80 participants ski, skate, run, or walk around Lake Windermere

By Steve Hubrecht
[email protected]

Last year, before the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic hit the Columbia Valley, the Toby Creek Nordic Club launched a brand new event — the Whiteway Winter Challenge — that was a smash success, drawing almost 100 participants to cross country ski, ice skate, or run around the lake.

COVID-19 is here this winter, but the event is still forging ahead, obviously with some significant alterations to make it pandemic friendly.

The Virtual Whiteway Winter Challenge kicked off on Jan. 22 and is running until Feb. 22, and has 80 participants going out on Lake Windermere on their own, or in their household bubbles, to walk, nordic ski, skate, run or use other self-propelled means to log as many miles on the Whiteway as possible in a month.

“We started the challenge last year, but it was a one day thing,” said Lake Windermere Ambassadors program coordinator Shannon McGinty. “That had to be adapted this year.”

McGinty is not 100 per cent sure who first came up with the idea of making the challenge a one-month virtual one, but the club is running with it.

The concept is simple: people have signed up as individuals or as teams of up to six members, and are now proceeding to ski, skate, walk or run as much as possible in the month-long timeframe. A total of 19 people opted to do it on their own, and 61 people signed up as part of a team.

“Each participant keeps track of how much they do through the week,” explained McGinty.

She then sends out a weekly survey each Friday. As of press time, two of these surveys had been conducted so far, and updates based on the results posted.

“So far everybody has been enthusiastic and excited. Overall we’re quite pleased with how it’s going,” said McGinty. “The number of participants is great. Our whole reason for putting it together last year, was to have a fun community-rallying event, doing something outside, getting people to move their bodies and making it accessible for everybody. That’s why we did a challenge, instead of a competition. We didn’t want to discourage anybody, have them worried about how fast they are or anything like that.”

That was exactly what happened with the challenge last year and this year, “we wanted to keep that momentum going and keep the community spirit,” said McGinty. “We want to make sure people get out during the winter. It can be a long, cold and lonely season, so it is nice to have people get out, in a physically distanced, pandemic-appropriate way.”

When individuals and teams signed up for the event, organizers asked participants their goals, in terms of kilometres skied, skated, ran or walked. The total goal for all 80 participants is 6,409 kilometres.

The chart outlined progress in the Virtual Whiteway Winter Challenge at the end of its second week. Submitted photo

“So we’ve been mapping it out each week, plotting the distance on a map, imagining all the participants are a single person walking east across Canada starting at Kinsmen Beach.

The first week participants collectively skied, skated and walked 2,126 kilometres, enough that on the map they were in Dinorwic, Ontario, a small town on the TransCanada Highway just a touch east of Dryden. The second week the participants logged 1,028 kilometres, enough to end up on the map in Bonfield, Ontario, another small town just off the TransCanada, this time a touch east of North Bay and Lake Nipissing, headed in the direction of Ottawa. For those readers thinking ‘wow, they were still in northern Ontario a week later!’ bear in mind that — as anybody who has driven across Canada can attest — Ontario’s section of the TransCanada Highway is the longest of any province, accounting for almost a third of the entire highway.

“We’re just under half of the total goal,” said McGinty.

To follow the progress, watch the Toby Creek Nordic Club’s Facebook page.