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Finding the way to fun: Lone Pine hosts first orienteering event

Daily Inter Lake | May 9, 2021 12:00 AM

With compass and map in hand, more than three dozen adventurers took to the trails of Lone Pine State Park last Sunday for Grizzly Orienteering’s first-ever event in the Flathead Valley.

A sport that challenges participants to find their way across uneven terrain to reach numerous checkpoints using navigational skills, orienteering is a popular sport in Europe that is quickly gaining traction in the United States.

According to Grizzly Orienteering co-founder and former member of the U.S. Orienteering Team Boris Granovskiy, orienteering has a wide appeal to all age groups and athletic abilities.

“One thing I love about orienteering is that the whole family can get involved. The kids can go out and the grandparents can go out and there will be courses there appropriate for them,” he said. “It’s a great sport to enjoy with the whole family.”

Born in Russia, Granovskiy has been running orienteering courses since he was 10 and brought his love of the sport with him to America. When he and his wife, Missoula native Allison Brown, moved back to her hometown, they found that Montana had no orienteering clubs, so they took it upon themselves to start Grizzly Orienteering in the fall of 2020.

Having held seven events within an hour’s drive of Missoula, Granovskiy was eager at the prospect of expanding into the Flathead Valley after getting a call from Whitefish resident and fellow orienteering enthusiast Will Dickinson.

After getting an enthusiastic go-ahead from Lone Pine State Park Manager Brian Schwartz, Granovskiy and Dickinson, with some help from a few members of the U.S. Orienteering team, set to work marking the maps, designing the course and preparing to bring the sport to Northwest Montana.

‘We are just trying to get the word out and build momentum so that more people can enjoy this sport because it’s a fun sport with a low entry level for beginners,” Dickinson said. “All you need is to have a compass and some good walking shoes.”

According to Dickinson, orienteering provides people who may have walked the trails of Lone Pine State Park many times the chance to see the area with a new perspective.

“When you get into this, you really learn about topography and how to get off the trails. It’s a skill that most people don’t think about. I think a lot of people are pushed away because of all the equipment required, like with paddleboarding or mountain biking,” he said. “You don’t need much for orienteering to have a lot of fun.”

For Granovskiy, it’s that opportunity to get off the beaten path that makes the sport of orienteering so great.

“Orienteering is going to take you to places you have never been before, even if it is in your own backyard,” he said. “It will take you off the beaten path and into the terrain. No two events are the same and you are always seeing places you have never seen before.”

WITH CLOSE to 40 people taking on the challenge of the courses Sunday, the event exceeded its organizer’s expectations.

“I think things went really well. This was our first event in the Flathead Valley and we didn’t really know what to expect. We were hoping to get 20-25 people, so 38 was a great number to see,” Granovskiy said. “I think people enjoyed seeing the park in a new way and having specific puzzles to solve while outdoors engaging both their bodies and their brains.”

The course was a hit with newcomers and orienteering veterans such as Whitefish’s Jesse Nelson, who uses orienteering skills while adventure racing across the country, but had never participated in a strictly orienteering event.

“This was a great opportunity to get out there and work on my orienteering skills while the rest of my family got the chance to see what it is like to have to navigate a course like this,” he said. “The whole family was able to get out and have a lot of fun.”

Granovskiy and Dickinson said they are already looking to hold another event at the park in August and are hoping to expand to other areas throughout the Flathead Valley.

For more information and to keep up with upcoming events, visit Grizzly Orienteering online at www.grizzlyorienteering.org.

Reporter Jeremy Weber may be reached at 758-4446 or jweber@dailyinterlake.com


Asher, Anna and Brooks Stanfield of Kalispell receive a crash course in orienteering from Team USA member Caroline Sandbo at Lone Pine State Park Sunday. (Jeremy Weber/Daily Inter Lake)


Grizzly Orienteering founder Boris Granovskiy gives some last-minute advice to a newcomer at the orienteering event at Lone Pine State Park Sunday. (Jeremy Weber/Daily Inter Lake)


Advanced course participants Gregory Balter, Tom Case and Jesse Nelson compare notes after running the orienteering course at Lone Pine State Park Sunday. (Jeremy Weber/Daily Inter Lake)


The Nelson family, Lily (13), Evelyn (8), Maggie and Jesse get tips from Team USA member Siri Christopherson before taking on Grizzly Orienteering's course at Lone Pine State Park Sunday. (Jeremy Weber/Daily Inter Lake)


Chloe Luce inserts the timing chip into the checkpoint while making her way through the orienteering course at Lone Pine State Park Sunday. (Jeremy Weber/Daily Inter Lake)


A map and compass were the tools used by participants Sunday as they made their way through Grizzly Orienteering's course at Lone Pine State Park. (Jeremy Weber/Daily Inter Lake)


Sara Bednarcik consults with Team USA member Siri Christopherson before taking on the orienteering course at Lone Pine State Park Sunday. (Jeremy Weber/Daily Inter Lake)