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Orienteering clinics get locals into the game


From July 9 to 12, Whistler will play host to roughly 300 orienteering enthusiasts at the Barebones Orienteering Festival, which will include events at Lost Lake, in Whistler Village, on Whistler Mountain and to the south in the Brandywine area.

All ages and levels of experience are welcome to take part in the festival but it's recommended that never-evers and beginners sign up for a clinic to make things easier on the event days.

Even intermediates can benefit from a brush-up, says Charlotte MacNaughton, the president of the Canadian Orienteering Federation and co-organizer of the Barebones event along with her husband. She will also be teaching the two orienteering clinics - one on Sunday, June 20 and another on Monday, June 8.

"The idea behind these clinics is that we have a big event coming here where we'll probably have 300 people, and it would be crazy if we didn't get a few Whistler people involved and competing in the events," she said. "The intent is to provide some clinics to give people the basics. We will be supplying the maps and showing people a few tricks. People are welcome to bring a compass if they have one, but we will be teaching a technique for people to orient themselves using the map and the terrain."

There are several events taking place during the festival, including a short urban sprint race in Whistler Village, and short, middle and long distance competitions. The format for most events is point-to-point, where participants have to locate all of the checkpoints in a given area in a specific order. There will also be a fun score orienteering event for beginners where participants see how many checkpoints they can find in a given timeframe.

People can compete in the events alone, or with friends and family members.

"We generally attract a lot of different types of people," said MacNaughton. "We always get trail runners that are looking for a different kind of challenge because orienteering adds a whole mental challenge to your run. There are also people who want to become a little more comfortable with maps and orientation... and adventure racers. I know the MOMAR in Squamish has an orienteering component, so it's one of those skills that is good to have.

"We also get a lot of people that are just looking to do something fun. We tend to attract a lot of families. It's something that parents and young kids can do together and it's a good group activity."

Some of the easier courses will make use of trails, while others will require some bushwhacking and more difficult control placements. The short races are usually less than 20 minutes, middle distance events are usually 30 to 35 minutes and long distance events can take an hour and a half to complete.

A complete rundown of festival events will be posted this week at

If you're interested in taking part in Sunday's clinic, the cost is $10 per person, meeting at the Spruce Grove Field House at 9 a.m. The clinic is 90 minutes and will cover the basics of map reading, navigation, route choice and race strategies. There will be a course set up to test skills.

The second clinic is at 6:30 p.m. on June 28 at the same location.