Braaapcountry - Snowmobiling This Winter
A shake of the snow globe and braapcountry enthusiasts find ourselves on the heels of another legendary winter in the Elk Valley. Emerging as one of BC’s best snowmobile destinations, Fernie serves up out-the-door, easy access to a delicious buffet of terrain suitable for a variety of powder palates.
The Fernie Snowmobile Association (FSA) works diligently with government and private land owners to secure access to five distinct riding zones in addition to providing services and amenities for trail users. The core 160km trail network up Coal Creek and Morrissey are groomed three nights a week with intermittent grooming at other locations when conditions permit. In addition to the Ram and Rolling Hills warming shelters, the FSA constructed an all new day-use Wrangler’s Cabin in summer 2018 to accommodate growing user numbers in the area. New bridges, expanded parking, and trailhead facilities have also been upgraded over the summer. Be sure to check out the events calendar, grooming schedule, trail conditions and more online at ferniesnowmobile.com.
Day passes are available for purchase at trailheads for $25. All off-road vehicles in BC require provincial registration and insurance. The Elk Valley has several access management areas established to protect wildlife corridors, sensitive ecosystems and to provide opportunities for non-motorized recreation areas. Be sure to check the RDEK regional access management maps available online before you head out exploring.
If you are new to the area or to sledding in general, reduce your learning curve by hiring a professional to show you the ropes. An experienced hand to help you understanding backcountry hazards, throttle control, body positioning, and how to make the machine work for you (instead of you working for the machine!) will contribute to a safe and more enjoyable experience. Those ready to venture out on their own can access novice riding via the popular Coal Creek trailhead. Travel 16km up the wide, groomed trail to reach the Rolling Hills Cabin which features a variety of nearby playzones suitable for all abilities.
Two trails extend beyond the Rolling Hills cabin to reach the new Wrangler’s shelter. These can be enjoyed as a loop for a great trail ride or the facility is also accessible from the Morrissey Staging area via a 17km groomed trail. Early risers can catch first tracks in the neighbouring open meadow or climb up the pipeline to reach the Notch for some of Fernie’s best open glade riding and un-paralleled mountain views.
Beyond the core groomed trails, exceptional riding can also be found in the Corbin, Ram, and Hartley recreation zones. These areas are groomed less often but provide access to alpine bowls and great technical riding opportunities for advanced sledders with suitable training and experience.
Know Before You Go:
Get the Gear: Avalanche equipment, sled rentals, clothing and airbag refills are available at Gearhub and Ghostrider Motorsports.
Get the Training: Elk Valley Snow Shepherds offers avalanche training, guides, and riding clinics. Wier Boondocking offers riding clinics and lessons.
Get the Forecast: Avalanche Canada provides updated bulletins, weather, and field observations for the Elk Valley. Be sure to check out the educational and entertaining AvCanada South Rockies Field Team conditions reports on YouTube and Instagram.
Get the Picture: Understand where you will be sledding and note the changing hazards throughout the day. Don't hesitate to adjust your riding plan accordingly to more conservative terrain choices.
Get out of Harm's Way: Practice safe travel techniques and terrain management skills. Only one rider on a slope at a time, watch your buddies from a safe location, do not group in exposed terrain.