Nilssons Set For Epic Cross-Country Ski Trip

By Lorne Eckersley
Creston Valley Advance

It won¹t be quite the same around the Creston Valley this summer. There will be one less player on the tennis courts, one less bicycle racing along the highway, one less runner on the backroads, one less golfer on the links.

Alex Nilsson, 2004 Citizen of the Year and tireless champion of health and fitness, is going to cross the country on roller skis and will set out from Victoria at Mile 0 on June 25.

“I have no expectations. Whatever happens, happens,” said Nilsson, 70, in his typically understated manner.

In fact, while he has “had a long-standing dream to go across Canada in one way or another”, his quest is being undertaken so he can deliver a number of messages.

Nilsson said he wants to raise awareness of health and fitness for Canadians, seniors in particular. He will also be promoting awareness of Type 2 diabetes, an illness caused by nutrition and lifestyle choices.

For good measure, he said he¹ll also be promoting the Creston Valley, which he describes as an area of unsurpassed beauty.

As one who has spent much of his life involved with the health care system (he was a long-time local health inspector prior to his retirement) Nilsson said diabetes has captured his attention because some forms are preventable.

“It¹s such an insidious disease – it affects the entire body. The galling thing is that it¹s so preventable,” he explained.

“But we¹ve been totally seduced by this fast food lifestyle.”

For the uninitiated, skiing is not only a snow activity. Wheeled skis of several types will allow Nilsson to travel 110 to 120 kilometres per day, he estimates. He¹s had such skis for more than 25 years, he said, but the idea to travel across country in such a fashion only occurred to him five years ago.

“I was visiting in Sweden (his country of birth) and heard about two roller skiers who had completed a 2,000-kilometre trip. I decided I wanted to do something like that.”

Nilsson will be accompanied by his wife, Nicole, who will drive their motorhome ahead each morning.

“We will be taking our bicycles and, when she wants, she can ride back to meet me and we¹ll travel part of the day¹s distance together,” he said.

Although his destination near St. John¹s, Nfld., is about 5,000 kilometres away, Nilsson is undaunted – he¹s no stranger to feats of physical endurance. He¹s walked, ran and cycled for long distances in locations around the world. In fact, he once rode his bicycle to Vancouver in 42 hours, stopping only for meals and bathroom breaks.

“Your mind just empties out. It¹s the most amazing feeling,” he said.

He spoke of the need for Canadians to take responsibility for their health and not simply to rely on the health-care system.

“Too many people get to be 50 or 60 and then suddenly they¹re not feeling well. The cost to the entire country as a whole is enormous.”

The cross-country odyssey won¹t be all work and no play. Nilsson will be detouring off-highway to go to a family wedding in Kelowna, and has friends and family to visit all across the nation.

“I hope to get a few rounds of golf in, too,” he laughed.

“We¹re going to make lots of friends and talk to seniors groups and whoever else will listen to us,” he added.

All donations collected will go toward diabetes causes.

The cross-Canada journey of Alex and Nicole Nilsson can be followed by logging on to a Web site at www.skiacrosscanada.com.

Pledge forms for Nilsson¹s diabetes fund-raising efforts are available at Pharmasave.