Dec 1, 2004 | Marmot, Winter 2004

Nordic Training Facilities ‘Ready’ for the Olympics

Nordic skiing is about to take the spotlight at Mount Washington Alpine Resort, putting the Resort in a unique position as compared to other Ski Resorts in British Columbia.

“There’s a myth out there that you can’t make money at cross-country skiing. Before you make money at anything you first have to invest in it. I think we’re the first to invest capital funding in cross-country skiing,” says Resort President Peter Gibson. “We’ve taken a very different step and built a facility just for cross-country skiers.”

In 2001 the Resort spent a million dollars and built Raven Lodge, a dedicated cross-country, or Nordic, skiing facility, one kilometre past where the old Nordic building had been located. Now, just three years later, there are many days during the ski season when Raven is packed with skiers, Gibson said.

“Our numbers have been growing ever since we built Raven Lodge,” said Marc Lyster, Director of Nordic Operations at Mount Washington. And visitors are spending increasing amounts of time on the mountain, he said.

“What we’ve invested has allowed us to grow the program that we had obviously outgrown many years before in the old Nordic Lodge,” said Dave Hampshire, public relations co-ordinator at Mount Washington.

Lyster, newly crowned as the Director of Nordic Operations, sees the new focus on Nordic as a career opportunity leading up to the 2010 Olympics. It’s also a growth opportunity for the Resort. “(Nordic) is going to be growing,” Lyster said. “We need to do the development now to get people coming to the Resort. We can’t wait until 2008. “It’s going to grow and expand over the next few years, for sure.”

Lyster said his five-year plan for the Nordic facility includes developing race trails for the Strathcona Nordics Ski Club that are set up for the podium, in front of the Raven Lodge. A trails crew spent time last summer getting the trails ready so grooming crews don’t have to wait for the snow to go above the trees before they can set tracks. Lyster’s Nordic groomers are playing an increasingly important role, as teams such as the junior nationals look to Mount Washington for spring training.

The biathlon club recently landed a Biathlon North American Cup, including $10,000 in 2010 Legacies Now funding (through Hosting BC) that will be used for pro timing equipment. The week-long cadet nationals are slated for March, too. “By holding these events this year we’ll be able to hold a bigger race (next year),” Lyster said. It’s a natural progression toward a World Cup before the 2010 Olympics.

“If their (Whistler’s Olympic Nordic venues) aren’t ready, we want to be ready so we’ll be able to hold it,” he said. Mount Washington invested in a new, full-size Cat groomer this season, getting rid of the small machine that had served them well in the past. “Hopefully that will improve our trail conditions over what they’ve been in the last few years,” he said.

All little changes, but collectively, they translate into a world-class Nordic program. “We’re looking at changing the demographics,” Gibson said. As baby boomers get older, the Resort’s thinking is they will turn to activities that keep them fit but are less risky than something they might have been involved in as 20-year-olds, he added.

“A lot of people are getting into cross-country skiing because of the fitness aspect of it,” Lyster said. Triathletes are using the Nordic facilities as part of their cross-training activities; rowers from the University of Victoria are coming up and skiing as part of their cross training, he said.

The Resort is also seeing growth in other activities at Raven Lodge, such as snowshoeing from the lodge into the trails running through Strathcona Park.

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