Sleds, Sights & Overnights

Snowmobiling in the beautiful, busy West Kootenay backcountry. While not as outright mammoth or as well-established as snowmobiling super-spots elsewhere in the Columbia Basin (see: Revy and Valemont in particular) the mountains and meadows of the West Kootenay pony up a fine selection of sledding for everyone from Mom and the munchkins to high country hooners alike.

First and foremost, snowmobilers and snowbikers around here understand that the West Kootenay is chalk full of popular recreational zones set aside for backcountry lovers of all stripes — snowshoers, ski and snowboard tourers, cat and heli-ski operations plus a lot of resource-based industry traffic, and our kingdom of critters too.

Know Where You Go, Bro

There’s details on a couple great volunteer sledding stewardship groups to reach out to for details on groomed trails, forestry roads and cabins. Before you head out though, you need to know the drill – get the gear, the training and the forecast. Whilst on your trips, check Avalanche Canada and DriveBC, daily. 

From The Gar (aka Castlegar) to Nakusp, Kaslo and waaaay beyond, snowmobiling happens around here from early November to mid-May. There are hundreds of kilometres of groomed trails, bountiful ungroomed terrain, and a small network of warming huts and overnight cabins. (Warm up cabins are usually supplied with firewood, a barbecue and first aid. Overnights fetch around $50 an evening. Be sure to pack out all you pack in.)

In and around Castlegar and the south end of the Slocan Valley, the Castlegar Snowmobile Association (CSA) are the fine folks who know the ropes. Both the CSA and the Nelson Sno-Goers Snowmobile Club — made up of very dedicated and hard working volunteers — promote sled safety, avalanche awareness and backcountry ethics.

Snowmobiling in Nelson. Photo by Billy Stevens.

The CSA grooms over 70 kilometres of trail — that’s 43 miles for our neighbours from down south. To help cover costs, they charge $120 for a season pass, or if you’re visiting, $15 for a day pass.

OK, Let’s Fire It Up

Starting in the west. Paulson Pass, up near Nancy Greene Lake along Highway 3, is known for its rolling hills, views into Boundary Country and the provincially-maintained rec and cabin site at Walker Creek. Lots of cutblocks, lakes and meadows. To the south of Castlegar, Bombi Pass is just 20 minutes from town, up 3A. Service roads and moderate slopes abound. Motoring east and north, the terrain begins to veer from family-fun to double-black-or-double-back, in the jagged Valhallas. 

Up Pass Creek Road from Castlegar – often icy, and always twisty — Goose Creek is family oriented and groomed, with two warming huts — Shaw, and Frosty’s, which can be booked for overnights. The Norns and Lady Bird areas are where the bigger kids play. Both are considered advanced zones — lots of potential avalanche traps, alpine slopes and chutes. Sledders in this neighbourhood will begin to encounter backcountry ski traffic, and are likely to spot or hear the odd snow cat or helicopter loaded with paying and enthusiastic guests and guides. 

The Nelson Sno-Goers Snowmobile Club have a great understanding of terrain east of the Valley, through the Rover, Six Mile, Crusader, Springer, Lemon Creek, Give Out Creek and Redfish Creek drainages. Rover is groomed, but keep in mind, you’re near Snowwater Heli Skiing’s micro-village and terrain. Obey the signs and respect the other backcountry users.

Cabins are maintained in Rover, Give Out, Six Mile (Crusader) as well as Meadow Mountain — which includes the tenure for Selkirk Snowcat Skiing way past Kaslo, beyond the north end of Kootenay Lake. Again, mind the signage and cat-ski season rules. 

Harlow Mountain is one of Nakusp’s most popular snowmobiling areas. The simple to access, family friendly trail is a 17 km groomed logging road surrounded by high, beautiful mountains. If the conditions are right, sledders can drop into No Man’s Land One and No Man’s Land Two to enjoy an untapped wonderland of pristine scenery.

Ingersol has 25 km groomed trail is accessed via the Arrow Park ferry and old logging roads. Terrain is varied from easy to extreme. Riders who scale the trail are able to access the Arrow Lake Ridge Riders sizeable lodge. The cabin comfortably seats a dozen people and is equipped with a diesel generator and large deck.

If you need more info from the pros in the know, call the shops — Playmor Power (Slocan Valley), Main Jet (Nelson) and Glacier’s Edge (Beaver Valley).

In the meantime — visit Nelson Snogoers and Castlegar Snowmobile Association to get your snowmobile holiday plans plowing ahead. The Arrow Lake Ridge Riders snowmobile club maintains the Nakusp area trails. Purchase a Club membership before heading out.

Want to learn more about snowmobiling in the area? Visit the local tourism websites.

Enjoy the #WestKootRoute