Twenty years ago, they had an international trail designer lay out a trail system on Cornish Mountain, and they created a Development Master Plan, explains Jorgenson. This trail system was partially built with co-operation from West Fraser Mills, and then two years ago, Wells got a licence to operate its own community forest, he says. The community forest incorporates the WATS trail system, and for this last harvest cycle, WATS approached the local community forest board about working together to build more trail.
“It’s a really great project because it fit these two parts of our town together,” says Jorgenson. “We’ve had additional co-operation from the Ministry of Forests – they have a recreation division, and they’ve helped up with trail clearing and signage. It’s a great partnership. This will be the first winter we can use it.”
Jorgenson says there are another couple of kilometres of trail they would like to build to bridge the trail network and create loops this summer, and they will also be getting new signage.
Jorgenson says while many communities haven’t seen much snow this winter, Wells has – particularly in the expanded trail network.
“Our trail network is open, and we’ve started packing the trails,” he says. “Our new trail network goes over the top of Cornish Mountain. It actually accesses tons of new snow and higher-quality snow for skiing.”
This year, the Jack O’ Clubs Pub is hosting an interactive multi-course Gourmet Dinner the evening before the main event, Friday, Feb. 22.
“They are having a chef from Vancouver who will be cooking live on-screen and coming out between courses to talk to people about what ingredients he is using and why he is cooking it that way,” says Jorgenson.
To learn more about the Wells International Gourmet Ski including the event cost, and how to become a member of WATS and how to sign up for the WATS trail update newsletters, visit wellstrails.ca or contact firstname.lastname@example.org.