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Discussion: Best places to live... Discuss

in: Orienteering; General

Oct 23, 2005 8:55 PM # 
What are the top five places to live in North America to be an orienteerer (thinking about training oportunities, active orienteerers, terrain, ...)?

What are the top ten places to live in the World to orienteer?

Oct 23, 2005 9:47 PM # 
Will this affect any moving plans? ;-)

Whitehorse, Yukon certainly has to be high up on the list. A half dozen large maps of great forest terrain in the city limits, just a few minutes drive for anyone. (They never use the Carcross map of fantastic sand dunes, because it's 45 minutes away.) A number of real keeners (Brent, Pippa, Pam, Russ, Nesta), some training intently for the World level, with a decent sized club and a decent number of events.

Calgary does pretty well. We have a good variety of terrain around, from glacial morraine to badlands to ridge and valley, with an increasing number of excellent maps (including some new sprint maps), an event or training event every week of the year, and a kickass junior program. We had a member on the Canadian team to WOC this year. Our middle age men and women dominate. (Kinduva who's who of that age range on the women's side...Kitty Jones, Jane Rowlands, Marion Owen, Magali Robert.)

Anywhere in the swath from southern New Hampshire to the WOC 93 maps is good. Some excellent maps, terrain and events throughout that corridor. (Though I haven't been to as many events there recently, what I hear back is good.)

Internationally, Scandinavian still seems to be the region people migrate to in order to get better. The Hott-Johansens (Sandy had the best ever North American result at a foot WOC in Japan) live in far southern Norway (Kristianstad), and I've heard that some top orienteers think that's a good place to train. (Maybe because the weather allows year-round foot training?) It'd be interesting others' insights on what's the "hot spot" in Europe for O.
Oct 23, 2005 10:50 PM # 
Well, fisrt of all, what makes a place a good place to live as an orienteer? I think it would be a good thing to look at criteria, and then see which ones are the most important ones for you. For example, you may live in a place that has kickass maps, but no access to elite level races... that can affect some people more than others, so you have to think about all that.
A good example is Pam James: she moved to Whitehorse and trained on maps more than she has ever had. But at the same time, she raced the least that she has ever had because any A-meet is a flight away (unless it happens to be in the Yukon, but once a year at the best anyway). Result: really strong races in the spring because she never raced a ton in the winter anyway, but then a string of difficult races after that. She really felt like she just hadn't raced nearly enough.
YOu can also find yourself in a place like Vancouver that has a wicked group of elite orienteers living there and training together, so the motivation is strong, but their access to real forest is limited.
So anyway, here are the different criteria I can think of, and then we can analyse each Orienteering Mecca we come across!
access to terrain
quality of terrain
quantity of maps
quality of maps
access to elite races
size of club
training partners
organised training oportunities
Gees, so many!
So if you were to give a mark per criteria, there is no doubt that Scandinavia will rank ahead, along with some other European countries that are getting pretty organised, like France. When it comes to North America, there are a lot of little meccas, some existing because of the people that live there (Vancouver, Boston, Hamilton...), some because of the terrain and great maps (Harriman, Whitehorse...), some for access to great A-meets (Anywhere out east), some for coaching (Vancouver), and some just have a bit of everything (Calgary, Kamloops, Hamilton...).
I have dreamed for years of North American Orienteering Centers where students would try to go to school in order to maximise their orienteering... but nobldy seems serious enough about it. Oh well!
Oct 23, 2005 11:23 PM # 
Probably Boston is as close to that O center for students as exists in North America. Maps, events, other orienteers, lots of universities. Good choice for students.

Related to the subject of simulating more competiton, and orienteering fast with distractions, we had a great distraction training session this most recent Wednesday (similar to the relay training exercise from the Yukon training camp this spring). Groups of 5 or 6 roughly similar speed orienteers went out in mass starts, each with a possibly slightly different (but parallel) 1 km course. (Some controls common, some not.) At the finish of each 1 km course, everyone would wait for the last person, and then start on the next course. And no reading ahead! This meant that lots of other orienteers would be around as you orienteer (but maybe not going to your control), and you had to stay focused. It also emphasized orienteering at a fast pace, as there was always the pressure of not wanting to arrive last, and the drive that having lots of other racers around can engender. (If you have orienteers of different speed, maybe each could do a slightly different length (but parallel) course.) Streamers or pin flags suffice. (Sort of on topic. Sorry. The point about racing enough reminded me of it. Maybe the point was about the great training opportunities in Calgary (and Yukon). There we go. Back on topic.)
Oct 23, 2005 11:30 PM # 
Actually, another couple of criteria:
- pleasant woods with few thorns and few ankle breaking rocks
- few mosquitos/ticks/Lyme spirochetes/spider webs/crawly, buzzy or icky things
Oct 23, 2005 11:36 PM # 
darn! I really have to work harder on my plan of moving Calgary orienteers to the beautiful Okanagan!
Oct 24, 2005 12:07 AM # 
>pleasant woods with few thorns
Does that include Wild Rose?
Oct 24, 2005 12:38 AM # 
Actually, I don't find I run into much wild rose here. (Of course, I generally avoid Elk Island.) But yes. The nicest woods around here are around Cranbrook and Kimberley. An absolute dream to run in.
Oct 24, 2005 12:47 AM # 
Well, Bill was going to move us all to Logan Lake, but that died when all the trees there died.

Great terrain around the Okanagan I hear. You must have called too loudly attracted Brian May and Ross Burnett rather than Calgarians. (Though we did supply Kevin Matrosovs at one point.) When's the first event?
Oct 24, 2005 1:27 AM # 
Although it might at first glance appear to be missing some key elements, it's quite possible that the best place in North America for someone to move right now if their sole criterion was to become a better orienteer is Laramie, WY. Only one other orienteer in the entire state, but a focused individual could get some mighty fine training there. More convenient if you live on the east side of town. And there are race opportunities nearby (in addition to the 1000-Day) if you're willing to drive down to Colorado once in a while.

On the other hand, if you want to be around an active club, I'd say eastern PA in the US, or the Bay Area if you can handle the poison oak. North of the border, I'd say Hamilton.

Central North Dakota would not be a good choice these days.
Oct 24, 2005 2:00 AM # 
Well, of course, central North Dakota isn't that far from the Manitoba sandhills (and some up and coming young male Manitoba orienteers...the M21 results were pretty good at the Westerns).
Oct 24, 2005 2:44 AM # 
One criterion to add to Barbie's list is variety of terrain. In Whitehorse we have some kick-ass scandinavian terrain full of rocks and cliffs on one side of the valley; about 7 km away on the other side is some of the most complex negative topography you could find; with not a boulder on it. Also some sand hill terrain (with a few boulders and cliffs!) and a bit of what could arguably pass as gully/spur. Local competition is good (Three current national team members, plus some old farts) we just need to be closer to evryone else!
Oct 24, 2005 3:32 AM # 
In Canada, ALL things considered - Hamilton. (Mike you owe me).
Oct 24, 2005 9:33 AM # 
I am going to have to add Uppsala. Come on, Zan, I know you want a free master's degree!!!!
Oct 24, 2005 1:03 PM # 
As a non-impartial observer, I'd say DVOA is high up there for racing practice in NA but it is pretty poor for routine training. For that, I'd say Hamilton with a big, gold star!
Oct 24, 2005 3:07 PM # 
My choice for top place in Canada for terrain and map quality would have to be Whitehorse, YT (nothing comes close for the reasons mentioned by Jim and Rossco earlier ) and the top place in North America would be Harriman, NY. Harriman is under utilized as a ‘training camp centre’. Like Barbie, I believe it is essential we have National Training Centres. I coached a dozen good juniors 10 years ago. Then they all went to 10 different Universities and most quit shortly after that. What CSU did a few years back was brilliant and a good model to follow. In the UK all good junior orienteers go to Sheffield or Edinburgh.

So if proximity to races, coaching, university or college, map variety and numbers is important criteria then my top 6 (3 from each of Canada and US) would be:

1) Boston, MA (many of the top Universities in the World, lots of races, lots of maps and the US team coach all in one, track record for developing young talent)
2) NY, NY (I still think Harriman has the best maps and terrain and NYC isn’t that far away, can you live north of the city and commute to school/work? start spreading the news…)
3) Hamilton, ON (great club support, good hpp group, lots of races and maps close to the city, a huge terrain variety, Canada’s #1 ranked Research University)
4) Philly (One of NA’s biggest clubs, quality colleges in PA and mid/south NJ, lots of races, huge orienteering infrastructure and lots of charcoal burning platforms)
5) Tie: Calgary, AB and Vancouver, BC (both cities have very active (and innovative) clubs and Calgary has lots of government lottery $$, great coaching, UBC is one of the top schools in Canada and UofC has other national sports training centres, sprint has transformed the O scene in both cities allowing good O in the city, however, but both cities require a long’ish drive out of the city to maps but when they get there… Suweeeeet, is Mt. Laurie still Canada’s best map? Or is War Eagle the new #1?).
Oct 24, 2005 3:21 PM # 
Any map called War Eagle has got to be good.

Incidentally, which clubs have the best O suits? It's got to be GHO or DVOA.
Oct 24, 2005 3:26 PM # 
Incidentally, while Harriman is not technically in the Delaware Valley, DVOA has hosted A meets there.

We have a wide sphere of influence.
Oct 25, 2005 12:20 AM # 
Okay, I know nothing about the rest of the world really ... but surely there are some good places in Norway, Finland, Switzerland and France at the moment?
For NA I'm with Mike - and I second the bit about Sheffield and Edinburgh ... though there have been a few reasonably good orienteers through Leeds as well ... and Cambridge (though the terrain there is crap!).
Go where there will be a group to train with regularly. That is the most important thing. Lots of training, on maps, with other people.
Oh, and maybe a job? Or an MA program?
Oct 25, 2005 12:24 AM # 
And this is a good time to bring up TRAINING IN BOSTON!!!! Let's talk about it folks - there are too many people here for us NOT to be training in the woods (even if some of the maps are way old ...)
What are people interested in doing? Let's chat after the Traverse ...
Oct 25, 2005 12:28 AM # 
"And this is a good time to bring up TRAINING IN BOSTON!!!! Let's talk about it folks - "

Yep, it always takes Canucks to get the Americans off their butts!
Oct 25, 2005 2:47 PM # 
Gee, MC! Thanks for volunteering to come visit us in Boston and organize some training for us. It will be great to see you :-)
Oct 25, 2005 3:17 PM # 
I'm a bit too far from boston for regular, informal training (~90 min away), but I don't have a problem with travelling for things like the csu park series.

I'd definitely be interested in occasional low-key training events during the off-season (winter) or midweek when days are longer - just announce them 7-10 days ahead for planning - most the folks likely to attend are here on attackpoint or via word of mouth for those that aren't

I'm also willing to set occasional training courses here in eastern CT if there's enough interest.
Oct 25, 2005 3:21 PM # 
There's enough of Connecticut leftover after all the western parts for an eastern part too? Quite a feat! There are small prairie dog colonies out this way that are bigger than Connecticut.
Oct 25, 2005 4:55 PM # 
Swampfox, I just read that dick cheney is having dinner in Laramie tonight. No doubt he will be going to your favorite pizza joint (where else would a vp go?). If you are there maybe you can heckle him with questions about the "prairie dog problem" or the high cost of green peppers.
Oct 25, 2005 6:00 PM # 
I can think of another question or two I could ask, but presumably if he is in town on a speaking engagment it will be the usual thing where the audience is screened and dissident Republicans aren't allowed. Unfotunately, I won't be in town in any event. Anyway, I heard former Pres. Bush (41) is in town tonight, and he's not so bad. Maybe it's him instead of Cheney, or maybe it's both of them.
Oct 25, 2005 6:23 PM # 
Those republicans obviously know who is buttering their bread.
Oct 25, 2005 9:50 PM # 
There's enough of Connecticut leftover after all the western parts for an eastern part too?

even room for a couple of maps in there too! And a certain bridge building actuarial consultant has even referred to said maps as 'fine' - which of course is a very amorphous term in itself.
Oct 26, 2005 2:46 PM # 
In France, the place to live would have to be St Etienne, where Thierry Gueorgiou, Francois Gonon and several others have located. Maps like Volvic or Aydat are at the limit of what mortal orienteers can manage technically. Geographically it's at the center of France, making participation in races around France possible. But it's also fairly high and bitterly cold in winter.

Slovenia has some really challenging maps, but I'm not sure how much competition there is during the year, outside the OO-Cup. Everywhere in Slovenia is close, so it wouldn't matter where you lived.

Czech Republic is notable for the depth of competition, as well as some really good mappers and hence maps. I participated in a five day event there, with some French friends who normally place midfield in France in M21 - they all finished last, because the Czechs were just better orienteers.

Spain has some really good maps, but suffers from the problem of distance. Their national competition involves about 8 two-day races spread around the country, so people regularly drive 8-10 hours across the country to get to the major races. It seems like a recipe for road accidents.

My experience of Italy is limited to the WMOC 2004 and the leadup event. The maps were moderately interesting, without being super technical. If they were the best the country has to offer, Italy wouldn't make my list of top orienteering places. As against that, the Italian hill towns seem to set the standard for sprints.

Australia insists on good quality maps for its top events, and has some very good mappers. Canberra has become the top elite training center, because orienteering receives funding from the local government. Unfortunately many of the local maps were burnt out two years ago in a huge fire, but I guess they'll grow back. The State and Australian Championships are staggered across different weekends in August-October, so that period (plus the Easter 3 days, which rotates around the States) is the main target for training. In recent years a crop of Australian elites chose to train in Scandinavia (i.e., they believed that Scandinavia was a better place for training), but most have gone home now.

I'm living in Washington DC, but it would be better living a few hours north of here, because DVOA seems to have a wider range of interesting maps than Quantico.
Oct 26, 2005 3:57 PM # 
A pity I can't argue with that last paragraph. I'll note, since I'm not sure MW has run there yet, that the terrain at Bowie this Sunday is radically different from the QOC norm, i.e. almost entirely flat with significant detailed areas. I hope he can make it to the meet.
Oct 30, 2005 2:36 PM # 
You'll find the answer to this question in my latest article on
Oct 30, 2005 4:28 PM # 
Congratulations Sandy on the NB awards nomination.
Oct 30, 2005 5:27 PM # 
Thanks! The competition is pretty tough but I have my fingers crossed. Regardless it is great exposure for orienteering.
Oct 30, 2005 6:28 PM # 
And how appropriate to be nominated for something called the Compass Sport Awards.

This discussion thread is closed.