Sledding in the heart of the Kootenays

The economic hub of the region is also a full-fledged sled town

by Kirsten Armleder

A man soaring through the air on a white sled.
Jumping, hillclimbing or playing it safe on the trails—whatever your riding preference may be, Cranbrook has the kind of terrain that pleases just about every sledder out there. Kirsten Armleder photo

I’m partial to snowmobiling in Cranbrook, B.C. Why? Well, for one, it’s my home and the other reason is the terrain is so diverse that we have everything from casual trail and lake riding to technical tree riding and hillclimbing—along with incredible scenery and light, dry powder. What you won’t find here, though, is the big mountain riding that’s characteristic of coastal B.C. but if you know where to look, there are some serious alpine bowls where only the experienced dare to explore.

Plus, our riding areas see fewer people than the bigger destinations, such as Revelstoke and Valemount, so it’s not uncommon to make first tracks. I’d like to keep it that way and discourage anyone from coming here but my editor says I have to write this article promoting Cranbrook as a sledding destination, and since I’d like to keep my job so that I can fund my favourite winter hobby, I will comply with his instructions.

The hot spot

Unlike Revelstoke and Valemount, we only have one maintained riding area, which is Lumberton, but it’s a fairly large area and our local club does an excellent job of taking care of it.

In addition to grooming the trails in the winter, the club also looks after a beautiful two-storey cabin. For as long as I can remember, the Cranbrook Snowmobile Club has been an active group that is devoted to promoting environmental stewardship and backcountry safety. The club also organizes an annual poker run, which is always a big hit. Last year’s event featured over $3,000 in cash and prizes. The event usually takes place in February but keep in mind the date may change depending on weather conditions.

Alternate rides

Lumberton may be our only “official” riding area but you can drive an hour in any direction from Cranbrook and be at the base of a different mountain or in a river valley.

Wild Horse and Perry Creek are a couple of alternate riding areas to Lumberton. They are popular choices for local riders and both of these areas can offer an easy or a challenging ride—it just depends on your level of experience and sense of adventure.

Wild Horse and Perry Creek are rideable from December to April. If you’re careful, you might even be able to ride them in November, but remember that early season riding could result in a wrecked pair of A-arms (believe me, you don’t want this). January is usually the best month for powder around here but if you’re looking for bluebird days, plan to hit it in March or April.

Visitors are also asked to be mindful of caribou closures, especially in the Lumberton and Perry Creek areas. And, as always, when sledding in the mountains, check the avalanche bulletins from the Canadian Avalanche Centre before you head out. 

Need a place to stay? No problem

Cranbrook is the largest city in the Kootenays. As such, there are plenty of restaurants and hotels for those who are planning a visit, and if you blow a belt or need a part, there are three snowmobile dealerships in town—Arctic Cat, Yamaha and Polaris—to assist you.

All in all, Cranbrook’s a pretty sweet sledding destination and if Mother Nature is kind to us, we’ll have lots of snow this winter to share, visitors included.

For photos and videos of sledding around Cranbrook as well as information on the Lumberton Snowmobile Trails, see the Cranbrook Snowmobile Club’s website

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