The Williams Lake Cross Country Ski Club has been busy planning and preparing for what they’re predicting will be a busy season at Bull Mountain Ski Area due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Our primary goal for this season is to really try to give the community an opportunity to get outside for a really safe and enjoyable experience that conforms to all our social distancing requirements,” said WLCCSC chair Robin Dawes.
“We’re expecting a real upsurge in participation, and it looks like that will happen across the province with other clubs, as well, similar to how bike clubs saw a rise in trail use, and equipment is really moving off the shelves in many, many shops very quickly.”
Dawes said a lot of work from volunteers has gone into creating signage and creating a COVID-19 protocol and safety plan.
“We’re pretty much ready,” she said, noting the trails at Bull Mountain Ski Area will open as soon as there is enough snow to do so.
During the spring and summer, the WLCCSC received funding for a disinfecting electrostatic sprayer and has installed personal protective equipment (PPE) for its warming and rental hut.
Cross country skiing, she added, naturally lends itself to social distancing, allowing for families to ski together safely on the Bull Mountain trails.
Aside from the 28 kilometres of trails at Bull Mountain — located just a short, 16-kilometre drive north of Williams Lake along Highway 97 — recent, popular additions have included a dog trail and 11 kilometres of snowshoe trail. There’s also three-and-a-half kilometres of lit trails available until 10 p.m. once the ski area is opened.
During the offseason, Dawes said the dog trail has been expanded, and funding has been received to upgrade its night lights.
“The lights were getting old — some have been there since the mid 90s — so we’re upgrading to an LED light format, which is more energy efficient, brighter and more reliable,” she said.
Further upgrades to the facility in the near future hinge on the approval of a $59,600 Northern Development Initiative Trust grant for a new storage building, which will allow for more storage space, and house the club’s rental equipment.
Plans are also gliding ahead smoothly, meanwhile, to build on the success of the WLCCSC’s Ski School, and Jackrabbits ski programs.
“We will be going ahead pretty much on schedule with previous years — normally beginning those programs the first week of January — unless we can get sufficient snow in December, then that would be great,” she said.
The Ski School program, she said, allows classes from Kindergarten to Grade 7 to register for a day of skiing and instruction at Bull Mountain.
“We’ve got 18 to 20 school classes signed up already, so it’s quite popular and going to be busy,”she said.
Volunteers are also in high demand for the 2020/21 season, Dawes said, noting they are an organization fully driven by volunteers from the community.
“We’d really like to encourage some of our membership to come out to help us,” she said. “Even if it’s just a couple days a year. Anything can be helpful.”
Jobs range from manning the warming hut, to groomers, to anything in between.
“We do have one, part-time, paid grooming position but we are looking for someone to be a lead groomer and that person’s position would be to really co-ordinate the volunteer groomers and keep them aware when it’s necessary to get them out there, and to make the phone calls and what not,” she said.
For anyone interested, a copy of the WLCCSC’s COVID-19 safety plan is posted on its website at www.williamslakecrosscountryskiclub.ca. Memberships are also available for the season online at the website.
For more information visit the website, e-mail email@example.com or stop by the WLCCSC Facebook page.
“It’s hard to imagine an activity that lends itself more naturally to social distancing than cross country skiing, but it’s not just the distancing,” she said.
“It’s the fresh air, the physical activity. It’s all very good from a mental and a physical health point of view.”