Attention snowmobilers, are you ready for the ultimate ride?
The picturesque mountain village of Valemount, BC, only one hour west of Jasper, AB, and McBride, BC, another half hour farther west, await you.
These scenic communities are nestled between three magnificent mountain ranges—the Rockies, the Cariboo and the Monashee.
World-class alpine snowmobiling terrain offers challenges for even the most experienced riders, whereas the many groomed trails give novice riders the chance to experience the same spectacular scenery and alpine riding experience. There are also family trails that offer a little something for all riding levels.
The Valemount-McBride area is famous for the earliest snow fall and lots of sunshine, with an average of 1,651 hours of sunshine per year, making it a perfect destination for all winter outdoor activities. The average annual snowfall is between 15-22 feet. Winter temperatures average 14 degrees F. Winter in this area typically begins in mid-November and ends in April, although spring riding and skiing may continue through to May. From December to March, the alpine trails provide deep, fresh powder snow for snowmobilers and skiers, while spring offers harder surfaces, allowing access to areas isolated in the earlier winter months.
Six Main Riding Areas
The six main riding areas with groomed trails are Clemina Creek, Allan Creek and Chappell Creek, all south of Valemount off Highway 5, and Mount Renshaw, Bell Mountain and Mount Lucille near McBride. The spectacular bowls at the end of the trails offer an amazing play area. Imagine sledding through deep powder snow with a breathtaking view that goes on forever and slopes that extend into the sky.
An additional riding area ideal for those looking to brush up or polish their riding skills is Westridge, accessible from the west side of Valemount. The 13.5-mile loop is ungroomed but still offers ent views of the valley below, as well as the town of Valemount. A warming hut is also located at the far end of the recreation area. An added bonus of the Westridge area is that it offers access to some stellar mountain riding and hillclimbing, although it’s advised that only advanced riders tackle that part of Westridge.
The next closest riding area to Valemount is Clemina Creek, located about 19 miles south on Highway 5. A 13-mile groomed trail leads to the alpine where you’ll find incredible scenery and even more incredible—and challenging—riding in bowls and meadows in the Monashee Range. About three more miles down the highway and on the opposite side is Allan Creek, the largest riding area near Valemount. A short but relatively steep (you gain 2,000 feet during the trek) 4.3-mile groomed trail leads to an alpine warming hut. From there the riding opens up into what looks and feels like endless bowls, meadows and steep hills. Until you experience the riding here, it’s almost impossible to explain just how good it really is.
Finally, there is Chappell Creek, a 36-mile drive from Valemount but most definitely worth the drive. The groomed trail here is 16 miles long, with the last four miles an intermediate-level climb into the alpine. It’s here that sledders will find the deepest snows and bottomless powder.
Maps showing the riding areas in the Valemount area can be found on www.valemount.org/varda/. You’ll also find out information on what fees VARDA, the Valemount and Area Recreation Development Association, charges sledders to ride the area to help pay for grooming as well as to keep the areas open to snowmobiling.
Here Comes The McBride
Near McBride, Highway 16 divides the riding areas with Mount Renshaw on the north side of the highway and Bell Mountain and Mt. Lucille on the south. The Renshaw area is the largest mapped-out snowmobiling area in British Columbia and has an 18.5-mile groomed trail that leads to the fun.
Bell Mt. is west of the Dore River, while the Mt. Lucille riding area is east. Bell Mt. offers nine miles of groomed trails, which lead to the alpine and awesome views of the Cariboo Range. A relatively new cabin is located at the end of the trail and serves as a great base camp for exploring the area. Bell Mt. is the closest riding area to McBride (the trailhead is just two miles from town), making it the quickest to get to. Just because it’s close to town doesn’t mean the riding isn’t challenging. Some of the best hillclimbing and boondocking around is in the Mt. Lucille area, accessed from a 7.5-mile groomed trail. A heated cabin also sits at the end of the groomed trail, again, providing a perfect base camp for a day of riding in terrific terrain.
And if you want to take a break for a while, there are several additional backcountry cabins that allow you to relax and warm up in cozy comfort while enjoying the unparalleled natural beauty of the mountains.
While the stunning beauty of the Rockies, Cariboos and Monashees will captivate any mountain rider, the one peak that dominates the landscape for miles around is Mount Robson, which soars into the sky to the tune of 12,972 feet, making it the highest point in the spectacular Canadian Rockies.
While you’ll find plenty of snowmobiling to keep you occupied for days, there are other winter activities the entire family can enjoy, such as skating, hockey, curling, fitness and games rooms or hot tubbing. How about a relaxing massage to soothe your tired body? The opportunities are endless.
After a day of playing in the snow, you’ll need to rest your tired and weary bones. There are some great hotels, B&Bs and restaurants in Valemount and McBride.
Elevation 2,529-8,202 feet
Snowfall 180-260 inches
Miles of Groomed Trails 69
Full Service Town McBride, Valemount
Nearest Airport Prince George (129 miles from McBride, 181 from Valemount)
Getting Started McBride & District Chamber of Commerce (866) 569-3366 or www.mcbride.ca; Village of Valemount (250) 566-4435 or www.valemount.org
Getting There The Robson Valley sits just west of the British Columbia/Alberta border and Jasper National Park amongst three different mountain ranges. The Village of Valemount is located just south of where Highway 16 intersects with Highway 5, while McBride is west of the same intersection on Highway 16.
Getting Around There are snowmobile rentals available in the valley. Contact the respective chambers of commerce to find which businesses offer the service.
Bedding Down The Terracana Ranch Resort (866-968-4304) is located right in the middle of it all on Highway 16, halfway between Valemount and McBride. Your comfort is assured in cozy log cabins overlooking the mighty Fraser River. All your meals are included in the rate with the best in homestyle cooking and a hot packed lunch ready and waiting to take on the day’s activities. Terracana definitely caters to sledders with lounge, big screens, games rooms, premium fuel, a heated shop, drying room and security cameras in the parking area. You can even head to the spa and enjoy a massage. It’s all far more affordable than you might think with sledding packages, VIP discounts and other specials.
Another lodging option, this one located in Valemount, is the Cougar Mountain Lodge (250-566-9119). The lodge burned down a couple of years ago but has been rebuilt bigger and better. Breakfast is included in the room rate. Call the lodge for rates.
Eating Out As mentioned in the Bedding Down section, some meals are included in those lodging options. Or there are plenty of dining establishments in both McBride and Valemount.