Right now, we are in the midst of the results of a snowstorm and all of the winter sports enthusiasts are quite happy. While it may seem to be an overwhelming reason to wax eloquent about the greatness of sporting activities around here, it is far for the only time of year that can be enjoyed by all.
Winter is beautiful. (So are fall, spring and summer!) The carpet is clean and white and you can get around on skis, skates and snowshoes. It can be cold but that’s a small price to pay. I’m always amazed when I see people about who are inappropriately attired.
I grew up in a part of the country where the snowstorms don’t mess about. The lower half of the Maritime province of New Brunswick is spread out on the Bay of Fundy, for example, and the winds come up through that section of the country like crazy. Skiing is not a big sport there even though there are a few hills there, but snowmobiling is popular.
Here in the lovely Bulkley Valley we have everything we need to enjoy the winter and for those of us stuck in town, the streets are kept quite passable. Hudson Bay Mountain is very close by and as a result, we get good numbers of the locals who can take advantage of skiing. (Maybe not ski-jumping!)
While downhill is popular, cross-country skiing is another great winter activity. There are trails available and they seem to be well groomed. For anyone who wants to get into or stay in great shape, cross-country ski is a great way. Remember to wear clothing which will keep you warm and if you are going for a lengthy time, don’t forget water!
Don’t have skis and want to give it a try? You can get the best of equipment right here at one of the shops in the centre of town.
Like most Canadian communities, hockey is another big winter sport here. The Steelheads are no longer with us but we still have the Smithers Minor Hockey Association with its full weekly schedule and tournaments. There is something for any player. Over history, the sport has produced high level players who have gone on to higher levels with top player Dan Hamhuis being only one of those.
I could go on about the how great the winter sports are here but I would be remiss. Winter is relatively short and there are three other seasons.
Soccer is another great activity. While it might seem cute to watch our young ones go out and stumble over the ball, remember that they will probably treasure the memories of their participation. Soccer, or football as the Brits say, is a great way to get them to run around a field and enjoy themselves. It can turn into a long-term activity that can even be played into adulthood.
For those who like to pump iron in various ways, no problem. There is the Recreation Centre and it runs a very good range of exercise classes. It also has squash courts and a climbing wall that rarely seems empty.
How about those people who like to get wet? There is the Bulkley Valley Otters Swim Club. It has a good number of kids for the pool size and also a masters division.
What about the Far East? It’s good not only for take-out food and electronics. There are a number of different martial arts clubs in the area and any one of those is a good workout.
And before we forget, we even have something for those who are not so fortunate physically. Jonathan Dieleman, a rodeo rider, wasn’t so lucky a while back and ended up in a wheelchair. But there is no stopping the man — he made the last Paralympic squad as a breaststroker. He got his category reclassified in a big do-over, but that is not stopping him — he’s set his sights on the next Paralympics and I think he’ll make it. This year is the Canadian Trials in Toronto and he’s putting his money where his mouth is by training down south for the winter. That way his aerobic training in the chair won’t be affected (there aren’t any treadmills for Paralympics athletes!)
What about triathlon? You could not have a better spot for the sport than our area. Lots of road to cycle and run and plenty of water in a variety of forms for that part of the race. Need expertise? Lots of that too.
The local schools have extensive sports and recreation programs. Youngsters learn how to enjoy various activities and many develop interests that they maintain their entire lives. Kids go on to provincial level competitions and some go on to compete at the university level.
The fact that those youngsters participate in a wide variety of activities as they develop is a bonus. Early specialization has been found to be a disadvantage and since they tend to be involved in more than a single activity as they grow, their bodies learn how to adapt to different stresses when they encounter them.
Martial arts have become a popular choice and our area has been able to develop athletes at a very high level including national team members and Olympic medalists. These sports include wrestling, Karate, Judo, Tai Chi, Tae Kwan Do and the list goes on.
What about some of the non-competitive activities? We have plenty of those here as well. Just running, walking, hiking, biking and generally enjoying nature are certainly available and some people even move here because of their availability.
Don’t even get me started on fishing and hunting. I have friends who take part in these activities on an almost weekly basis. You don’t have to go far and results of your efforts are usually quite good.
Over the years we have produced high level athletes in a variety of sports and it seems that they are always more than willing to bring something back. That includes helping with facility development and coaching both during off-season times and regular season schedules.
For youngsters, there could hardly be a better place to grow up and participate in a variety of activities and maybe find out which one they want to try to develop to their maximum. For adults, there is no end of new activities to try out to see if you want to teach your body a few more ways to move. You can do those on your own or you might get involved in a program that is sponsored by some local recreation group.
I might sound like I’m talking only about Smithers but I know that other local communities have much to offer as well. In my short time working with The Interior News, I have had to deal with many more than just this community. While I may not be able to get out to events in other places, I do have to deal with a wide variety of community groups. It’s impressive to note the wide variety of activities and the level of achievement that local communities and groups have here. (I don’t drive and that’s one reason I moved here!)
Here in Smithers, the level of education amongst the locals is generally quite high and there is a good understanding about the importance of activity. Generally, that level of activity is quite high and the development of places to walk and run as well as areas to play games such as soccer is a priority.
We could possibly live in a better place but my experience in my travels across the country tell me that it would be very difficult to find such a place. We should relish all of those positive points that we have and delight in them. For our children, I don’t know how we might be able to find a better place to raise them. The wide range of activity includes just about everything and those tend to be conducted by professional, well-educated individuals at a reasonable fee.
Bulkley Valley is a great place. My suggestion is to take advantage of what it has to offer and enjoy it as much as possible.
Tom Best covers sports as well as arts and entertainment events for The Interior News. If you have events, please let him know at firstname.lastname@example.org so that we can have information about them in the paper.