The Grande Tour of the Nordic Centre

The Grande Tour of the Nordic Centre started off as a vague idea I had, that I should really ski all of the trails at the Nordic Centre. And that it should definitely be possible to ski them all in one day. And then I went and mentioned this idea to a couple of fellow lunatics who considered that this may well be a worthy thing to attempt.

When it came down to it though, the day we had chosen had the unfortunate problem of TOO MUCH SNOW. It is something you feel terrible complaining about, but it really makes for awful skate skiing when you’re wading through inches of ungroomed fresh powder. Nontheless, the other two were happy to start with the attempt, and so I felt compelled to join them.

Fresh tracks through powder, hurray!… No, hang on, not hurray.

We starting skiing not long after 9am. Conditions were not fast. And if Miles and I were smarter, we would have been on classic skis, at least at first. I’m not sure what Miles’ excuse was, but mine is that classic skiing irritates my hip flexors.

Knocking off a bunch of the black trails early on.

I had a route all planned out, based on five separate loops of the trails. Of course the whole thing was complicated by the fact that a huge chunk of the trail network was closed off for the Winter Olympics qualifying races (amongst other things), and they wouldn’t be re-opening until around 3.30pm. So we were re-routing on the fly. And then re-routing some more when people came up with cunning plans. While simultaneously trying to keep track of the mess of trails, and which ones we had and hadn’t skied.

The snow may have been slow, but it was still fun!

The idea of actually finishing all the trails seemed fairly unlikely. The skiing was such hard going that I stopped even bothering to check how far we’d gone. It was just too depressing. By the time we returned to the daylodge for lunch, we’d only managed to ski 27km or so in over three hours (for reference, a few days later I easily managed 16km in one hour).

Still lots of snow around, but the sun is out!

After lunch we lost Alaric to family skiing time, and so the remaining two musketeers set out to conquer the green loop – Salt Lake trail, and what was left of the biathlon trails. The snow was packing down as it warmed up and more people had been skiing it – so the going was getting marginally easier, and we were skiing a little faster.

Somehow instead of returning to the daylodge for more food after finishing that loop, we kept going. And started to get hungry. Rationing was in force and I was feeling shaky, low on water and out of food.

A driving desire for moral superiority led to the decision to ski up and down Bruin Cub, an ungroomed connector trail that for some reason is on the map and has a sign and a name

The descent on Bruin Cub didn’t treat me kindly, and I created a wonderful cloud of snow as I crashed

It was on the home stretch of the last of our far loops that Miles let me know that his back had started to cramp, and that he didn’t want to push it. At the same time, we were beginning to realise that it wasn’t a safe bet by any means that we’d make it to the daylodge before it closed at 5pm. And so I put my head down to ski the rest of the loop, and huzzah, made it back to the daylodge at 4.59pm.

Heading out on our last outwards loop, the sun is lower in the sky now

After retrieving the duffel bag full of useful things, like food and headlamps, I graciously relieved Miles of most of his brownies, then sadly waved him goodbye and got ready to set off into the darkness of the Olympic loops. After eating I felt tired but ok, and mainly I really didn’t want to let all of the hard work that morning-Megan did go to waste. I pulled out my iPod, started some songs playing (ska!) and got ready to head off.

But then I got a message from Lincoln – he could come ski with me! I waited 20 minutes for him to finish up at work, and we set off together at 5.40pm.

The final 11km required a ridiculous level of concentration and route finding. Another added ‘benefit’ was that the trails around Centennial and Olympic that hadn’t been raced on (but had been closed to the public) were ungroomed slogs. The race trails on the other hand, were nearly all set with 4 classic tracks, or were hardpack icy doom. Or both. I managed to avoid hurting myself or losing my iPod, and we only ended up missing one short connector trail that I’d meant to ski.

Finally, I was done at 7.25pm.

Distance travelled: 74.5km
Elevation gain: 1,767m

Things I learned

  • It’s best to have out and backs out of the way early on. Later on, you’re tired, and less committed to map reading, and just want to focus on skiing.
  • Always carry lots of food.
  • Don’t leave your duffel bag in the daylodge unless you’re 100% certain you’ll easily make it back before closing.
  • Carrying a headlamp is always a good idea.
  • Having crazy people for company when you’re setting out to do something crazy makes the whole endeavor much more enjoyable.

Here is a before and after map, with the five coloured loops. The one on the left is the track of where I skied. The one on the right is how I’d try and do it next time (although it still has a couple of things that need to be fixed up, it’s a bit easier to read than the original, and has a few better route options). If you click on them, they’ll embiggen to full size, so you could use them for your own attempt – if you do, please let me know :)

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