British Columbia provides some of the best skiing in North America, and Vancouver Island slopes are second to none! By virtue of its location between the Pacific Ocean and the Strait of Georgia, Mt. Washington gets heaped with snow during the season. Thrill-seekers can golf, sail or scuba dive in the morning, ski in the afternoon and revel in a hot tub in the evening. Whether you ski the diamond slopes or challenge the all-natural Snowboard Park, you’ll have a winter vacation to cherish for a lifetime.
There are two Ski Resorts on Vancouver Island:
Mt. Washington and Area
Mt. Washington Ski Resort is the premier resort on Vancouver Island, located in the Comox Valley west of Courtenay. The snow here is often deeper than anywhere else in British Columbia, and occasionally deeper than anywhere else in the world! That was Mount Washington’s claim to fame in late 1995. Try as they might, no matter where the staff called, no one could beat the more than 21 feet of snowpack that just kept falling and falling.
Mount Washington has long been known for having good snow conditions from early in winter to well past Easter. This accounts, in part, for Mount Washington being the second-busiest winter recreation destination in BC, behind Whistler/Blackcomb. It doesn’t take long to discover why this part of the province continues to attract new arrivals from across the country. With a temperate coastal climate, it is possible to ride bicycles on local trails year-round, yet be up in the snowfields with a half-hour drive.
A great deal of Mount Washington’s charm comes from its location. Mount Washington’s chairlift glides to a mile above sea level, and on a clear day, visitors have a 360-degree panorama of the Strait of Georgia and the Sunshine Coast from Powell River to Sechelt, with the peaks of the Coast Mountains rising in a long march behind. Closer at hand, the many peaks adorning Strathcona Park’s Forbidden Plateau region look equally magnificent. Take your fill of the inspiring vista and set off on one of the world-class alpine runs, groomed daily to ensure excellent run quality.
Snowboarding: Experience the thrill of the Snow Zone! Mt. Washington’s Snowboard Park includes 2 Terrain Parks and a half pipe maintained with a pipe grinder, guaranteed to test the most skilled of snowboarders. The slopes offer plenty of enjoyable and challenging runs down to the high-speed lifts that will return you to snowboard heaven.
Cross-Country Skiing and Cross-Country Snowboarding: Although Vancouver Island is renowned for its steep, rugged mountains, there’s also great beauty in the mellow, rounded hills and snow-carpeted meadows. This terrain is ideal for cross-country skiing and snowshoeing, great aerobic activities for the whole family, or the wandering couple and invigorating exercise for the fitness fanatics. Fifty five kilometres of quiet track-set trails, partially located in Strathcona Provincial Park, will provide enough terrain for the most demanding adventurer to explore.
Nordic skiers on Mt. Washington enjoy some of the most diverse and scenic trails in the Pacific Northwest. All trails are track-set for classic and have a centre lane groomed for skating. From the cozy, cross-country day lodge at Mount Washington, a series of loop trails offers workouts of between 3 and 12 km long across the gentle terrain of Paradise Meadows. All told, there are over 55 km of skating-style and double-track cross-country trails around Mount Washington.
Intermediate and advanced nordic skiers can take advantage of a specially priced lift ticket for the Red Chair, from which you can descend into the upper West Meadows along 10 km of tracked trails. For some of the best cross-country terrain anywhere, try the Lake Trail Loop and the Upper West Trail. There’s an unhurried nature to cross-country skiing at Mt. Washington.
Snowshoeing is the best and easiest way to access the outdoors in winter time. Strap on your snowshoes and hit the trails at Mt. Washington. Don’t miss the Lantern Light Cross-Country and Snowshoeing tour through the incredible meadows of Mt. Washington. Glide along under a canopy of stars, with only lanterns or headlights to guide you home.
Families that have diverse interests within their group will appreciate having both alpine and backcountry facilities within a short walking distance of each other at Mt. Washington. While some members are riding the ski lifts, others can be exercising in the quiet of the backcountry. Some of the best views of Mt. Washington’s alpine terrain are from out in Paradise Meadows.
Snowmobiling: Vancouver Island’s hundreds of kilometres of old logging roads provide convenient access to remote forests and mountain ranges. Snowmobile touring on the island combines exploration of unexplored areas with panoramic views of distant valleys and towering peaks.
With abundant snowfall and spectacular views, Mt. Washington is a great place for snowmobiling, offering unlimited adventure. Snowmobiling is not permitted beyond the 10-km marker! Snowmobile rentals are available in Courtenay and Campbell River, and guided snowmobiling tours can also be arranged.
Winter Camping: Self-sufficient skiers intent on winter camping use these trails as starting points for exploring the Battleship Lake and Lake Helen MacKenzie region and beyond.
Snow Tubing: Lift accessed and night lift, 3 chutes.
Rentals: Skis, snowboards, snowshoes and tow sleds are available from the rental shop at Mt. Washington. Mt. Washington Ski Bus Company departs daily from Victoria. Luxury coaches transport enthusiasts to the mountain, arriving prior to the lifts opening and departing shortly after the last run of the day. The bus ride includes on-board movies and meal stops.
The Mount Washington Ski Area lies 31 km west of Hwy 19 in Courtenay, and is accessible from Courtenay, Comox and Campbell River. Visitors can arrange to stay in either the on-hill accommodations or in the nearby Comox Valley. If you’re not into driving, shuttle buses to the mountain run from a number of hotels in Courtenay.
Mt. Cain and Area
Mt. Cain Ski Resort is located in Mt. Cain Regional Park, off Highway 19 north of Campbell River, and is run by the non-profit Mt. Cain Alpine Park Society. It is Vancouver Island’s only community owned and operated ski and snowboard facility, with plenty of enjoyable and challenging runs.
At Mount Cain you’ll find untouched powder which has built up over the week, virtually no line-ups for lifts and the friendly, welcoming atmosphere of a family oriented mountain. With its island interior location, Mt. Cain has drier snow than other Coastal mountains, and better spring skiing conditions. Mt. Cain (1,646m) is open on weekends and ski holidays in the winter, offering 18 downhill runs (vertical drop 450 m) and 15 km of unmarked cross-country trails to explore.
Mt. Cain is accessed from the Island Highway 19 and is located 8 km south of the Woss turnoff. It’s a 16-km ride on a gravel road from the highway to the day lodge. Roads are regularly maintained by the mountain’s maintenance department, assisted by the forest companies.