My ultimate winter weekend in Kelowna combines a few things I love – warm drinks, quiet solitude in the forest, and adventure. The great thing is that you can do these activities with a friend or solo. You can even do them with kids!
1. Get Fat
You know those bikes with the tires that are almost as wide as a car tire? They are called fatbikes and are specifically designed for riding on the snow. It feels like Disneyland on two wheels and you can’t help but smile! Are you new to biking? You can get an e-fatbike; a fatbike with a motor that will give you an extra little boost while pedalling to take the edge off. Fatbiking on snow is a fun way to try mountain biking because most of the time, it doesn’t hurt when you fall. You can rent them from local bike shops around town for a small fee.
Additionally, if you want to head up to Silverstar or Big White, they have dedicated (and groomed) fatbike trails. You do have to pay for a day pass, but it’s only $10 and $15 respectively. If you want to stay closer to home, Crawford Trails is my favourite local spot to go fatbiking in Kelowna because a lot of the lower trails have been packed down by snowshoers. If you’re feeling particularly ambitious, you could pick a loop that you want to ride and snowshoe it first to pack down the snow. Just an FYI, fatbiking in deep snow doesn’t really work so you’ll want to either ride groomed or packed down trails.
If you aren’t feeling like going uphill and downhill and want something mellow, you can also ride a fatbike along the beaches in Kelowna and do a coffee shop crawl! Start downtown at Bliss Bakery, ride the bike path in city park to the first beach after you go under the highway. Then get on the beach and ride to Strathcona beach and hit Waterfront Café. Get back on the snowy sand and go as far as you want! You can manoeuvre all the way to Manteo Resort and have brunch at Smack Dab.
A few tips about going fatbiking:
- Run really low tire pressure. We are talking 5-6 PSI
- Bring an extra pair of gloves and hand warmers if you’re going up on the trail
- Flat pedals are more fun than clipless because if you are using cleats on your shoes, they’ll pack up with snow the second you get off to walk
- Want to be extra festive? Put something warm to drink in your thermos!
2. Get Skinny
If you aren’t keen to spend time on two wheels or you like to keep things diverse, try cross-country skiing. You get a much better aerobic, full-body workout compared to downhill skiing and it’s much less intimidating to try. Telemark and Kelowna Nordic Centres are the closest spots. You can even sign up for a lesson which I highly recommend.
I recently learned how to skate ski which looks more like the motion of ice skating. I was impressed with the amount of technique and how rewarding it was to take a lesson and learn to glide. You can really feel it when you’re doing it right. You can also skate or classic ski without taking lessons if you want to save money. A day of cross country skiing including a rental ($24) and pass ($18) will run you about $42. The thing I love about cross-country skiing is that you get to experience winter in the forest in a different way. Things are slower and you get to look around more. It’s also a fun way to build full-body fitness without needing to step foot in a gym.
Kelowna resident and Cross-Country Ski Coach, Greg Kilroy has a few tips if you’re new to skinny skis:
- Learning to ski properly not only helps with moving faster, but it also makes the sport a lot easier to do! My favourite drill for skate skiing is to practice skiing legs only. Swing your arms back, then push from one leg to the other as you swing your arms forward. Not only will it help you get your balance, but it will also help you learn how to skate.
- Most people overdress in fear of getting cold. Remember, when you are skiing, you are working hard. Wear good thermal long underwear with tights or a light wind pant, light running jacket and a vest. Top it off with your favourite wool toque and gloves.
- Be patient and focus on mastering small goals first before progressing further. Best way to learn is to get a lesson or join the local masters' group!
I love to warm up after playing in the snow with an Americano from Third Space or Bean Scene. I like Bean Scene in particular because there are numerous healthy food options as well as treats. I like getting the chickpea curry bowl and a vegan Mexican chocolate cookie with my coffee! Or if you’re still in the mood to be quiet and introspective, a cup of handcrafted organic tea from Chaibaba and some reflection is another great way to go.
I wish you a happy and adventurous winter season!
Sonya Looney is a World Champion Professional Mountain Biker based in Kelowna. When she's not riding all of Kelowna's great singletrack, she is hosting her podcast: The Sonya Looney Show and travelling and racing around the globe, and touring as a motivational speaker.