The Sunshine Coast’s long suit is brightness, which, when combined with winter whiteness, produces a dazzling effect. Hang onto your ski poles! Cross-country skiing is the choice of winter recreation pursuits. Snow often remains in the forest well into June, by which time most visitors have wisely headed for the beaches.
Great winter recreation is near Sechelt, where you’ll find 12 miles (20 km) of well-developed cross-country ski trails on Mount Steele in Tetrahedron Provincial Park. The Tetrahedron Ski Club built the trails as well as the four sturdy, 12-person, first-come-first-snooze cabins that lie at a variety of locations throughout the park. To find your way to the trailhead from Hwy 101 in Sechelt, follow Sechelt Inlet Road for almost 6 miles (10 km) to Tuwanek. Turn right on Upland Drive, then right onto Carmel Place to reach the Gray Creek Logging Road. Drive about 7 miles (11 km), following the ski signs affixed to trees along the way. The road is plowed as far as a parking area in winter.
Cabins with wood-burning stoves are located at Batchelor Lake, Edwards Lake, McNair Lake, and near the summit of Mount Steele. All but the expert 3.8-mile (6.2-km) return trail to Mount Steele are rated as intermediate runs. Bring your skins, as many of the approaches climb the steep-sided, clear-cut hillsides to Gilbert and Edwards Lakes. Trails lead from the cabin at Edwards Lake up to the Mount Steele cabin above or down to the cabin near McNair Lake. A popular loop route runs from the parking lot to Edwards Lake and then returns via the cabin at Bachelor Lake.
For experienced, avalanche-prepared skiers, there’s backcountry ski touring in the Panther Peak section of the park. For more information on these trails, contact the Forest Service district office in Powell River or Sechelt, and obtain a copy of The Trails of the Lower Sunshine Coast. Tetrahedron Ski Club is another good source of information.
Dakota Ridge is a winter paradise offering world-class cross-country skiing and snowshoeing. The 1,532-acre plateau features 9 miles (15 km) of cross-country ski trails (classic and skate), 2.4 miles (3.9 km) of groomed snowshoe trails, and 1.7 miles (2.7 km) of wilderness snowshoe trails. The trails wind through old-growth forests and open areas in a beautiful subalpine setting. Topping out at 4,000 feet (1,200 metres), amazing views of the Coast Mountains, Vancouver Island, and Georgia Straight capture the magic of the Sunshine Coast.
Dakota Ridge is located at the end of Field Road in Wilson Creek. The main parking lot is located at the trailhead, 14 km up the forest service road. The access road is plowed on a regular basis. However, winter conditions should be expected on the road. Due to the nature of the road, access is restricted to four-wheel drive vehicles with chains. All terrain vehicles are not permitted in Dakota Ridge.
Dakota Ridge is a user pay system with onsite facilities that include a warming hut with fireplace and an outhouse with ecologically sound holding tank. Fees for the ski and snowshoe trails help to pay a portion of the cost of maintaining the trails, road and facilities. More information on Dakota Ridge is available from the Sunshine Coast Regional District, which operates the recreation area.