Ottawa Outdoors Winter 2022

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THE OUTDOOR & ADVENTURE TRAVEL SHOW April 9-10, 2022 | Nepean Sportsplex

OUTDOORS Snowshoeing essentials for beginners 3 GATINEAU PARK to take you to SKI TRAILS cabins in the woods

Ice climbing around Ottawa Five tips to better alpine skiing Dress right for winter running 10 reasons to take up Nordic skiing





inter. For some of us it's our favourite season. Good thing actually, as it's a long one. But here in Ottawa I'll take the minus-weather with crisp, fresh air and bright sunshine above over a rainy winter elsewhere. In this issue there are a plethora of articles for all sorts of outdoor winter activities. A short TABLE OF CONTENTS would include the following:

DAVE BROWN PUBLISHER Editor-in-chief Ottawa Outdoors

SHOW OWNER The Outdoor & Adventure Travel Show (Ottawa)

• SNOWSHOEING ESSENTIALS for beginners • 3 Gatineau Park SKI TRAILS to take you to cabins in the woods • C-COLD CAMPING • Hypothermia is not cool • ICE CLIMBING around Ottawa • Understanding Snow Types • SNOWBOARDING basics • Five tips to better ALPINE SKIING • Good tinder makes bright fires • Dress right for WINTER RUNNING • Bits ’n Bites History • 10 reasons to take up NORDIC SKIING

We're in January, and still about two months to go of winter. Hit the canal when it's opened, stay safe, and see you next issue. Comments? Advertising?


Ottawa Orienteering Club

We organize and take part in orienteering events in the Ottawa area.

Ottawa Outdoor Club

A rec club with hiking, cycling, canoeing, skiing, and snowshoeing.

Rideau Trail Association

A hiking club dedicated to maintaining the trail from Kingston to Ottawa.

Ottawa Rambling Club

A club for the adventurous with activities every season.


A Gatineau-based outdoors club.

Ottawa-Carleton Ultimate Assoc.

The largest Ultimate (Frisbee) league in the world.

Natural Fitness Lab

The largest trail running, and adult nordic skiing club in Canada.

Ottawa Sport and Social Club

A co-ed, rec sport league, with tourneys and social events for adults.

Ottawa Alpine Club

The local section of Canada’s national mountaineering organization.


Camp Fortune Ski Club

Ski club for family ski enthusiasts.

Chelsea Nordiq Club

A community cross-country and biathlon club in Gatineau Park.

Kanata XC-ski Club

Introducing the sport to families since 1979. Competitive programs too.

Nakkertok XC-Ski Club

The largest cross-country ski club in the national capital region.

West Carleton Nordic Ski Club

An outdoor ski club in the Fitzroy Provincial Park area.

RA Ski and Snowboard Club

Active club for all.

Snowhawks Ski School

Ski and snowboard school for children and adults.

XC Ottawa

Great club and resource for xc ski information.

Nordiq Canada

Develops and delivers programs to achieve international excellence.



Snowshoeing essentials for beginners By Craig Macartney


All it takes is a little time to get used to having bigger ‘feet.’ Here’s the most important rule: move slowly until you increase skill level. These four pointers will keep you out of trouble.

Walking forward in snowshoes is easy. Start by lifting your snowshoe upwards (slightly higher than normal walking) as you take a long step. The back of the snowshoe will drag behind; that’s normal. By lifting your feet higher than normal, you’ll prevent one snowshoe from clattering down on the side of the other.

2. TURNING Turning is a bit more difficult. You need to be careful not to step one snowshoe on top of the other. There are two ways to turn. If you have lots of space, walk in a wide semi circle. When you gain confidence and skill, make the semi circle smaller and small. However this method won’t always work in close quarters (e.g. a thick forest) or on a slope. To make an abrupt turn, lift one foot slowly and rotate it 90 degrees in the direction you want to go. (Be careful that your two snowshoes don’t overlap or you’ll take a tumble!) Now shift your weight onto your newly moved snowshoe, and follow through by planting the other snowshoe slowly beside it.

3. GOING UPHILL Ski poles can help a lot when climbing hills. When tackling gentle slopes, plant one pole ahead and to one side of the trail as you step forward, as on flat ground. 03 | OTTAWAOUTDOORS

Your second pole can offer balance from behind. When walking up steeper hills, you can choose several methods: traveling in a zigzag route, walking in a herringbone pattern (with your feet pointing 45 degrees out from each other, offering more grip), or simply sidestepping up a steep hill. Be careful when you lift your feet! Be sure your toes are clear of the snow or you might trip forward.

4. GOING DOWNHILL If you found ski poles helpful for climbing a hill, you’ll love them for going down. They offer increased balance and enjoyment, helping confidence levels. With gentle downward slopes, keep your poles slightly ahead and to the side. Walk forward slow, maintaining your balance. Watch for any ice on the trail that might cause your snowshoes to start sliding – usually a problem only on steep hills. If you’re descending a steep trail that has already been broken, the easiest way is to sit down and slide on your backside – a method known as “glissading.” Contrary to what many think, this does not damage the trail. In fact, it packs the snow down more for others coming behind. What if you fall? No sweat! Taking a tumble into fluffy snow is like landing on HOME

giant marshmallows. It’s fun! Getting up might prove a bit more challenging, but use your poles for leverage when getting up. Be careful that you don’t bend them. Snowshoeing is a great adventure! Enjoy the winter fun.

MAL DE RAQUETTE ALERT! Snowshoers beware. Over-exerting yourself can lead to painful soreness in your legs and ankles – a condition voyageurs called “mal de raquette.” These cramps result from overworking calf and/or thigh muscles that are unused to vigorous exercise. Luckily, mal de raquette is easy to avoid. Just start slowly. Perhaps stretch a bit before putting on the snowshoes. Moderation can save you a lot of trouble down the road. If your legs start to cramp, stop and message the sore muscles. Then head for the chalet and a warm mug of hot chocolate.





Candice Rigby’s family moved to Ottawa in the summer of 1988 from a small town in southern Ontario. The family had experienced cold, Canadian winters, but nothing like what they experienced that first winter in Ottawa. As a single Mom working two jobs to make ends meet, finding the resources to purchase two snowsuits unexpectedly was near impossible. Fortunately, a friend suggested the family reach out to The Snowsuit Fund for assistance, and the rest is history. “Being only 8 years old, I didn’t truly understand the impact of walking through those doors, but I can tell you that the memories we have from our experience at The Snowsuit Fund are filled with dignity, compassion and understanding,” says Rigby, “ I received a bright pink snowsuit which I remember thinking was the coolest snowsuit I had ever seen in my life. My sister received one that was the exact same as her best friend, and as little girls fitting in was more important than being warm. Thankfully The Snowsuit Fund provided both warmth and protection from the elements for my worried mom, and the cool factor for my sister and I.” This February, The Snowsuit Fund continues their 40 year legacy of keeping Ottawa’s children warm with The Snow Angel Challenge. The Ottawa community comes together this February for the month-long Snow Angel Challenge - even Ottawa’s pets are invited. The Snow Angel Challenge is built around one of the safest, most fun and universal winter play activities — making angels in the snow. Participants are asked to register to participate at for their chance to win prizes and make a huge difference to children in our community. Whether participants register as a team, corporate group, individual or school there are incredible prizes for each category- all donated by local businesses. The Snowsuit Fund’s core mission is to ensure Ottawa’s most vulnerable children have warm snowsuits to play outside in winter weather – without their families having to sacrifice other priorities. With every $50 raised, a child in the community receives a much needed new snowsuit. Registration is FREE for individuals, friends and family teams, clubs, sports leagues, and community groups and associations. 04 | OTTAWAOUTDOORS

A FUN AND SAFE ACTIVITY FOR SCHOOLS Classmates, teachers, students and staff can come together virtually or in-person to safely participate in a fun outdoor winter activity and support a vital community organization at the same time. Our school package comes with resources for different age groups, indoor and outdoor activities, and activities for parents to do athome if needed. There are no fundraising requirements for schools, just get outside and have some fun! A GREAT ACTIVITY FOR CORPORATE TEAM BUILDING Register for the Corporate Snow Angel Challenge, and enjoy special recognition and additional prizes while your team works together to raise funds and enjoys some friendly competition. Connect with your team virtually to safely participate in this fun outdoor activity that supports a vital community organization. Corporate team registration costs $250, with registered teams receiving additional recognition (see website for details). GATHER DONATIONS AND WIN PRIZES In the name of making sure every Ottawa child is dressed appropriately to


play outdoors, registered individuals and teams who choose to gather donations qualify for fundraising rewards. Everyone who registers and raises a minimum of $20 will receive Snowsuit Fund winter apparel. Additional prizes for high achieving fundraisers — individuals and teams — so head to for updates. ABOUT THE SNOWSUIT FUND Now in its 40th year of operation, The Snowsuit Fund purchases and distributes up to 16,000 snowsuits to low-income children 15 years and younger in Ottawa, bringing dignity and hope to families struggling with the necessities of life. As a grassroots organization, the Snowsuit Fund receives no government funding and relies on the generosity of caring groups and individuals to keep its doors open.

Click here to get involved in the fun!


to take you to cabins in the woods By Michael McGoldrick Many trails in Gatineau Park can be challenging for people who are new to cross-country skiing. And this applies to some of what the National Capital Commission calls “easy” trails. The Park is in the Gatineau Hills, and hills are exactly what you’ll find on most trails. The added effort and skill required for hill skiing may surprise even experienced cross-country skiers who are used to relatively flat terrain. But start with easier trails and work your way up. Within a season or two you should soon feel right at home on anything Gatineau Park has to offer. The maps on my website ( use a colour scheme for trail difficulty based on the NCC’s cross-country ski trail map. The easiest are green, the more difficult blue, and the most difficult red. Consider this code only a guideline; some of the more challenging green trails can be almost as difficult as some blue trails. Trail number signs also indicate this classification. Easy trails have signs with numbers in green circles. The more difficult blue trails have signs with the number in a blue square. Red trails have signs with numbers in a black diamond.


This route uses Fortune Parkway (green) or Trail 1 (green). Both are shared trails for skate and classic cross-country skiing. It’s about seven kilometres to Keogan and back from the P10 parking lot. To Huron and back is about 10 kilometres. This parking lot is a good starting point for many trails, so expect it to fill up quickly on weekend afternoons. The first kilometre involves non-stop hill climbing but on a gradual slope, so the hills can be managed with your skis still in the tracks. The climbing stops as you approach Lac Fortune. From this point onwards, you’ll find large open areas on the left of the trail, with the right side at the bottom of an embankment. As you continue towards Keogan, you’ll 05 | OTTAWAOUTDOORS

notice signposts for connecting trails, but many are challenging back-country trails. After a while you’ll reach Trail 1 and possibly the busiest ski intersection of the park’s entire network. A large sign points you in the direction of Keogan Cabin (about 100 metres further in), which holds about a dozen picnic tables inside. An option is to turn right and continue on Trail 1 for another 1.5 kilometres to Huron Cabin (very similar to Keogan). Along the way you’ll pass Shilly Shally cabin, which has to be the smallest in the park. Inside, there’s room only for a small sitting area and one picnic table. Although Trail 1 is fairly easy, it’s narrower than the Fortune Parkway and relatively level on the way to Huron – up until Shilly Shally. After that, there is one large hill where a knowledge of herringbone climbing will come in handy. Fortune Parkway Trail is good for the skier new to the park. It gives a taste of hill climbing, but under manageable conditions, and brings skiers into the heart of this part of the park with several cabins as destinations. And the return trip to P10 is mostly downhill.


Trail 50 is also a shared trail for skate and classic cross-country skiing. Total distance to Herridge and back is about 10 kilometres. If Trail 1 is the backbone of the network in the southeastern park, then the same could be said for Trail 50 in the northwest section. A popular stretch of Trail 50 is the segment between P16 and the Herridge cabin in a nice wooded area. There’s a lot of climbing right at the beginning. Once you get by these hills, this trail generally consists of a lot of little slopes except for a fairly large hill about one kilometre before the cabin. Although the HOME

hills can be a little tiring, they are not so steep and scary to descend, despite a few interesting twists and turns. Herridge is a two-storey log cabin with more than a dozen picnic tables. Going back to the parking lot involves more downhill than uphill runs, so the return to P16 goes by faster than you think.


This outing uses Trails 40, 33 and 2. Trail 40 is restricted to classic cross-country skiing, while 33 and 2 are shared. A return trip is close to 10 kilometres. The drive to P12 has a long stretch along a narrow road on the south shore of Meech Lake. This entire route to the cabin at Western is blue; expect a challenge. When going towards the cabin, most of Trails 40 and 33 work their way up a ridge to a plateau. It can sometimes seem like you are climbing hill after hill, steep and twisty. These trails go through a nice wooded area that still lets in lots of sunlight, and includes bright open areas. A nearby brook and ravine make this trail quite scenic. The cabin at Western offers one of the best views of any the shelters in the park from the top of the escarpment overlooking the Ottawa Valley and the Ottawa River. You can see the view through the cabin windows or from a bench outside. Western is built with large logs, but it’s not very big inside (fewer than 10 picnic tables), so everyone has a view of the fire through the wood stove’s glass door. So if you’re new to Ottawa, or just haven’t been out on the trails for a while, be sure to taste their many delights this winter. A sunny Sunday afternoon offers nothing better!

> Get your Gatineau Park ski pass here

C-COLD C-C CAMPING By Kevin Callan

I’LL ADMIT THAT sleeping out overnight in the wintertime is definitely not for everyone. I’ll also admit that cold camping obviously has a number of hazards, or at least some major discomforts. It’s understandable that the moment the sun sets and the temperature drops, you’re going to want to escape to a warm place. It’s human nature. I’ll even confess that the older I get, the more excuses I seem to find not to head out for my annual winter trip. In fact, lately I’ve had to have my wife call me a sissy before convincing myself to once again sleep out in frigid temperatures. The point, however, is that I still manage to do it and always end up loving every minute. So I guarantee that, as long as you develop the necessary skills and pack along the essential equipment, your first time sleeping out in the cold definitely won’t be your last. The trick is to dress in layers. Start off during the cold morning temperatures looking like a walking puffball if you like, but as you generate heat through exercise, peel off the layers to avoid having your sweat freeze to your skin. The outer layer should not be the main insulator; save that job for the bulky wool sweater or fleece and synthetic long underwear. The breathable”outerwear (jacket and pants) should protect your body from the cool wind, and should come equipped with an assortment of zippers to allow quick ventilation. A foot wrapped in 10 pairs of socks and then squeezed into a tightfitting boot will definitely freeze due to poor circulation. You also can lose up to one third of your body heat through your head, so 06 | OTTAWAOUTDOORS

make sure to wear a hat. The traditional woolen toques or the new, softer Polarplus beanies work, but in extreme cold temperatures a balaclava, made from the same material as your long underwear, is preferred. Neck gaiters made from Polarplus fabric help to seal the gap between collars and caps.

BEDTIME WARMING TECHNIQUES The trick to keeping warm in the winter is to never sweat, and the only way to do that is to always dress in layers. You will rarely have difficulty staying warm during the day on the trail, but the night air brings a bone-numbing chill. Here are a few ways to keep yourself more comfortable: • Daylight is greatly shortened during winter and it usually takes much longer to set up camp, so be prepared to end the day early. • Avoid making camp on designated summer sites; with the heavy use they receive throughout the prime season they are usually far too exposed and have limited wood for a fire. Choose a wellprotected forested area, well away from the wind and blowing snow. • Make sure to provide a lot of ventilation inside the tent. Condensation will quickly form from your breathing and cause the interior of the tent to become completely covered in a layer of fine ice particles, which will eventually melt and soak everything inside. • For extra insulation, pile up snow around the sides of the tent with your snowshoes or a small plastic shovel. • The moment you finish setting up camp, HOME

change into an extra, dry pair of long underwear and socks (keep a spare set in the front pouch of your parka so they are nice and warm to put on) and wear a wool toque to bed. • Sleep on a thick foam pad or Therm-a-Rest (not an air mattress). Your body will definitely lose more heat to the cold ground than to the air. • Fluff your sleeping bag (a top-of-the line, high quality winter design) before crawling in. The action creates more air space between the fibers or feathers. • Use a liner to increase the efficiency of your sleeping bag. Or better yet, double up two sleeping bags and share your warmth with a partner. • Munch on high-calorie snacks just before bedtime. The fuel your body has to burn off will help you stay warmer. • If you find yourself shivering inside your sleeping bag, put on your rain gear to act as a vapor barrier and hold in your body heat. • Keep an empty (well-labeled) water bottle inside the tent to pee in. A full bladder robs the body of more heat than an empty one; and besides, who wants to crawl out into the cold night air to relieve themselves at 2 a.m.? • Store your water bottle inside your sleeping bag to keep it from freezing solid. Even a Nalgene container filled with hot tea doubles as a hot-water bottle. Also stuff the next day’s clothes, and especially boot liners, inside the bag as well. From Kevin Callan's Happy Camper



few years ago, a hiker got confused on a hiking trail and became disoriented in the Gatineau Hills, close to Ottawa on a pleasant fall afternoon. He was middle age, not outstandingly fit and had limited navigational skills. But with and no basic survival equipment in his pack (extra clothing, water or food; a whistle and matches) he spent a miserable night in a cold rain that swept in after dark. During the night he lost his watch. The next day dawned cold and clear but soon clouded over again. When found by search and rescue volunteers around midmorning, he was wet, cold, lethargic and confused. Without a watch, and with decreasing mental alertness, he was convinced that the cloudy morning was the beginning of another unpleasant and potentially dangerous night in the woods. He was still able to walk to the waiting ambulance. He probably would have lasted another night but not much more. The hiker was suffering from hypothermia – some call it “the great woodland killer.” Hypothermia is a cascading decline in core body temperature, and given the limited temperature tolerance of the human body, it’s obviously wiser to prevent hypothermia than have to deal with it, especially in the wilderness. Forget bears, wolves and moose. Hypothermia is the single greatest danger we face in the Canadian outdoors. It can kill at any time of the year. In fact, spring and fall can be more dangerous than winter because of rapid weather changes and the natural tendency to leave the extra equipment at home, and skip heavy-duty preparation. The old hiking expression, “grumbles, 07 | OTTAWAOUTDOORS

mumbles, fumbles and stumbles” describes how things go downhill as hypothermia takes hold. It’s easier to spot it in others than be aware of it – or admit it – in ourselves. If someone in your group suggests you put on another layer of clothes or rain gear, listen up. It helps to know that the human body loses heat five ways: by “conduction” through direct contact; by radiation into your surroundings; by convection as the air flows by; by breathing; and by evaporation from our skin. The greatest heat loss is by conduction. Think of it this way, if you are sitting or lying on the ground, your body is trying to heat the entire planet – and losing. Anything that will keep you off the ground, like tree branches or a backpack, will help conserve body heat. The wind robs us of heat through convection. You will instantly feel warmer if you simply pull a hood up on a cold windy day, or feel the difference if you step behind an evergreen tree or out of the wind in a small hollow. A dry spot at the base of a tree or a hole in a drift of snow can provide enough shelter to survive. Swimmers, canoeists and rain-soaked hikers know that water steals heat many times faster than air at the same temperature. When the ice breaks, or you just fall into water, hypothermia cripples your ability to get out of the water. You can drown. Proper clothing stops radiation heat loss. The three-layer principle is critical: an inner HOME

layer to wick away moisture, a middle layer for insulation, and an outer layer to stop the wind and rain. Heat loss through respiration and evaporation can be reduced simply by slowing down. When the chips are down, remember: “You sweat, you die.” Hypothermia can be mild, moderate or severe, depending on the core body temperature. In the woods, that can’t be measured, but there are rough and ready indicators. If the person is still conscious, shivering and able to talk, you’re dealing with something that can be relatively easily handled. Preventing further heat loss with shelter; dry clothes or a sleeping bag, rest, a warm drink, a fire and reassurance – that will probably do the trick. If someone is no longer shivering and either lethargic or unconscious, you are dealing with severe, life-threatening hypothermia. Get the person to advanced medical aid quickly, but be careful! If you pull the person to their feet and make them walk, the cold blood in their limbs may flow to the core and cause heart fibrillation to the point that the heart will falter and may stop altogether. Keep any severely hypothermic person prone and avoid jostling to reduce this risk. Faced with someone’s severe hypothermia in the back country you have a tough decision: make camp and send for help, or try and carry the person out. Carrying someone through the woods on a real litter, a travois or an improvised stretcher, requires a platoon. The books say 18-20 people are needed to carry someone any distance, including a leader to break trail and someone to monitor the casualty. You don’t want this dilemma. Think about preventing hypothermia. Recognize it if it happens and know what to do about it. If you are lost in the woods, stay put, keep warm and dry and wait for help to arrive. Even a plastic garbage bag can serve as an emergency shelter – if you have one in your pack. The Scouts say, “Be prepared.” They got it right.


Produced during extremely cold temperatures, and has such a sharp, granular texture it becomes very difficult to ski or walk across.


A very dry, fluffy snow that usually begins to fall during calm periods in the weather and extreme cold snaps. If the wind picks up, dangerous whiteouts can occur.

Ice climbing around Ottawa By Marcel Vautour Ice climbing is one of those liberating experiences. Before you stands a towering fortress of ice just begging to be climbed. After you’ve studied it and checked your gear and convinced yourself that you’re up to the challenge, off you go. As you climb, swing by swing and kick by kick, your mind enters a state of trance which blurs any surrounding sound or thought. All you hear is the sound of the picks and crampons resonating in the ice – “whack, whack, THUMP!” – and that inside voice insisting, “Don’t fall … don’t fall.” At that moment, you and the ice are one. Technical ice climbing (not the same as the mountaineering “alpine” version) involves ascending ice formations. Climbers use ropes and other forms of protection while climbing frozen waterfalls. Their primary pieces of equipment are the technical ice tools they hold onto, and the pointy crampons attached to their boots. This gear enables them to work their way up ice formations, alternating between tool and foot placements. You’ll find some world-class ice climbing sites within a few hours drive of Ottawa. Quebec and the Adirondacks region in northern New York State attract some of the world’s top climbers. Closer to home, Calabogie, Edelweiss, Lac du Poisson Blanc and Gatineau Park all offer great climbs. Getting started with ice climbing can be a challenge: it’s a gear-intensive sport which requires technical knowledge of knots, rope skills, protection, belaying, etc. And some climbing areas can be a challenge to find. Luckily, the Ottawa area has a local section of the Alpine Club of Canada which organizes outings and courses run by qualified local climbers. Want to get started in ice climbing? Then check out the Alpine Club of Canada’s Ottawa section: 08 | OTTAWAOUTDOORS




The fallen (and accumulated) snow has been heavily compacted by strong winds. The pressure of the blowing wind causes a “cold-heat” hardening effect, which creates an excellent surface to walk on without breaking through. It’s also one of the best ways to make igloo blocks.


Most common in early spring when changing temperatures continually thaw and freeze the accumulated snow. The texture is grainy and is more of a layer of ice crystals, separated by air space, than actual snow. It’s sticky to ski across and very difficult to walk on without falling through.


A dangerous circumstance caused by snow repeatedly melting and freezing on the upper layer (common on the south side of a hill), which in turn causes water to seep through to the lower layer. With the top layer acting as an insulator, the water on the bottom never freezes. The problem is, the snow may look safe to walk across, but it will collapse when you least expect it.


This is snow that has absorbed water from below. It can be spotted where the snow surface has a slight depression with areas dark blue in colour. Avoid such areas when crossing lakes and especially rivers — it’s a good indicator there’s a hole in the ice below. From Kevin Callan's Happy Camper

Snowboarding basics BY CINDY KLEH

PROBLEM: Straight legs, leaning back SOLUTION: The rider has less leverage and less range of motion. It takes twice as much energy to lift the toes and press against the snow with the toe edge. With bent knees, the rider engages all the leg muscles against gravity instead of overusing the calf muscles.

Five tips to better alpine skiing 1. SEE AND BELIEVE Visualize the ski run and feel it in your body. Imagine you’re making every turn and every jump. 2. FLOAT OVER THE CRUD Often skiers think they have to muscle through crud (heavy wet snow that is unsuitable for skiing), but the reality is much different. Instead, lighten up and float over it. Hold your hands a little higher, get on the balls of your feet and shift your weight equal over both skis. This will help keep you off your seat as well. 09 | OTTAWAOUTDOORS

PROBLEM: Rider leaning back, front leg straight SOLUTION: This rider’s apprehension shows in her posture. When the front leg is straight and the back leg is bent, the rider’s centre of balance is too far back. The back leg will not turn very easily if all the weight is on it. Bending both knees equally will bring her centre of balance back over the centre of the board.

PROBLEM: Bending at the waist SOLUTION: This rider is demonstrating “stinky riding.” Many beginners bend at the waist and reach for the snow, thinking that by being closer to the snow, the fall will have less impact. This takes the centre of balance away from the edge that is in contact with the snow, the toe edge. This makes his toe edge much less effective. If you reach for the snow, that’s where you’ll end up. If you think about falling, you will. Stand up tall and use your knees and ankles as shock absorbers. Your waist can’t do that job very effectively. Find your copy at

3. SEE FUTURE, BE FUTURE Even veteran skiers freak when their speed approaches the sound barrier and everything is coming at them so fast. Assuming you’re decent enough with your turns, quash this panic by focusing on what’s ahead. Look at skiers further downhill and as you approach them, adjust your focus to the next set of objects. 4. PRESS YOUR ANKLES For tighter turns, greater speeds and a bigger blast, try this: If you were turning right to left (your right skis the downhill ski) press your right ankle towards the inside of your right boot. Simultaneously focus on pressing your left ankle against the outside of your left boot. Your turns will become automatic and smooth. HOME

5. HANDS UP, BABY, HANDS UP When telemarking into a steep section, keep your hands in front of you. Where they go, you will go, so keep them in steady and within your field of vision. Do this and you’ll glide and slide better than you ever have before.

Puff, puff, puff Good tinder makes bright fires

Getting those first flames going after you’ve stacked a campfire can be tough after rain or heavy dew, even for a seasoned camper. Good tinder can be hard to find, especially in winter, but the solution could be in your pockets! Any readily flammable material can be used as tinder. Here are eight versions that are easy to find, easy to light. Bark from old, dead trees, is a good place to start. Cedar bark is a prize, filled with oils that ignite easily and sustain the flame longer than most tinder. You peel if off vertically and once you have a handful, split the ends of the strips to create hairlike fibres, the smaller the better for easy lighting. Birchbark is another great tinder, sometimes hanging in loose, thin sheets on the tree, or around the base. Pull it apart and crumple it up like paper, or split the ends into fibres as with cedar before lighting. Leaves on the forest floor are abundant but often damp and difficult to light. Use leaves that break apart in your hand, and crush them into fragments under your kindling. Pine needles – dead and brown, not fresh-off-the-branch green – light easily but burn quickly, so you 10 | OTTAWAOUTDOORS

have to use lots, packed together. But not too much, since the ash can actually smother your flame. Dead, dry cattails are perfect. The stems break up like straw, and you can open the cattail head and add the cotton-like seed fluff to the mix. This works best if the head is loose and already starting to release its seeds. If you can’t find natural tinder on a really wet day, check your pack for hand sanitizer. A small blob of it on a leaf or stick will catch and sustain a flame surprisingly well. If you plan ahead, you can easily make a cheap, portable tinder that lights readily even when the wood is wet. Rub a few cotton balls in petroleum jelly and pack them in a small zip-lock bag. They light easily and stay lit long enough to set your fire roaring. When all else fails, check your pockets for lint, notebook pages, unused Kleenex, anything related to paper will do. Once you have a flame, build your fire slowly with twigs, pine cones and other small fuel that you’ve collected ahead of time. You don’t want to be running around hunting for small sticks as your tinder burns out. Then work your way up to logs that will burn through the night. HOME



Dress right for winter running



HOCKEY HISTORY The Vikings played a similar game to Canada’s national sport. It was called Knattleikr but used a ball. Later, diaries from the ill-fated Franklin expedition


record explorers skating and playing

Preparation for a North Pole Marathon included that old question — what to wear? Here’s what we learned to stay warm and comfortable while winter running way down south here in Ottawa. The goal is to cut your sweat production to a trickle, and to wick whatever sweat you do generate away from your skin. You’ll get colder faster if your skin or clothes are wet. Start next to your skin with a thin pair of seamless briefs and then layer on thin long johns and long-sleeve top. Best bet is variations of merino wool, an amazing fabric that wicks and keeps you warm even when it’s wet. And it’s very comfortable against the skin. For the outer upper layer, use a windproof but breathable shell jacket, with a hood and zippers up to the armpits along the back of the sleeves. You’ll bless that hood when things get cold and windy, while the zippers — and the one down the front — can be opened for instant air conditioning if your upper body gets hot. On really cold days, add a fleece vest but make it loose-fitting so the sweat will still wick properly from the base layer. Use winter running pants or tights as the outer lower layer. These can be snug because your lower body doesn’t sweat as much as your torso. Use different thicknesses of socks for different temperatures. Again, think merino. On really cold days try an inner sock liner. Whatever you wear, even your thickest socks, your shoes need enough room in the toe box — this could mean shoes a half size larger for winter running. For hands, the best bet is a two pairs of gloves or mitts, both thin. You can put one pair in your pocket if your hands begin to sweat. Any hat that wicks sweat, and a neck gaiter, will keep your head and neck warm. If it’s really cold, you may need a balaclava as well. Body Glide or Vaseline on exposed cheeks and nose offer additional protection. I wear the same shoes for winter running that I wear the rest of the year. But there are Gore-Tex and waterproof running shoes available. If the road is icy, products like Due North Every Day Traction Aids or Yaktrax Pro Traction Cleats will help.

hockey in 1825 near what is now the settlement of Deline, N.W.T. On March 3, 1875, the first organized indoor game was played at Montreal’s Victoria Skating Rink between two nine-player teams, several of whom were McGill students. Two years later, the first league was formed at McGill and the basic rules of the game were written.

NORWEGIAN WOOD The word “ski” is from the Old Norse “skio” meaning a split piece of wood. Along with “skate,” “skin,” “skirt,” “slalom” and “slam” – there’s a pattern here – it is one of many Norwegian words borrowed into English. There are prehistoric carvings, more than 7,000 years old, showing Sami and early Nordic people skiing. The oldest known ski, found in Sweden, dates between 4500 and 2500 BCE.

JUST BEET IT Looking to improve your athletic performance? Down some beet juice. Beets are high in nitrates, which helps lower the oxygen burn during physical activity. This means you have more time to work out, race, climb, play hockey, whatever, before you’re exhausted. Tests showed that running endurance increased by up to 15 per cent and cyclists who drank the juice shaved off up to 45 seconds on a 16-kilometre time trial. It even cleans out toxins in your blood, lowers your cholesterol and keeps high blood pressure at bay. Drink up.



10 reasons to take up Nordic skiing BY DAVID MCMAHON

1. SUPER-HUMAN FITNESS Nordic ski racers are arguably the most highly conditioned athletes on the planet. It is low-impact sport that exercises your heart, lungs and every muscle in your body—an excellent way to stay in shape. Runners will find that Nordic skiing will help them maintain or improve their fitness while allowing their joints and muscles to recover from overuse or repetitive stress injuries. 2. FRESH AIR EXPERIENCE Nordic skiing is a clean oxygen-fed sport that takes you into nature and away from busy roadways and claustrophobic gyms. In the spring, a strong crust of snow covers the entire landscape that allows you to ski anywhere in total freedom. “Crust-cruising” can take you skate-skiing from the trailhead, through the woods, over a mountain and back within a morning. 3. GREAT RETURN ON INVESTMENT Good equipment is essential to provide a quality skiing experience. Expect a modest entry cost that may be higher than running, but certainly less than canoeing or alpine skiing. The new gear will last years and thousands of kilometres. The payoff is immeasurable in terms of health, fitness, recreation and personal growth. 4. NORDIC LIFESTYLE People of all ages frequent the Nordic ski trails to maintain and improve their health. It is an environment where Spandex lives in harmony with wool, and where skiers, regardless of ability, exchange salutations in passing. Hard bodies in Lycra and rosy, healthy faces make an afternoon outing in the park not too hard on the eyes. 5. SKI-IN POTLUCK You are missing out if you haven’t skied hut-to-hut, stopping for a candlelit dinner around a woodstove with wine, fondue and friends. It’s a decadent and efficient way to share the effort of preparing a meal and enjoying a workout. Food always tastes better if you have to carry it some distance. Delicacies warmed over a woodstove seem 12 | OTTAWAOUTDOORS

so much more wholesome inside your tummy when there is a cold breeze on your face and icicles hanging from your eyelashes. 6. STAR-GAZING You would be surprised how many people ski in the Ottawa region after work. The night sky is a planetarium overhead stretching from horizon to horizon. The trails are particularly bright on evenings where there is a full moon casting a blue hue magically through the trees. Skiing at night can feel a lot like striding at the edge of the universe— without gravity, you might even ski into space. 7. LAUNCHING PAD Science has told us that given enough thrust, it is possible to make a brick fly and so it is with a self-propelled activity like Nordic skiing. There is even more satisfaction knowing that the experience is self-generated. This is perhaps why children aged eight to 80 will find any bump in the woods to launch from for hours, or the more amplitude-craved jocks pop a “backscratcher 720” off something improbable. 8. TIME Squash court bookings, scheduled aerobic classes, ice time, and alpine lift lines are the few obstacles to doing exercise on your own terms. Avoid getting stuck dangling from a HOME

chair while your limbs freeze and your butt goes numb. There is no wasted time waiting to Nordic ski. It’s up to you when and where you go. Nordic skiers can do lots of vertical runs in a day without ever stepping into a lift line. 9. FREE-RIDING Unless you and your friends have a helicopter at your disposal, the only environmentally-friendly way that you are going to get into the backcountry is on snowshoes, alpine touring, or Nordic skis. The fastest means is using Nordic/telemark gear. Since the majority of your time will be spent climbing or traversing the flats, it is in your best interest to become proficient in Nordic ski technique. 10. EARN YOUR TURNS There is a certain satisfaction reaching a destination or ascending a mountain under your own power. In a time before lifts, people made every turn count; focusing on the quality of the experience. In Nordic skiing, speed only comes with skill and experience. You need not fear getting blindsided by some novice skier going Mach 2 who can’t turn or stop because they’re supported upright by the stability of their high-tech equipment.

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