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Salmon Arm orienteering club helps nature lovers find their way into a new hobby

Sage Orienteering began in Kamloops; Revelstoke, Kelowna also have branches hosting training, events
Chris Ford participates in a Sage orienteering course at Spion Kop in 2020. (Kevin Matrosovs photo)

Wilderness navigation skills, exercise and time out in nature are some of the benefits of orienteering, which Okanagan-Shuswap residents can enjoy with the help of a local club.

Orienteering is a sport that involves walking, running, biking or skiing around a course of established checkpoints, with players using a map to help guide them to collect the checkpoints as quickly as possible.

Sage Orienteering Club began more than 30 years ago in Kamloops. Over the last 10-15 years, satellite branches of Sage have developed in Salmon Arm, Revelstoke and Kelowna. Each branch hosts its own orienteering events and facilitates training for new members, said Abbi May, Sage board member and organizer.

Orienteers can sign up for different difficulty levels at courses and events, from beginner training which includes compass reading lessons to courses designed to challenge, where checkpoints may be father off the trail or set in a complex, potentially confusing area, said May. New members to Sage will receive training and then work their way up to tackle courses where they may go off marked trails and use their compass and map-reading skills to make their way through.

People of any age and fitness level can participate, said May, because of the variety in difficulty levels that courses can be designed for.

“Some people run around as fast as they can, and there’s championships for that,” said May. “But then also people just go out and go for a hike.”

May added that finding the checkpoints adds a fun detail to the outdoor adventure.

“It’s like a treasure hunt and that’s what makes it so exciting.”

Courses are set up so even the least experienced orienteers aren’t likely to get lost or encounter any danger, said May. There are always trails or obvious markers like a lake or mountain to guide participants.

“There’s the physical aspect but it’s also mental,” said May. “You have to plan and try to choose the best route, and nothing ever goes perfectly. You finish and think of what you could have done differently and it really makes you want to go back and try again.”

Membership with Sage Orienteering allows interested participants to attend any events throughout the season. Most events take place in spring and fall, as winter weather can be challenging and full summer foliage makes visibility an issue, explained May. Membership ensures orienteers are covered by insurance and can be easily contacted in case of emergency.

Salmon Arm’s club is hosting self-directed courses available at Little Mountain April 21-27. Further training series and self-directed park events are being planned for Thursday evenings as the season continues. Sage’s Salmon Arm branch has two additional spring events schedules, one at Haines Creek on May 7 and the Larch Hills Adventure Run June 18.

The 2023 Sage Stomp is planned for Revelstoke in the fall. More information is available at

“They’re interesting skills to learn and it gives you confidence. It’s a sport for life.”

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Rebecca Willson

About the Author: Rebecca Willson

I took my first step into the journalism industry in November 2022 when I moved to Salmon Arm to work for the Observer and Eagle Valley News. I graduated with a journalism degree in December 2021 from MacEwan University in Edmonton.
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