Club Profile: Blue River Powder Packers

The Powder Packers invite you to prance and plow your way through Blue River

by Kyle Born

A view from inside one of the snow caves that riders can find along Blue River's
A view from inside one of the snow caves that riders can find along Blue River's "Big Blue" riding area on North Blue mountain. Photo courtesy Patricia Tyacke

The main draw

Located 210 kilometres north of Kamloops on the Yellowhead Highway, Blue River is a haven for winter sport enthusiasts. The Columbia mountain system takes skiers and sledders up some majestic peaks for spectacular views of the valleys below. Annual snowfall can be five metres in town, guaranteeing at least a four-metre base up high.

The oldest and most popular area is bordered by the east and west sides of Groundhog Mountain, where families can play for a day in Blue River’s famed powder or take a tour with the local guiding company. Off the beaten trail is a whole other world that expert riders won’t want to miss.

Salmon Lakes is an extreme riding area where weekend warriors come to revel in endless chutes, climbs and tight alpine riding. The staging area is at the Finn Creek parking lot approximately 20 kilometres south of Blue River. The access point off the main Groundhog Trail is ribboned early in the year, but later on it can be tricky to find. Watch for a single track heading up into the alpine with plenty of boondocking on the way. Don’t expect to see another group, though—100 riders can easily ride the enormous area without crossing paths.

Visit the north end of Salmon Lakes for some incredible views of the valleys below, or check out the far west corner and look down on Blue River from the ridgeline. Play in any number of wide open bowls and meadows, but be sure to check the weather, because visibility can be low when the snow flies.

Blue River affords snowmobile riders a great deal of freedom to explore.
Blue River affords snowmobile riders a great deal of freedom to explore. Photo courtesy Blair Trueman

The club

Blue River Powder Packers (BRPP) is a not-for-profit organization tasked with the management of snowmobiling in the Blue River area. Established in the early 1990s as a social club, it has in recent years evolved into providing an organized, legal and responsible snowmobiling infrastructure in and around Blue River including the grooming and maintenance of trails and parking areas. BRPP has successfully negotiated land use agreements to ensure that snowmobilers have areas to ride. The club is a member of the Association of British Columbia Snowmobile Clubs.

Dave Bilsky in Blue River.
Dave Bilsky in Blue River. Photo courtesy Lynn Olson

How many kilometres of trails do you have?

Blue River Powder Packers maintain and groom over 60 kilometres of snowmobile trails that ribbon Blue River.

What are your top trails/riding areas?

With acres of alpine forests and meadows, the trails that meander through Blue River are enough to excite any snowmobiler. Surrounded by incredible mountains and wildlife, it’s no wonder this area is known as the “jewel of the Yellowhead.”

Groundhog Mountain

Groundhog Mountain offers two easy-riding peaks popular with beginner riders and families.  From a single access point, go west for an introduction to tree riding or east for open meadows and a perfect day of deep-powder play.

Elevation: 1,980 metres
Driving directions: Head south from Blue River on Highway 5 approximately 22 kilometres, then turn left onto Finn Creek Road, which is located on the south side of Messiter Summit.  Parking is available.
Distance from community: 22 kilometres
Grooming season: From December to March
Difficulty rating: Easy

Foam Creek

Excellent for intermediate riders, Foam Creek offers ample boondockin’ opportunities amid the fresh jumping powder that covers countless coulees, holes, hills and bowls. Here, creek beds that fill with four and a half to six metres of snow serve as natural highways to the alpine.

Elevation: 1,980 metres
Driving directions: Same as Groundhog Mountain, head south from Blue River on Highway 5 approximately 22 kilometres, then turn left onto Finn Creek Road, which is located on the south side of Messiter Summit. Parking is available.
Distance from community: 22 kilometres
Grooming season: From December to March
Difficulty rating: Moderate

Salmon Lakes

Groomed to within four kilometres of the alpine pine, it takes an experienced rider to enter Salmon Lakes. The area is the largest in Blue River and boasts the most extreme terrain; steep and deep powder and excellent tree riding. Seemingly endless lakes are the reward for riders who have the skill to make it up the first draw.

Elevation: 1,065 to 2,130 metres
Driving directions: Salmon Lakes can be accessed from the main Finn Creek parking area.  Head south from Blue River on Highway 5 approximately 22 kilometres, then turn left onto Finn Creek Road, which is located on the south side of Messiter Summit.
Distance from community: 22 kilometres
Grooming season: From December to March
Difficulty rating: Difficult

Big Blue and the Holy Grail

Though this trail might not have as much variety or as many trees as sledders might find at Salmon, the view and open beauty make up for it tenfold. On a day when the weather isn’t co-operating, head back down through the tree-covered trail and you can still get in a fantastic day of riding.

The Holy Grail is right next to Big Blue, and when you get there on a no-cloud day, you can explore both areas in the same day. You can’t see all of the trails in one day, but you can go to all different places, and all of them are unbelievable and spectacular.

North Blue region.
North Blue region. Photo courtesy Blue River Powder Packers

How do you get to the staging area?

Groundhog Mountain, Foam Creek and Salmon Lakes visitors should use the Finn Creek Parking Lot [Google Map]. Head south from Blue River on Highway 5 approximately 22 kilometres, then turn left onto Finn Creek Road, which is located on the south side of Messiter Summit at the chain-off area. Parberry and North Blue Valley visitors should use the Red Sands Parking Lot. [Google Map] Head north from Blue River on Highway 5 approximately two kilometres, then turn right at the big bear statue onto Red Sands Road.

Do I need to get there early in order to find a spot?

Step outside your door and onto your machine—snowmobiling season runs from November to April.

Is it plowed regularly?

Trails are groomed from December to March.

Do trail fees apply to all your trails/riding areas? If so, how much are the trail fees?

A trail pass is required for users sledding the more than 60 kilometres of groomed and marked trails. Riders are required to purchase trail passes for riding areas that are under management agreements. Trail passes are $20 for a full day of riding.

There’s plenty of opportunities for snowmobilers to carve up the North Blue region.
There’s plenty of opportunities for snowmobilers to carve up the North Blue region. Photo courtesy Blue River Powder Packers

How much is it for an annual membership?

Riders interested in supporting the Blue River Powder Packers and the development of the area are also able to purchase a club membership for $50.

Where can I get a trail pass?

All trails that are maintained require a trail pass. Groundhog and Salmon are managed areas, meaning all riders must purchase a $25 trail pass. Other trails are by donation to keep the groomer running and volunteers clearing trail. All passes and donations can be purchased at the trailheads, where booth attendants are available.

What kind of groomer does your club have?

Prinoth

Are there any cabins or warm-up shelters in the area. What are they like?

As of now, the club does not have any shelters, but there are plans to get some in place.

When and where do you have your club meetings?

Board meetings are held monthly at the Legion Hall.

What are your annual events and when do they usually take place?

The club hosts a Valentine's dance every year in February.

Is there someone who usually co-ordinates the events?

Administrator - Cheri Ewen -  [email protected]

How does a person join the club?

Riders interested in supporting the Blue River Powder Packers and the development of the area are able to purchase a club membership for $50.

Blue River receives a surplus of fresh powder every winter.
Blue River receives a surplus of fresh powder every winter. Photo courtesy Jeff Taylor

What year was the club started?

Early 1990s

On average, how many members are in your club?

There are six members on the board right now.

Who is the club’ president?

Bill Karas

If people want more information about the club or the area, who can they contact?

The Blue River Powder Packers are currently working on developing trail maps and expect the maps to be available at local lodging providers this season. Riders can also contact the Glacier Mountain Lodge or the Holy Smoke Inn B&B for riding information.
 

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