When it comes to cross-country skiing, Oban Chambers and Janet Wright are in it for the long haul.
Oban, 9, and Wright, 82, represent the youngest and oldest “long haul” skiers of the 100 Mile Nordic Ski Society this past season. Oban clocked in an impressive 342 kilometres with his mom, while Wright skied 1,200 kilometres – 200 km over her goal.
“It makes me feel awesome, I’ve achieved so much. In fact, the first year of skiing I did 100 km, next year we did 200 km and then this year we were so close to 300 km we just decided to do it,” Oban said.
Oban first got into the sport when his mom Kimberly Chambers enrolled him in the Nordic’s Ski School. Thanks to one-on-one sessions with Kristi Iverson, one of his coaches, he said he was able to figure out his technique and start enjoying himself.
As a homeschooler, he had the opportunity to ski five times a week. “I really started to get into it and really understand why she (my mom) did it,” Oban said. “I love how it’s an amazing sport that lets you be outdoors in nature. With all the beauty, plants and wildlife you can just relax.”
The Nordics experienced a record-setting season this past winter, with a 64 per cent increase in users from the previous year. The surge in interest has prompted organizers to start preparations to once again hold the BC Cup Race at the trails for the first time in 20 years.
100 Mile House had been a hot destination for international races, given its location in the centre of the province. The area had previously hosted everything from the BC Championships and Junior Nationals to the renowned Cariboo Marathon, which ran from 1977 to 2014, hosting 1,650 participants at its peak.
Wright had competed in the marathon 26 times – always opting for the 50 km trek – and makes a point of skiing 50 km in one day every winter just to prove she can. This was the first year she couldn’t do her 50 km trip, due to the lingering effects of a broken ankle from a year earlier. Still, she went skiing every second day during the winter and tracked her kilometres.
“I never dreamt that at the age I am now, that I could still ski 50 km in a day,” Wright said. “It keeps you in good shape because I’m 82 now and I’ve got hardly any aches and pains and no arthritis.”
Wright started skiing when she was 28, using heavy metal-edged downhill skis. When the first wooden cross country skis came to the 150 Mile House area, where she was living at the time, Wright said she absolutely loved them.
“The first time I skied to the neighbours, three kilometres, I thought that was pretty wonderful,” she said.
Wright said 100 Mile House has some of the best cross-country skiing in B.C. and the Nordics trails are so well-groomed, it makes skiing even more addictive. She skis right up until the snow and ice melts and the lakes become accessible by boat again. Once that happens, she stores the skis and she takes out her kayak.
Oban encourages anyone, young and old, to give cross-country skiing a try. He especially loves the downhill parts of the Nordic’s track and the Beanstalk Cabin, where he and his mom will relax, have a snack and enjoy the view. This year, they read the Hobbit during their breaks by firelight, which was “amazing.”
But while he loves being on the trail, Oban warns new skiers to beware: “Do not go up Double Trouble. It is a mistake, turn back immediately,” he said seriously. “It is the hardest climb on the entire trail.”
Obam’s mom Kimberly said cross-country skiing has been “a lifesaver” during COVID.
“The kids could get together safely outside and stay active and connected with their peers,” she said.
Wright, who met Obam and his mom on the trails, said he’s shaping up to be a fine skier. She encouraged people to come out next year.
“I tell beginner skiers you don’t have to be a fanatic like me. You do whatever makes you happy, that’s the important thing.”