The big mountain experience in Golden, B.C.

This SnoRiders staff writer ditches the keyboard to experience Golden’s riding zones first-hand

by Kirsten Armleder

A woman carving on a black sled.
Whether you are a sledder or a skier, Golden's claim to fame is its light, dry champagne powder. Monte Smith photo

It was mid-January. Snow was scarce in our neck of the south Rockies, so my husband and I thought Golden, B.C., would be our closest and best bet for finding some fresh stuff. Elevations in the riding zones around there reach 9,000 feet and consistent temperatures in the alpine keep any snow that has fallen light and dry.

This would be our third visit to Golden, and since we had yet to ride Silent Pass, we decided to give it a try.

After paying our trail fees at the toll booth, we switched on our two-way radio, and it was a good thing because four kilometres up the Spillimacheen Forest Service Road, we met our first logging truck. According to the Sled Golden website, log hauling takes place seven days a week on this road, and although it’s wide, the last thing you want to do is surprise a loaded logging truck driver.

It was 46 kilometres to the staging area and when we arrived, our hopes of finding fresh snow were dashed a bit by the sight of a full parking lot. Apparently, this was a more popular area than we had originally suspected. Trying to muster some excitement, we found a place to park and unload the sleds.

What the riding was like

Thanks to the Golden Snowmobile Trail Society, the trail had been groomed the night before and it was a smooth ride right from the start. Grooming stopped at about 14 kilometres, and from there, a narrow single-track trail wove its way through the trees.

Excitement and a little trepidation mixed in my stomach, for I knew something special and very large was waiting for us at the top. One more steep poke through the trees and we reached the main riding area.

Vast and expansive, the terrain here consisted of meadows and rolling hills surrounded by colossal mountains. After smashing what powder we could find along the edges of the first meadow, we decided to do some exploring. I wouldn’t say the conditions were ideal but the hardpack did make it easy to climb anything we wanted.

At the top of one hill, we rested and surveyed our surroundings. Finally forgetting the worries of everyday life, I revelled in the view. Peaks and valley stretched as far as the eye could see. From here, I even caught a glimpse of the Spillimacheen Glacier.

All too soon, it was time to head back to the truck and press on to Golden. Refreshments and a hot tub were waiting there for us.

Day 2: Blaeberry River

On our second day of riding, we had a slightly different experience. Knowing the bigger zones would be more populated on a Saturday, we decided to give the Blaeberry River northeast of Golden a try. We were also told that some of the best snow actually falls in this valley.

The Snowmobile Trail Guide we had picked up at our chalet indicated the Blaeberry was an unmaintained area that offers valley trail riding and low avalanche hazards; this area was a good choice for the day, considering avy conditions that day were high and visibility was limited due to a heavy fog hanging in the air.

There were only a few trucks in the parking lot when we arrived but the trail was already rough, and in no time, it had us wishing we had just gone to a groomed area. But we pressed on, whoop after whoop, and finally found an old logging road that was covered in a thick layer of fresh snow.

Making fresh tracks

This led to a series of cutblocks that looked as though they hadn’t been touched all year. After making some pow carves, I felt my mojo—which had disappeared somewhere along the trail ride in—coming back to me.

At this elevation, we were above the clouds and the lighting was perfect for pictures. After taking several shots and getting stuck, unstuck and then re-stuck, we paused for a break. Enjoying our peaceful surroundings and the fact that we had found some untouched snow, we felt fulfilled and ready to call it a day.

Golden is an amazing sledding destination. Not only are the scenery and terrain spectacular, but the people are as well. Everywhere we went, we felt at home. An unspoken principle seems to exist here that dictates as long as you love snow, you are welcome in Golden.

Where we stayed

Cedar House Restaurant & Chalets served as a home base for our Golden sledding trip.

Tucked away on a hillside overlooking the town and Kicking Horse Mountain Resort, this privately owned hideaway offers six separate chalets and one suite.

Ours was the Dragonfly Chalet, which is the newest on the property.

Upon arrival, we found ample parking right next to our chalet, and plenty of space inside to hang our riding gear. The next order of business was to start a fire in the wood stove, which took all of five seconds, since everything—right down to smallest of details—had been carefully prepared for us.

Our chalet also had a full kitchen, satellite TV, a sundeck and a hot tub. As any sledder would agree, there is truly no better way to unwind from a day in the backcountry than a good soak in your own private hot tub.

The next night after our ride, we tried out the restaurant. Apparently, it is a popular place—we had to make reservations beforehand. But it was worth it. Each dish is carefully crafted using locally sourced meats and organic produce. The chef takes great pride in his work and I don’t believe I’ve ever had a better meal.

Thank you to the owner, Darrin DeRosa, and the staff at Cedar House Restaurant & Chalets for making our weekend of sledding that much more golden. 

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