Category Archives: Festival

Walkers — Nordic and Otherwise — Invited to Swiss Event

I’m in Engelberg, Switzerland, right now, and practically as soon as I got off the train, I started spotting posters promoting a Snow Walking Event on February 29-March 1. A snow walking event that is actually called a Snow Walking Event? How amazing — even for the Alps, where walking and strolling on groomed winter paths in valleys and high on mountains is nothing new.

But here it comes, in less than a month: a two-day festival of walking on groomed white paths starting directly from the village. The program is chock full of activities including several fitness and nutrition forums (in German), coaching, organized walks at three distances and an après-walk party. The registration fee includes a roundtrip rail ticket from the valley to the resort town, a certificate of participation, a pasta meal, massage service and childcare for youngsters aged four and older. Finishers receive a gift from Victorinex Swiss Army, one of the four lead sponsors. Free Nordic Walking introduction opportunities are also built into the schedule.

Registration fees vary by distance, of which there are three: CHF 65 for 6.8 kilometers with a 128-meter elevation difference, CHF 70 for 12K and 350 meters, and CHF 75 for the so-called Crazy Walk of 18.5 kilometers with a commendable 599-meter elevation difference. I have no idea why it is called a “Crazy Walk,” but the distance of 9 miles and an 1,800-foot gain and loss is ambitious.

The well- organized Swiss have maps and course profiles that indicate exactly where refreshment stations and toilets will be set up. Nordic Walkers and pole-free walkers are assigned separate start times for each distance. Several hotels are also offering special rates for participants. Amazingly, Engelberg is not the first Swiss community to host Snow Walking Event. Arosa has that distinction. In fact, two Snow Walking Events have already been scheduled for next winter: Leysin on December 13, 2008, and Arosa on January 10, 2009.

I don’t detail all this because I believe that scores of North American Nordic Walkers will sign up and hop across the Atlantic to participate, but just to illustrate – again – what a big deal Nordic Walking is on the European fitness scene and perhaps become a role model for the future in the US and Canada.

Footraces Good for Competitiors — and the Local Economy

Ever since I learned about the annual Lakeland Trails Festivals of running, walking and Nordic Walking, I have been impressed by this packet of four footraces in the Cumbria Region of northern England. Some events are competitive, some are recreational. Some are more for runners, others are more for walkers — with Nordic Walkers welcome. Some are for adults, others are family-friendly.

In 2008, a new 4- to 5-km event called the ‘Sport Trail’ is planned for each of the four venues. It was conceived of as ideal introduction for the rookie, novice or younger trail runner, “taking in stunning off road routes with the big stage environment of the main events. The Sport Trail is a race, fun run, fitness walk, Nordic walk or recreational walk all rolled into one,” wrote the North-West Evening Mail. Every finisher will also win a specially engraved medal.

The paper also reported that the four evenings added an astonishing £1.2 million to the regional economy in 2007. Nineteen nations were represented among the participants. The 2008 Lakeland Trails Festivals in 2008 will support local Mountain Rescue charities and also a major national charity to be announced early in 2008.

Early discounted registration for all the events is in effect through January 31, 2008. Organizers say that events are filling up, with the first event nearly 50 per cent full as of mid-December. The 2008 dates are April 19 (Hawkshead), May 31 (Staveley), September 6 (Keswick) and October 4 (Coniston). So if you are either in England around any of those time periods or live there, you might want to register very, very soon.

Isle of Man – Isle of Walkers

A few days ago, a friend and I joined Mitch Salmon, an Isle of Man walking guide, on a splendid, bracing walk along a series of footpaths linking Port St. Mary and South Point. We started up a San Francisco-steep town road and veered off into the country, which in effect was right at the edge of town.
Our route along footpaths and the occasional stretch of country lane was part of a 1,000-mile network on this 30 by 10-mile island. It was well marked and mostly smooth. We passed through fields of blooming gorse (a tough thorny, low-growing shrub with late-blooming yellow blossoms) and heather plants in bud, for this is the last-blooming plant on the island.

We stopped at a dramatic neolithic burial ground with a distinctive stone circle and also (briefly) and the Caigneash Folk Museum. We had earlier visited the reconstructed or restored cottages and workshops, staffed by interpreters knowledgeable about the lives and times of the crofters who followed an agrarian lifestyle in the mid-centuries of the last millenium. The site looks more like old Ireland than much of the present Ireland (70 miles to the west), making it popular with film directors.

In any case, we three continued walking purposefully southward toward the sea, skirting dramatic cliffs. We looked down at the Chasms, where high cliffs have been clefted by sea and rain, and also saw another stone circle. We continued up and down to South Point, where a popular cafe is known for its tea and scones.

In just under 2 1/2 hours, we walked a bit over 4 1/2 miles, cumulatively gained what I estimate to have been about 1,700 or 1,800 cumulative feet in elevation gain and stepped back in time over the centuries.

Unfortunately, we left just before the second of the island’s two annual walking festivals, with guided group walks of four to 14 miles. Mitch Salmon is one of the volunteer guides. The Summer 2008 festival will be June 22-27. For information or to book a festival package, contact Walking Festivals, Travel Services Ltd. at

NoCal Health and Fitness Fest Adds Nordic Walking

Walk This Way at Turtle Bay, a health and fitness fair scheduled for 8:30 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. on Saturday, October 6 in Redding, CA, is part of the Healthy Shasta campaign to raise awareness of health and fitness activities in this area of northern California. The schedule lists two Nordic Walking sessions, respectively at 10:00 a.m. and 11:30 a.m. They are described as “Nordic Walking Demos,” and the organizer calls them a “limited participation” program. That, to me, implies beginner instruction including use of poles. I don’t know who will be leading the class or whose poles will be used, but I do know that sign-up will be at Quarry Patio Garden on the east end of Arboretum. The immediate reward for participating in festival activities. Free admission to Turtle Bay Exploration Park, courtesy of provided by Mercy Medical Center.

Nordic Walking: A Maine Event at Upcoming Festival

The Rumford Hospital Family Fun Festival at Black Mountain near Rumford, ME, on Saturday, October 6 begins with a pancake breakfast starting at 7:00 a.m. and finishes with a pasta dinner beginning at 4:00 p.m. In between, there will be a busy schedule with various competitions, guided rides and hikes, and assorted fitness and health activities at the fitness fair on the second floor of the ski area’s base lodge. The latter will include a Nordic Walking clinic presented by Akers Ski of Andover, ME. Except for race registration and meals, everything at the festival is free. For more information, contact the River Valley Chamber of Commerce at 207-364-3241,

For Montrealers, Nordic Walking is Part of Winter Fun

We all know a few things about Canada and Canadians. Here are two: First, it’s up north, where winters tend be cold and snowy. Second, Canadians know how to have a good time, regardless of the temperature. Now, Nordic Walking is making its way into the winter fun mix.

I just read a press release from Vieux Port Montreal, the city’s historic old port along the frosty St. Lawrence River, cheering the arrival of winter and announcing a weeked-long celebratory event. What brings joy to my Nordic Walker’s heart is that in the midst of of all the expected music, food, anti-freeze beverages and sports booths, the Vieux Port’s promoters write, “Cold outside? We have the perfect cure: get outside and get moving! On Saturday, December 9, warm up with some vigorous Nordic walking and put somecolour in your cheeks during a Cardio Warm-up to the grooves of a Latin beat. You can top off the day nicely with a cocktail at the happening in the impressive Winter Bar… an enormous venue, created entirely of ice!You’ll be in the perfect frame of mind to give traditional group, Les Batinses, a warm welcome, and enjoy a high-energy, two-hour show, punctuatedby the dazzling TELUS Fire on Ice show early in the evening. On the same rink, glide around to the rhythm of dance groves provided by a DJ, until 11:00 p.m. Saturday and 6:00 p.m. Sunday.”

Today is December 9, so I certainly can’t scoot up there to join the merriment — and you probably can’t either, but I am cheered that Nordic Walking is being thought of as part of fun and entertainment — and by people who know all about that.