What do you want to learn more about?

Here you can learn about:

What is Orienteering

Where to Orienteer in the Calgary Area

How to Get Started (including safety rules and recommendations)

How does an orienteering event work? (including map legends and description symbols)

How we do GPS Orienteering

Links to More Resources (Foothills Orienteering club info, other clubs, o-news, gear stores, etc.)

What is Orienteering?

Orienteering is a sport that combines running and navigation — imagine a cross-country running race where everyone picks their own route.

Orienteering is suitable for all ages and fitness levels. It can be enjoyed as a walk in the woods or as a competitive race combining strategic thinking, navigation, strength, and high-intensity cross-country running.

This video offers an excellent explanation of orienteering (though you don't need to run fast like this elite orienteer):

The video below gives an excellent impression of a large international event in Switzerland, the Swiss O-week:

Here you can follow 2 juniors from Zurich through the forest during an event in Norway:

Here is a video created by Karin with some of our FWOC junior members:

Where to Orienteer in the Calgary Area

The best way to develop orienteer skills is to sign up for one of our club events.

FWOC members organise a variety of activities throughout the year, including Wednesday night (Spring/Summer) or Sunday Morning (Fall) city park events, training sessions, and weekend forest events.

The Wednesday night or Sunday morning events provide an opportunity to practice basic techniques, build your confidence, explore our beautiful city parks, and meet some really nice people. Every orienteering event has a variety of courses: from short and easy for children and beginners, to longer and challenging for more competitive and experienced competitors. The great thing about orienteering is you are free to go at whatever pace you feel comfortable with; you will see orienteers running and walking at every event. You can compete as an individual or go as a group.

If you want to practice orienteering on your own, here are some resources:

Alberta Parks' Fish Creek Park permanent orienteering course information (maps and brochures are at the bottom of their page). Note that the maps and information may be out of date, contact Alberta Parks for updated information.

How to Get Started (it's easy!)

You don't need to be able to read a map or run fast, just come along:

  1. Pick an event from the schedule.
  2. Read Alberta Orienteering Association's Safety Rules and Recommendations
  3. Dress to be outside (long socks or pants are recommended, bring a whistle if you have one).
  4. Arrive early and let us know if you need some pointers.
  5. Register and buy a 1-day membership to get your map (you can borrow a compass too).
  6. You're off!

How does an orienteering event work?

In an ordinary orienteering event, competitors run a course which is marked on their map from the start, through a series of mandatory locations that must be visited in order, and then to the finish.

The start is drawn on the map with a triangle, the mandatory locations, or controls, are drawn as circles and are numbered in the order they must be visited, and the finish is drawn with a double circle. The start, controls, and the finish are connected with lines in the order they must be visited to help follow the course visually.

At the location of each control, there is a marker, called a control flag, which has a unique control number (e.g. "53"). Competitors can look at the control descriptions on their map to make sure they are at the correct control location. The control descriptions also contain other symbols that describe the location of the control relative to a feature in the terrain (e.g. "at the eastern side of the large boulder"). If you are new, don't worry too much about control descriptions or ask another orienteer to explain some of them to you. You can print out an explanation of control descriptions and a map legend from the Maprunner website. Note that Sprint Orienteering maps (e.g. the University of Calgary map) use a slightly different standard and contain a few more symbols and colours such as areas that are forbidden to enter/cross (see the Sprint-map legend from Maprunner).

Control flags usually have some type of device to record the competitors' visit. It may be a uniquely patterned hole-punch or, more commonly these days, an electronic device, which works with a memory stick carried by the competitor. This is how the race organizers ensure that competitors have completed the course successfully.

Competitors choose their own route between each control. Simple routes involve following tracks and other line features like fences or creeks, more complex routes might involve following a compass bearing, running between point features like boulders or thickets, or following the contours. Finding the best route for you is the challenge.

At the finish, competitors hand in their control card or download the data from their memory stick to a computer. Results are then collated and if memory sticks (also called electronic punching) were used you can find out how long you took for each control and compare to other runners.

There are a number of different types of orienteering. Foot orienteering events are the most common format at Foothills Orienteering.

Foot orienteering (Foot-O) is the most common type of orienteering in Canada. Competitors walk or run around the course visiting the controls in order.
Similar to Foot-O but on cross-country skis. The map is a standard orienteering map with the trails highlighted to indicated navigability.
MTB-O is also similar to Foot-O but the competitors ride bikes and so generally have to stick to trails. The map is attached to the handlebars.
In Trail-O, competitors have to stay on the trails but the controls themselves are off the trail. When the competitor reaches the area of the control, they have to successfully identify the correct control from a number that will be visible.
Rogaines are events with a time limit rather than a set course; competitors try to visit as many controls as possible within the allowed time. Each control is worth a number of points based on how difficult it is to visit. The competitor with the most points wins. Rogaines are typically longer events — with time limits of 6, 12, or even 24 hours — and use a map with less detail and participants compete in small teams.
Adventure Racing
Adventure Racing often contains stages of orienteering or requires navigation in other stages.

Within the discipline of Foot Orienteering, there are a number of different race formats including:

The shortest races, these feature courses with many controls and shorter legs in between. Sprints are typically raced in urban or urban park environments and use a slightly different map design.
Middle Distance
Both Middle and Long Distance races the more "traditional" orienteering races, typically taking place in larger forested areas with a moderate number of controls (fewer than in Sprint races).
Long Distance
Like a Middle Distance Race, but longer.
Teams of 2 or more competitors, running one at a time on their own course. There are a variety of relay formats. In championship relays, Unlike individual races where competitors run by themselves, all first runners start at the same time and run a variant of the same course.

Links to More Resources

Foothills Wanderers Orienteering Club (FWOC) Information

Orienteering News and Discussions

Orienteering Gear

Other Orienteering Clubs & Associations