Across Canada by Roller-Ski

By Gerry Warner
The Daily Townsman (Cranbrook, B.C).

He may be 70-years-old, but one look at the lean frame of Alex Nilsson says here’s a man that can’t be half that age.

And that’s a good thing because the Creston resident , competitive mountain biker and back-country skier has just begun a project that would challenge any man no matter what age and how fit they happen to be.

Nilsson, supported by his wife Nicole, is roller-skiing across Canada to raise funds for diabetes research. The septuagenarian roller-skier left Victoria June 24 and plans on being in Saint John’s, NFLD by early fall averaging 70 km to 90 km-a-day depending on road and weather conditions.

“I want to see the country and I felt this would be a pretty challenging way of doing it,” says the laconic Scandinavian, who’s lived in Creston since 1971 and is a retired health inspector. “I wanted to do this for a long, long time and I want to show other seniors that they can do things that they don’t feel they can do.”

Raising money for diabetes prevention is another important motivation for the cross-Canada odyssey though Nilsson says he has no specific amount in mind for what he wants to raise. “Whatever comes out at the end, that will be great.”

Nilsson, interviewed Monday at the tourist information booth at the south end of Cranbrook, says raising money is not the main reason for his 7,500 km adventure. “I’d like to influence people to change their life styles to a better way through better eating habits and more exercise.”

There are other motivation factors as well as Nilsson’s father-in-law died of complications from diabetes and his wife Nicole is a diabetes counselor. “It’s a very insidious and dangerous illness,” he says.

Nicole, who follows Nilsson is a small motor home support vehicle, says she feeds him a diet of sardines, tuna, rice and potatoes, containing lots of carbohydrates and lots of protein. Other than blisters on his feet and a bit of sunburn, her husband is holding up well so far, she says.

After dipping his $500 aluminum roller skis in the ocean at Victoria, the hardest day of the journey so far has been crossing the Coquihalla Pass between Vancouver and Kelowna, he says.

“Climbing up the Coquihalla, it rained and was foggy so that I could hardly see anything on the top. And there was so much traffic on the highway and dirt and debris on the shoulder, it was a bit of a challenge.”

Nilsson has averaged almost 90 km-a-day across the windy and hilly highways of B.C. and hopes to raise his daily average to 120 km-a-day when he hits the prairie flatlands in a few days. A senior member of the Big Foot Running Club, he once rode his bike from Creston to Vancouver in 40 hours non-stop so his goal of doing 120 km-a-day on roller-skis appears to be reasonable.

As of Monday, Nilsson had been on the road for 17 days and covered more than 900 km of his cross-country journey. If you’re interested in making a donation to diabetes education or following Nilsson’s progress along the way, check his Web site at:

Gerick Sports of Cranbrook is one of Nilsson’s sponsors.


  1. Myrna Johnson says:

    What determination and awareness for all Canadians to see. What a dedicated man and cause can do and in 94 days!