By Estelle Noakes and members of Skmana Cross Country Ski Club
Skmana Lakes lie just north of Loakin-Bear Creek Rd., 14 km from the village of Chase or 8 km off the Adams Lake Rd. The two lakes and surrounding area offer a delightful multipurpose recreational area with skiing, snowshoeing and sledding in winter: camping, fishing, hiking, biking and horseback riding in summer. In early logging days, Adams River Lumbar Co. diverted the creek, daming the lake to hold logs for a flume that transported logs down to the Adams River. Later the area was used as a Japanese work camp during WW11 (the old buildings have just recently been bulldozed) and a biathlon training area was set up (although there is no evidence of its actual use) in the 1970's.
The origins of Skmana Lakes as a winter recreational area began in the early 1980's when a group from Chase and Pritchard which included the Spencer, Crema, Clark, Lovlin, McLellan, Hopland, Grube, Hutchings and Boscher families were searching for a winter recreational area for cross country skiing and a tobogganing hill. The first area they tried was the Niskonlith meadows and they skied and tobogganed there for a few years. Jean Jenks along with sons, Hamish and Ian provided ski lessons for children. The area proved not satisfactory due to the early disappearing and sometimes absent snow. Roger Behn, a teacher from Chase High School, who had been instrumental in the planning for the Biathlon at Skmana Lakes, had some good maps and it was soon discovered that Skmana Lakes lay in a snow belt. An informal recreational area was set up at Skmana Lakes.
To enable the club to track the ski trails, Don and Eileen Boscher supplied a snowmobile. The home fashioned tracking equipment was such that someone had to sit on it to weigh it down, a very precarious perch. When the snowmobile turned out to be inadequate, the Boshers lent the club $5000 for the purchase of a Yamaha snowmobile. The club through fund raising which included logging and later through assisting at casinos was able to pay off the debt. An old cabin was donated by Quaaout Lodge, hauled to Skmana and put on the west side of West Skmana Lake near the road to the Forest Service Recreation Site. It made a cozy warm up hut until 2001 when it was burned down by vandals. A new hut was built down in the meadow which is not accessible to road traffic. The builders for the cabin were John Thornbury and George Carlin with the assistance of many club members.
With the money raised from casinos, the club was able to afford better tracking equipment. Ted Kay who was president at that time, was instrumental in the purchase of a bombardier and trail groomers to track the trails. He did the tracking for many years and looked after the maintenance of the equipment, a position which George Carlin took over and continues to do with help from other members. The old Bombardier served the Skmana Ski Club for over 20 years and was replaced by a Ginzugroomer and new tracking equipment in 2010. The fund raising for the new equipment was spearheaded in the capable hands of Brian David, then president of the club.
Skmana Cross Country Ski Club has been a member of Cross Country B.C. for over 22 years. Daryl Spencer was instrumental in the club becoming a society on August 1, 1990. From 1988 and for twelve years, a Jack Rabbit ski program was sponsored by Skmana. Several levels of classes were offered and some children placed highly in provincial competitions. In the mid-nineties there were about 30 children in Jack Rabbits and four coaches. A key to the success of the club was the Starting Line in Chase owned by Brian and Trish David, which, for many years was an info center for the club as well as selling and renting skis. The Jack Rabbit program ended when there was a lack of children using the program coinciding with a lack of volunteer coaches. Some of the coaches who contributed were Cathy Hopland, Jim McLellan, Jean Jenks, Ian and Hamish Jenks, Kathy Spencer, Ann Grube, John Thornbury, Michelle Zwolak, Phil MacIntyre-Paul and Brian Kay.
Skmana is a delightful skiing destination. The 18 km of groomed trails wind around the lakes and through forest and meadows along old logging roads. The trails range from beginner to advanced. In addition there is myriad of possibilities for those who wish to ski on ungroomed pathways. Trails for snowshoeing are offered as well and with the help of the Shuswap Trail Alliance, substantially more snowshoes trails were opened for the season of 2011-2012 and more will be opened this coming year.
To reflect the growing enthusiasm for snowshoeing, the club will be changing its name to Skmana Cross Country Ski and Snowshoe Club. Tobogganing hills are near the parking lot and a small one is near the cabin. The Skmana lakes area is co-managed between Recreation Sites and Trails BC and Skmana Cross Country Ski Club. A Forest Recreation Site is on West Skmana Lake with picnic tables and toilets. The info center for the club is G-Force in Chase.
What has sustained Skmana Ski Club for more than 30 years has been the many volunteers who have given so much of their time and energy. They are too numerous to mention but those who have been exceptional, in addition to those mentioned earlier, are Jim McLellan, Cathy Hopland, John Thornbury, George Carlin, Ken Sparrow, Ron Fairhurst, Ken Shaw, Darcy and Patricia Simpson and Brian David. The one person who has been a member since Skmana Ski Club's inception, supported the club in all its endeavours and continues to do so is Eileen Boscher.
The club's membership was 103 in 2011 and many other people skied and snowshoed by donation. Members come from the wide surrounding area of Chase, Adams Lake, Pritchard, North Shuswap and Sorrento with many guests from further afield.
Skmana Cross Country Ski Club is a small and homey club. Christmas is celebrated with a potluck complete with mulled wine and a live candle tree to sing carols beside. Valentines Day features a chile potluck, mushy valentine cards and an evening ski. Skmana remains a magical area for winter and summer recreation, just a bit off the beaten track, a place of solitude and peace. Come join us.