There are two Ski Resorts in the Cariboo region:
The rolling landscape of British Columbia’s Central Interior region was meant for cross-country skiing. The many frozen lakes and the extensive logging road network ensures plenty of variation. Despite the extremely cold weather of the Cariboo in the harshest months of winter, there’s still a very strong upside: no bugs, no bogs, just blue skies forever! And in the distance, the peaks of the Cariboo Mountains promise extended, untracked snow-trekking routes for experienced backcountry explorers. This same terrain and the favourable conditions provide snowmobilers with 6 months of outstanding snowmobile riding.
Troll Mountain and Quesnel/Barkerville Area
Troll Mountain Ski Resort offers some of the finest family skiing in British Columbia. Generous snowfalls provide good conditions and the southwestern exposure provides skiers with pleasant days and fine skiing conditions. The mountain offers a great range of terrain that is ideal for the novice and intermediate level – a great ski hill for the entire family.
Troll Mountain Resort is located 27 miles (44 km) east of Quesnel, midway between Quesnel and the historic towns of Wells and Barkerville on Highway 26.
Guest ranches in the Cariboo-Chilcotin are lively places in winter, when skiers come to explore the trails that many ranchers groom around their spreads. Nowhere do the trails match those of 108 Mile Ranch, but farther north in Quesnel, Forest Renewal BC seed money was recently used to upgrade the routes around Bouchie Lake, just west of Hwy 97. One thing that Quesnel or a village like Wells, an hour’s drive east of Highway 97 in the Cariboo Mountains, has is an abundance of character that can’t be replicated at a lodge or ranch. Quesnel’s riverfront on the Fraser has the ambience of a city, while Wells has the ongoing gold-fever vitality that once invigorated nearby Barkerville.
The pistes de resistance in Wells run through a beautiful, steep-sided valley where moose graze year-round in the open meadows and the tracks of ptarmigan and ravens, coyotes and rabbits, beaver and muskrat can all be seen as clearly as ski tracks in the snow. Most skiers can easily cover the 5-mile (8-km) route between Wells and Barkerville, or other trails that loop around Wells. More advanced cross-country skiers head from Barkerville Historic Park past the ghost town of Richfield and up Mount Agnes, where 14 miles (23 km) of trails lead through the heavily forested countryside around Groundhog Lake. For information on cross-country skiing in Wells, call the Wells Trails Society, 250-994-0001 or 250-994-2352. The annual Wells Winter Carnival takes place in January.
Experienced cross-country skiers will be challenged by the 8-km unmaintained Jubilee Creek Ski Trail on the Bowron Lake Road, 6 km from Barkerville, which leads to the foot of Mount Murray. The circuit used for the popular canoe route at the Bowron Lakes Canoe Route east of Barkerville, provides a great 73-mile (116-km) cross-country circuit during winter, accessed off the Bowron Lake Road north of Barkerville.
The cross-country ski trails are also good at Ten Mile Lake Provincial Park, north of Quesnel on either side of Highway 97. Farther north at Hush Lake are the Hush Lake Cross-Country Trails (25 kms), accessed from the Hush Lake Rest Area. Southeast of Quesnel at Hallis Lake on the Quesnel Hydraulic Road are 25 km of trackset and groomed trails at the Hallis Lake Cross-Country Trails.
Mt. Timothy Ski Area and 100 Mile House Area
Mt. Timothy Ski Area lies in a snowbelt area that enjoys sunny skies and warm temperatures. Mt. Timothy Ski Area is located 14.5 miles (23 km) east of Lac La Hache, 44 miles (70 km) southeast of Williams Lake in the South Cariboo.
Arguably the best track-set cross-country skiing in the Cariboo is found at 108 Mile Ranch, the home of ‘Mr. Cross-Country,’ Gunner Rasmussen. Not that Rasmussen promotes himself as such. He’d much rather talk about going for an outing when the moon is full, his favourite time to be out on the trails. In the rest of the Nordic ski community, Gunner is acknowledged as the single best representative of the spirit of skiing in the Cariboo. And the 120 miles (200 km) of community trails that loop between his home in 108 Mile Ranch and 99 Mile House are unmatched anywhere else this side of Washington’s Methow Valley. Rasmussen came to the Cariboo from Denmark in the 1980s and opened a ski and bike shop. A former cross-country ski and bike racer, he joined 100 Mile House’s Nordic Club, one of the most active, well-organized ski clubs in British Columbia, with a roster of more than 150 hard-core members.
The trails are divided into two categories. Close to 108 Mile Ranch the terrain is gentle: perfect for the gliding style that makes cross-country skiing such a rhythmic experience. Beginner and intermediate skiers will find these groomed routes just their speed. Closer to 99 Mile House at the 99 Mile House Cross-Country Trails you’ll discover 12 miles (20 km) of steep, high-performance trails with tight corners and a variety of technical sections suited to marathoners. Many of the trails in both 108 Mile Ranch and 99 Mile House are also lit for night skiing, though nothing tops moonlight. Over 20,000 visitors a year come to enjoy the cross-country skiing here. A user fee per day is charged, which includes the use of a large log chalet built by the 100 Mile Nordic Club in the mid 1990s. Ice skating is also possible here.
100 Mile House is the home of the Cariboo Cross-Country Ski Marathon, run each February. To show that skiing is serious business here, the town’s Visitor Centre is adorned with the world’s largest pair of skinny skis, accompanied by a pair of 30-foot (9-m) poles, pointing skyward out in front of a modern peeled-log cabin. Trail fees are collected at the 100 Mile House Visitor Centre, 108 Mile Ranch, or on the honour system at a drop box at the 99 Mile House trailhead on Hwy 97.
Purists looking to cut their own cross-country tracks in the Cariboo should head 58 miles (36 km) east of 100 Mile House to Canim Lake. In summer, this is serious angling country. Once the big, 23-mile-long (37-km) lake freezes over, the landscape turns into significant backcountry touring turf. Several lodges at Canim Lake and nearby subalpine lakes remain open year-round.
For a substantial cross-country ski experience, don’t miss Big Bar Road. Located about 4 miles (6 km) west of Hwy 97 near Clinton, this road accesses over 35 miles (60 km) of ungroomed trails. Approximately 12.5 miles (20 km) north of Williams Lake off Highway 97 are the well-developed Bull Mountain Ski Trails (10 miles/16.5 km), maintained by the Williams Lake Cross-Country Ski Club.
West Lake Provincial Park, 18 miles (29 km) southwest of Prince George off Hwy 16, is a favourite spot for cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, and tobogganing. The 9 miles (14.5 km) of ungroomed trails are usually suitable for cross-country skiing from December until April, and its large picnic/day-use area has the added advantage, during those cold winter days, of an enclosed shelter for cooking.
Winter Wonderland by Marisa Paterson, courtesy Cariboo Tourism Association.