“Absolutely terrific”

Those were the words of the U.S. women’s national ski team coach Matt Whitcomb when I spoke with him late this afternoon on Frozen Thunder.

He said this snow and track is phenomenal. Many years in the ‘States, he says they wouldn’t have any snow at all, sometimes into December.  That was in stark contrast to the local skier I talked to last night who was complaining about conditions.

Chandra Crawford from Canada’s national ski team will be going head-to-head against the U.S. skiers in the Frozen Thunder Classic ski race on Friday

Matt is here with a number of his charges from the U.S. ski team who will be competing on Friday morning in the first ever Winsport Frozen Thunder Classic ski race. They seem like a pretty keen bunch coming off their most successful season ever in World Cup competition. Qualifying will begin at 9 a.m. with the head-to-head heats starting at 10 a.m.

The U.S. team held a time trial on Frozen Thunder yesterday, and it’s interesting to read some of the comments made by the skiers. The women’s winner, Ida Sargent, said “The TT was fun and nice to do a hard effort on skis instead of rollerskis, “Liz started a minute behind me but [women’s coach] Matt  [Whitcomb] was giving us each splits every lap so I knew that it was close which made it more fun. Frozen Thunder is really nice and with the fresh snow and cold temperatures, it actually feels a lot like winter!”

Mandy was enjoying her first ski of the season on Frozen Thunder. She recently moved here from Ontario because of the wonderful recreational opportunities around here

Read more in Faster Skier. Can you imagine how nice it must feel to those skiers to plant their poles in snow rather than pavement?

I also encountered the legendary Don Gardner. You may not recognize the name, but every time you ski in Peter Lougheed Provincial Park(PLPP), you should give thanks to Don. He was responsible for the design of most of the trails and in my mind he did a wonderful job.

Don Gardner designed most of the ski trails in Peter Lougheed provincial Park. He did a fantastic job, too!

I consider PLPP to be the best place in the world to ski. Don said in the first winter, I believe it was 1976, he lived in a trailer near Pocaterra while he went out during the day on skis(before there were trails) and did his surveys and plans. He was lucky enough to encounter wolverines, many wolves and the usual ungulates such as elk and moose. (We still see moose frequently  and many wolf tracks. A wolverine was spotted by a reader last winter). He also built some of the trails around Ribbon Creek – with a hand saw and an axe.

Skis for any occasion or condition

Don is an excellent skier and left me in his dust today, on a pair of skis that were manufactured long before I ever had a pair of skis on.  He won a bronze medal in the Canadian championships in 1972 – on wooden skis while all the other skiers were on fancy new plastic bases. One of the other skiers told him that wooden splinters were coming off his old skis during the race!

Don Gardner’s old, but very fast, skis

His tales of the early days are compelling and fascinating. I can’t wait to climb Whiskey Jack and cruise down Tyrwhitt, better known as heaven to cross-country skiers. You can read more about Don in this book by Chic Scott(go to pages 169 – 173)  Powder Pioneers.

I spent too much time talking and not enough time skiing today, but I did get in a few rounds between visits. Tracks were on the icy side, so I used my old workhorses with the klister.

Women, money, cars, travel, drugs – that’s cross-country skiing

I wish I had discovered this sport sooner!! Want a good laugh? CBC has a bizarre spoof about cross-country skiers on This is That. Fast forward to the 19:10 mark(unless you want to hear the other preceding spoofs). It’s an abject misrepresentation of cross-country skiers, but worth a listen. http://www.cbc.ca/thisisthat/popupaudio.html?clipIds=2259880693 


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  1. There seems to be MANY This That episodes, look for…(load more, again, then ctrl – f search)

    The Dark Side of Cross Country Skiing

  2. You really should write a book Bob —a treasure trove of stories here and a wealth of nordic knowledge of your empire in your head. A curated & artistic bound volume in this day of fleeting digital captures would be appreciated by many.

  3. Awesome post Bob and you only just touched on Don Gardner’s many accomplishments. He is also an exceptionally nice man.

  4. Bob, here’s wishing all the skiers in the Rockies a fine snow season.
    Your news coverage to date has been top notch.

    It’s easy when you’re having fun. -Bob

  5. Hi Bob,

    Didn’t Don Gardner help design the XC trails at the Canmore Nordic Centre and the Canada Olympic Park too?


    His fingerprints are on both those venues, as well as dozens of others. I’ve put a link in the story where you can read more about Don, see pages 169 – 173. http://books.google.ca/books?id=v8gBZNYK4qMC&printsec=frontcover&source=gbs_ge_summary_r&cad=0#v=onepage&q&f=false -Bob

    • Gardner is 100% responsible for the nordic center location . If things went according to the original plan we would be going to the nordic center at West Bragg Creek.Hence lucky, lucky Canmore and lucky sleepy Bragg Creek.

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