The Golden Nordic Ski Club (GNSC) aims to offer our members with world-class ski trails that create a sense of awe through excellent grooming, wonderful views, and trails for all levels of experience.
The Golden Nordic Club is a registered non-profit organization with a purpose to develop and promote cross-country skiing in the Golden District by making it affordable, family oriented, inclusive, educational and a world class nordic skiing experience.
1. To provide ski trails on the West Bench called "Dawn Mountain Nordic Ski Centre"
- Establish cost effective user fees
- Groom trails in a timely and cost efficient method
- Continually develop and maintain trails for both classic and skating skiing
- Build and maintain adequate facilities for equipment storage and skier usage
- Work closely with other associations to establish the land tenure for the ski trails
2. To provide ski trails at the Golden Golf Club
- Establish cost effective user fees
- Maintain existing cabin and storage shed
- Groom and maintain trails in a timely and cost efficient method
- Maintain a cooperative working relationship with the Golden Golf Club
- Establish new trails and facilities when necessary
3. To provide cross-country skiing, education and skill development
- Promote and administer the BC Rabbits program for children
- Cooperate with local schools to develop cross-country skiing in the schools
- Develop and administer a racing program to include junior racers and a cross-training program for other sports
- Develop and administer a masters program
- Establish a nordic club presence in the community
4. To provide club social events and products for sale
- Promote events such as the Huckleberry Loppet, Full Moon Ski, waxing clinics, etc.
- Make available club related products for sale such as toques, head bands, vests, tee-shirts
Starting as a modest BC Forest Recreation Site, our Golden Nordic Ski Club trail system has been developed by our club members for over 20 years and represents countless volunteer hours designing, fundraising and constructing trails for all skier abilities.
Good Old Times
Revelstoke was important to the birth of Nordic skiing as their ski club was one of the first in Canada and is the location of Canada’s best ski jump. Goldenite Bob Lymburne and member of Canada’s 1932 Olympic team jumped a distance of 287 feet there in 1932, an unofficial World Record at the time.
It was 1940 when the Big Bend highway was completed from Revelstoke to Golden. But on January 10, a year earlier, three cross-country skiers from Revelstoke carried the first mail over the Bend road, skiing the 300 km in 5 days including two rest days due to illness of a member who returned to Revelstoke. Ken Jones, winner of the Skoki Club cross country race at Lake Louise in 1938, Walter Haesler and Ernest Feuz, young Swiss skiers, met the visiting party at Donald and accompanied them to the end of their journey.
The Selkirk Ski Runners Club was formed in 1939, concentrating on downhill and slalom ski events in the “Vachon Place”, south of Golden. They also did some ski jumping but there were no lifts.
During the 40’s and 50’s many locals learned to ski with the help of Ken Jones (of Forde, near Moberly), Canada’s first native-born certified mountain guide. Ken catalyzed an interest in skiing among his neighbours in the Moberly area. Skiing was a way of traveling from one farmhouse to the next and practising on hills was an exciting experience with the gear of the times.
The Moberly Ski Club was formed sometime in the mid to late 1940's. The kids did a lot of cross country skiing since they had only one pair of skis which had to serve both for downhill and cross country. Using either cable or rope, boots were tied securely to the hooks on the skis by the heel plate to downhill ski for the day. Surprisingly few accidents occurred despite some wild falls.
One of the most popular places for weekend skiing was Lambert's Lake (which is in Moberly now owned by Erkki Puupponen and his son) and also what was called Galsteads which is now the Burgess Gadsen Provincial Park. Families would ski through the bush on a small trail they hacked out to get to both these places where all the neighbor kids used to gather for the day of skiing.
When the Rogers Pass highway opened in 1962, there was an increased activity among backcountry skiers who were discovering the joys of powder skiing among the Selkirk glaciers. Hans Gmoser filmed skiers in the Asulkan valley climbing and skiing the “seven steps of paradise” dropping from the top of Young’s Peak. This area has recently become a Mecca for backcountry skiers as it has a 3 - 4 meter snowpack every winter.
The more modern Nordic skier, using “skinny skis” separated from the backcountry skier to allow faster skiing on tracks that were well used in Scandinavian countries. The narrower skis were lighter and smaller ski boots were also developed. The wooden skis required careful maintenance and frequently fell victim to breakage and it was with some trepidation that the early fiberglass skis were tested in the 1960’s.
The70’s and Early 80’s
Preparing ski trails with snowmobiles boosted the sport of cross-country skiing and in the late 1970's when Russ Younger had the first tracksetter, made in Golden by Ed Blysak, to set trails on his homestead in the Blaeberry valley, around the Golden Campground and along the Kicking Horse dyke. Many teachers learned to cross country ski in the early 1980’s when Russ offered instruction for several years to the GSS teachers as part of their professional development days. Russ and Ann also offered a Youth XC Ski Camp for boys and girls (complete with building a Quinzie) for two years in 1980/81. Russ was a certified CANSI 2 instructor and many skiers were introduced to skiing through his trails and instruction.
A Purcell–Selkirk Nordic Ski Club formed during the late 1970’s and early 1980’s headed by Keith Wilson (Town Recreation Director), Russ Younger and Wayne Manzer helped spur the cross-country skiing scene. In the early 1980’s there were many Moonlight Ski outings (with hot chocolate, of course) run by the Nordic Ski Club and were designed to encourage families to cross-country ski. Russ Younger also chaired a Winter Festival Committee (eventually called Cabin Fever Daze) for several years and part of the activities were cross-country ski races organized by the Nordic Ski Club.
The annual Mad Trapper Cross-Country Ski Races held at Wiseman Lake out past Donald was also a big event in those days. Jim Oseychuk and Wendell Johnson supplied a lot of strong refreshments and there was a huge bonfire and food and there were always lots of people. There were ski races and snowshoe races, creating many great memories.
The first public ski trails were the Moonraker trail system which were cut in 1977-8 with money from a federal grant on the benches above Nicholson. Bruce Adaire headed up the crew including Share Moss, Thelma Brown, Larry Delong, Russ Younger, Ralph VanDrielen, Jim Cook, Mark Perry, Pat Howard and Jean Dziuszko. Gale Berndt did all the design and art work for the map and made up the directional signs. The trails were pretty wild and did not have good access from Golden and no one had money to maintain a road so use soon dropped off. Now they have been rebuilt as one of the finest single track mountain biking areas in Western Canada, used also by hikers and horse riders.
Dawn Mountain Nordic is Born
When the local Whitetooth Downhill Ski Area was being planned, Dunc Cummings was the Forest Recreation Officer. In 1986, he had a crew build rudimentary trails adjacent to the Whitetooth Ski Area. The first trails were Beaver, Moose, Cougar and Wapiti Loops. Being little more than skid trails, it required quite a bit of skill to ski them and track grooming was not attempted. The Dawn Mt. Cabin was built and was at that time 2 km into the trails. The whole cabin including the woodstove, picnic table and outhouses were helicoptered in to their present position and put together by Forest Service staff. Even the couch and chair were flown in!
As Whitetooth Ski Area developed, some interest was taken in skiing the cross-country trails and Jeff Dolinsky, who was a Whitetooth volunteer ski patroller at the time, decided to look at the possibility of doing some track setting. Russ Younger had gone on to building and running a backcountry ski business called Adventure Bound – Canada using Mongolian Yurts at first, then building Purcell Lodge and took a hiatus from the Nordic ski scene.
In order to improve the trail system and operate a snowmobile powered tracksetter, it was necessary to form a non-profit society. The Golden Outdoor Recreation Association (GORA) was born and incorporated in 1998 to act as an organized voice on behalf of self propelled, non-profit wilderness recreationalists. The Golden area was becoming an attraction to wilderness developers and GORA had many issues to deal with including mountain bike trail development, ski trail development, land use planning and acting as an outdoor club running trips of all kinds. Meetings were challenging as there were many interests so eventually the groups decided to incorporate their own clubs, including the GC2 Bike club, Mt 7 flying site club, climbing club and the kayak club.
In 1996, Jon Wilsgard was approached by Jeff Dolinsky, Marvin Lloyd and GORA Nordic division to look at upgrading Nordic trails at Dawn Mt and the Golden Golf Course. Jeff had borrowed a skidoo and tracksetter and got permission to set trails on the golf course. His experience as a CANSI 2 instructor teaching in Alberta for the City of Red Deer and for the provincial training facility at Blue Lake Center led him to become convinced of the incredible potential for Nordic Skiing on the west bench of the Columbia River.
Tracksetting the golf course at night was an experience and it was common that not a single skier other than Jeff skied the trails between snowfalls despite his persistent attempts to get people to try the trails. Rudi Branden often set track too, using his snowmobile.
One of the first attempts at tracksetting at the Dawn Mountain Trails with an old Alpine Skidoo was quite a disaster. The attempt was cut short when the heavy machine got hopelessly stuck, abandoned, and finally retrieved in the spring.
In 1995, Glenn Lloyd was awarded the first contract from Jon Wilsgard, the Forestry Recreation Officer, to cover gas to trackset at the Dawn Mountain Recreation Site. The only equipment was a tracksetter, so the snowmobile was driven around a couple times to pack the snow, and then the track was set. The trails did not have proper drainage, so creek crossings had to be filled first with dead aspen lengths, then branches, followed by shoveled snow to provide a skiable surface. Inevitably the snowmachine would careen off the track and become buried into snow up to the windshield, requiring a come-along and a nearby tree to get back on the track.
Jon Wilsgard was able to secure some funding and hired Canada’s top trail designer, Don Gardner in 1996 to produce a conceptual plan of the ski trails at Golden. The plan was very ambitious and exists as a template for excellence. Most of the $20,000 project was to go to a new trailhead cabin with some funds slated for trail upgrades and new trails. Fund raising began and permits were attained and the next summer the Dipsy Doodle trail, Huff and Puff trail and rerouted south Moose trails were built. Don’s style was to challenge the skier back then and we quickly learned that we needed more easy-to-intermediate trails instead of the tough ones. All the trails to this point were 3-4m wide so only good for classic skiing. The first Huckleberry Loppet was run on the trails in 1997, using individual starts. Mayor Jim Doyle started the event and, to the relief and delight of organizers Jeff Dolinsky and Brian Harris, it went off well as a 10k event.
Brian Harris was the paid tracksetter then, using only a Skidoo Scandic donated by the Golden Dental Center and implements custom made by Columbia Diesel’s fabricators: a roller, a tracksetter and a renovator. Brian set track between 1997 and 2004 and Troy Hudson took over after that. There was a lot of cursing as machines got stuck in the deep snow and it took over 6 hours to groom the system then, going over each trail 4 to 6 times. Many club members such as Marvin Lloyd, Jim Halvorsen and Rob Wilson will remember cutting and piling deadfall to fill in the wet, swampy areas on Moose and Caribou, shoveling snow on top before adequate drainage was created. These lower trails were not generally skiable before mid-January in the early days. Brush was hand cleared, just in time for the Loppet in February.
Resort Era Begins
In 1998-9, Whitetooth Ski Area was sold to Ballast Nedam and partners and the timing was just about when we were to erect a new log cabin at the trailhead, then proposed to go up less than 100m from the base of the Pioneer chair. The cabin project was a complex combination of efforts by the College of the Rockies, Bob Blackburn’s log building school, the Forest Service and GORA.
The new ski company (originally Golden Peaks) needed flexibility to build, so our cabin could not be set up in any permanent location on the mountain. Joan Dolinsky came up with the idea of locating it to the golf course for the time being, where the Rabbit program was now running, having started in 1996.
A Bit About the Golf Course Trails
The 6 km of trails were created in 1995-8 with the help of the Rotary Club of Golden and volunteers who cut and raked by hand the stumps and humps on the old skid trails between the fairways. It is a treat being able to ski over the little bridges and ski either the front or back nine in either direction.
Joe Pacsay groomed voluntarily for over four years setting a fine standard with his own snowmobile. We have since groomed the golf course trails with a 1985 Alpine Skidoo and locally fabricated implements. Rudi Branden, Russ Younger, Jeff Dolinsky and Don Peterkin took turns with tracksetting and Marvin Lloyd has headed up the volunteer grooming team and machine maintenance since 2004, ensuring a nice track for the trail system. No one is paid to groom there to keep costs down and skiing affordable for everyone, thanks to Marvin.
The golf course trails have been improved with new trails built by hand through the trees following mostly old skid trails. The Rotary Club of Golden, the CSRD and the CBT contributed to these trails. The Owls Roost cabin (originally slated for Dawn Mt.) was built by volunteers under the direction of Don Hunt and our log building party included 23 volunteers using donated crane time from Brian Weir. It was completed in a few weekends. The name Owls Roost was coined by Don Hunt who observed an Owl roosting in the porch timbers over a period of many days. Wally Shusheski donated the sign.
We have always had a positive relationship with the Golden Golf Club and its staff. This is a fine example of community spirit where the golf club and the Nordic club join forces to provide an affordable, quality ski experience.
Plans, Big Obstacles and New Trails
The era between 1999 and 2009 was extremely busy for the Nordic Club as the club fought for integrity of the Dawn Mt. Trail system. This was the great expansion time for winter sports in Golden as downhill skiing, snowmobiling, heli-skiing, backcountry skiing and Nordic skiing exploded on to the scene, transforming Golden’s tourism industry from primarily a summer destination to a strong winter destination. With these changes came intense planning sessions, under the stewardship of the Golden Backcountry Recreation Access Committee (GBRAC), a group of stakeholders whom were passionate about their interests. There were many times when heads butted and interests clashed and at many points it seemed that the will of the snowmobile club to run trails through the Dawn Mountain trails was winning over government and other stakeholders. Jeff Dolinsky, Marvin Lloyd and Bruce Fairley represented our club and GORA and held fast to the concept that we could have a world-class trail system, but only if it was given non-motorized status and was not traversed by resort roads. It was particularly difficult to argue since there was snowmobiling going on everywhere and the resort concept was to build and sell houses and condos at the expense of land for trails. Our trail system was reduced and our trailhead moved further back three times in 7 years. These transitions were very difficult.
Our club’s position was to compromise only when absolutely necessary. As an example the compromise which allowed sharing 100m of the Caribou trail with the tenured snowmobile operator was worked out to reduce the chance of having the snowmobiling public traversing the trails and thus having careful control of riders.
Once the snowmobile issues were resolved, a new challenge: the KHMR 40-year Master Plan came along in 2008. The early drafts put parking lots on Hawk Owl and houses through Chickadee. Again, tenacious positions were taken and for the most part, we kept our trail system intact. All along, there were outraged Nordic Club members writing letters, and meetings between Jeff, Troy and the resort to solve major issues, looking for the best result. We now have a much greater assurance that the trail system can remain intact and improved over time within the expanded recreation site planning boundaries.
As the land use tug of war went on, planning and building of new trails continued. In 2002, the Chickadee trail was built and the Hawk Owl trail scouted, while the Beaver Loop was widened to allow for skate skiing. It took over 3 seasons of scouting and flagging to produce the Chickadee and Caribou trails. Our system of design was to have Jeff and any helpers do the initial flagging, and hire Don Gardner to do a final check and make any changes required to ensure the trails worked with proper flow and safety. Then a GPS traverse was done and mapped, ready for permit application. Every meter of trail was designed for best skier flow, best use of terrain, best views, avoiding important habitat and forestry values. The Caribou trail was a challenge as it required three bridges. James Ross entered the scene and with Don Hunt and other key volunteers the steel bridges were built, helicoptered into place by Don McTighe, and decked by volunteers.
It was decided in 2005 that in order to ensure survivability of the trail system, a “go big” attitude had to be taken and the club had a day long planning session resulting in establishing the club purpose and goals we currently follow. New trails would need to cross below the old Columbia River Lumber company rail bed to make for a significantly longer loop and put our recreation area on the map. It was a big step to take for everyone, and one not everyone wanted to take. Many of us liked our old intimate trail system, but we had to trade it in for something that would have much greater value to the modern skier and paying visitor. The new trails would be safer and offer skate and classic skiing.
In 2006, the major trails were designed to claim more ground: Hawk Owl and Raven trails came about after many days of flagging, and reflagging back and forth through the dense forest. Jim Halvorsen and Jeff designed Hawk Owl and Pegasus and Jeff spent three autumn weeks on Raven and Martin, with his dog Jet, hunting down and flagging the best line. Russ Younger came back on the scene, hired by the club as project manager to coordinate the work done by track-hoes and dozers, as well as skidding, sorting and selling of logs. There was a great deal of help by Ken Gibson, who was the forest recreation officer overseeing the permitting.
Danger trees are always a concern as they fell at every storm cycle so in the fall of 2007 John Managh was hired to fall these trees and with the help of a number of volunteers over 1500 trees were felled, making for much safer trails.
At one point, in 2008, the club was charged by the Forest Service for a number of alleged infractions and had to defend actions taken. These were ruled “trifling” by the authority and yet another frustrating time-wasting hurdle was overcome.
When it came to finding funds to build, Joan and Jeff put together the funding applications and Joan followed up most of the reporting, with the help of club treasurers.
The incremental trail building continued and we were advised by Don Gardner in 2008 that we were near to having a Nordic Center which would be at World Cup standards if we improved the stadium and sprint loops. It was at this point that Troy Hudson took the torch and ran with it. He was hired to work for the club to design and oversee building the improvement of the loops and the site of the conceptual day lodge. Troy designed Leaping Lynx and improved the 2.5k sprint loop as well as solving many drainage issues.
With the amount of water that streams off the mountain through the trail system, there have been constant issues with managing drainage with over 38 culverts and 4 bridges and miles of ditching. Each of our project managers has had to deal with major water management improvements and washout episodes.
Programs For All
Club programming has evolved from ad hoc instruction to a full Rabbit program and competitive ski team program. Our focus has always been on the recreational skier who likes going for a simple ski with the ideal that everyone can learn and improve to have a better experience.
Masters classes, private ski lessons, waxing clinics, and gear info nights happen nearly every year. Sue Hein and Denise Porter have headed up the very popular Full Moon Ski Events since 2007.
Nordic ski racing is a small but important part of the club. We have run the Huckleberry Loppet every year since 1997, ensuring it runs as a welcoming, family oriented event. Maxine Lockeridge very smoothly coordinated the Loppet from 2000 to 2009. Don Peterkin was one of the first Race Chiefs and set up the course many years. The Loppet has events from 1km to 22 km in distance with very generous prizes and the famous Thelma Brown designed Raku medallions.
Joan Dolinsky has been the Golden Jackrabbits volunteer coordinator from its beginning in 1994 to 2010, (probably a BC record!) and has tirelessly lined up courses to certify coaches, find kids’ ski equipment, wax skis, ensure grooming was done at the sites, toys purchased and badges distributed, books and prizes organized. Joan also set up the grade 7 ski program which has taught grade 7’s from all the schools in the Golden area for many years, with the help of numerous coaches. Joan has been key to programming and also takes a turn coaching the ski team.
The Parson rabbits were organized in the 1990’s by Will Wardwell, then Marilyn Kelly McArthur and ran until the Parson School closed.
Sandra Birnie has also been instrumental as a volunteer, registering our club membership for over 6 years. The job is very busy before Christmas and Sandra has done it well.
Troy Hudson’s era has been important as he worked with the club to develop the first real ski team. Prior to this, under certified coaches Stephen Dykes, Joan and Jeff Dolinsky, the first club youth ski racers who competed outside the club were Tara Salmon, Elise Dolinsky, Cameron Harris and Carmen Dolinsky. Elise, Cameron and Carmen qualified and competed in the BC Winter Games and other provincial races.
Troy Hudson began coaching seriously, acting as race chief for our race events and he started the race team. This was catalyzed by the encouragement of Olympian Sara Renner, whom Jeff invited to visit our club in 2008 and train with our young skiers and give a dinner presentation. In 2009-10, twelve skiers trained with Troy all year round and competed at a high level provincially and in Alberta. Mitchell Harris, Cole Stewart, Siobhan Jones were Troy’s first senior team members.
Troy also worked with Chris Stewart to bring about the beginning of Snowcat grooming which began in the season of 2007-8 with the voluntary assistance of Craig Bolt and KHMR. We eventually bought the old Whitetooth BR400 Snowcat, outfitted it with track-pans bought from the Hinton Nordic Club and got a $25,000 donation from the KHMR resort to refurbish the machine we use today. It roams around at night after snowfalls, laying down those perfect trails.
This effort, in concert with the opening of the new, and wider trails, resulted in a leap in club membership from 240 in 2006/07 to 460 in 2009/10 and much greater visitation by day skiers, helping us to be self sufficient operationally. Most of the club goals of 2005 have been achieved and some will always require continuous efforts.
We have built improved parking and a new day lodge, again with a huge team effort, including Erwin Perzinger, Sanne van der Ros and the return of Wayne Manzer, all of whom have important roles in furthering our club’s development. In 2012/13, Wayne ran the first season of the Dawn Mountain Rentals with a fleet of cross-country skis and snowshoes. That season also was the beginning of the Dawn Mountain Ski School, offering lessons throughout the season.
Our club history is something to be proud of, particularly the vast amounts of energies by fun loving and committed volunteers and our legacy of patient, determined and visionary leadership.