Ski Adventures from Kelowna to Ottawa

In January 2023, my ski team and I embarked on an unforgettable trip to Ottawa. The excitement was palpable as we departed at 6:00 am for our much-anticipated adventure. Throughout the entire exchange, we were immersed in new experiences that left lasting memories. Although I couldn’t pick a single favourite moment, there were certainly highlights and epic adventures that brought joy to our hearts.   


The journey began on a Tuesday morning at 4:00 am, not the most ideal time, but the anticipation made up for the early hour. After a long car ride to the airport and some waiting around, we were finally airborne and en route to Ottawa. As someone who had only experienced a few short flights as a child, the feeling of the massive airplane taking off and soaring through the skies was extraordinary. About 6 hours and one layover later, we landed in Ottawa, where the smiling faces of our exchange partners greeted us warmly. From that moment, I knew this trip was going to be something special. That very evening, we took a much-needed ski along the Ottawa River. Despite the freezing temperatures and my initial lack of energy, we had a great time. It felt surreal to be skiing right in the heart of downtown Ottawa, with a moderately busy city street on one side and the central river on the other. Back in my hometown of Kelowna, skiing was confined to the mountains, at least a 30-minute drive away from any urban area. Here in Ottawa, I could ski right back to the house where we were staying after practice, and that was a unique experience in itself.   


The following day, we had an exhilarating time skiing at Gatineau Park, followed by a tour of the architecturally dramatic Rideau Hall. Our guide shared fascinating stories about the past governors-general who had lived there and how their backgrounds influenced the building’s design. The rooms in Rideau Hall were individually designed and featured a surprising Tent Room. Later, we were awestruck as we skated on the rink where the Stanley Cup finals were originally held, realizing that we were standing so close to where Canada’s early history was written. The excitement continued with the anticipation of the Eastern Canadian Championships ski race. After pre-skiing the courses, attending the race meeting, and handing our skis over to the wax techs, we were eager to compete. However, typical of Canada’s weather, the temperatures dropped well below -30 degrees Celsius, making it unsafe to race. Not to waste any time, we visited the Canadian Museum of History, a visually stunning building with concrete walls snaking around its exterior. Inside, we were taken on a captivating journey through Canada’s history, featuring beautiful art and inspiring stories from our own backyard. The kids’ section of the museum, an amazing indoor playground, left us in awe of the curation and architecture.   


On the subsequent days, we finally had the chance to race at Nakkertok Nordic Club, although it had to be a shortened and safe version due to the weather. The race allowed me to connect with skiers from the other side of Canada, and I was impressed by the speed and skill of some of the competitors. The rest of the trip was packed with excitement as we toured the Senate building, participated in a fun-filled scavenger hunt around the parliament buildings, and experienced Winterlude with its Canadian traditions, including indulging in maple taffy. Additionally, we had the opportunity to try fat biking for the first time, which added another thrilling experience to our journey.


Unexpectedly, our return flight got delayed by a full day, creating an extra 24 hours in our schedule. Thankfully, our amazing chaperones arranged a visit to the Diefenbunker on the outskirts of Ottawa. The bunker, built during the Cold War to withstand nuclear attacks, provided a unique perspective on Canada’s history and resilience. As we descended into the depths of the bunker, I couldn’t help but feel a deep connection with the country and its citizens, and a profound gratitude for being part of building Canada’s future. The massive, multi-million dollar project had been a testament to the determination and hope for a better future for all Canadians.   


As our ski team finally flew back to Kelowna, I couldn’t help but feel a sense of nostalgia and longing for Ottawa. Its rich history, beautiful art and architecture, and endless opportunities for exploration left a profound impact on me. However, beyond that, the trip instilled in me a powerful sense of belonging and connection with Canada as my home, no matter where I may find myself in the world.


Chloe Schivers


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