Adventure seekers explore off the beaten trail in Mackenzie

The ungroomed area provides all kinds of adventure after a three-mile ride from the staging area into the alpine

by Jessica Kirby

A snowmobiler cresting a hill near Mackenzie.
There is no end to options when it comes to snowmobiling in Mackenzie. Photo courtesy Marlon Spooner

Between search and rescue, trapping and exploring for the pure joy of it, Lawrence Napier knows his way around the Mackenzie backcountry. He’s cut in more than one major trail and guided groups on most of them, yet still manages to find virgin snow on every ride.

He loves to ride the Pine Pass area because the snow is plentiful and deep and the sheer size of the region means you can ride for days and never cross your own tracks.

“The Murray Range or Beaver Creek is one where you can’t carry enough gas to cover the whole area in one day,” said Napier. “I would venture to guess there are very few who have done all of the riding there is to do in that area.”

The ungroomed area provides all kinds of adventure after a three-mile ride from the staging area into the alpine.

“Then you can blossom out from there,” said Napier. “There’s riding for virtually everyone, with lots of hill climbing and generally lots and lots of snow. There are nice big bowls with huge run-outs at the bottom, so you aren’t coming down the hill and into the trees.”

For a longer but equally stellar ride, you can go hard all day and, if you don’t stop to play, make it half way to Tumbler Ridge. Another favourite of Napier’s is a trail beside Mount Murray that leads to Beaver Creek and on to the Burnt River area.

“I’ve seen people go in to Pine Pass and spend two or three days in there,” he said. “There is a lot to play on. Every time I’ve gone in I’ve been able to find at least one place no one has been.”

Memorable rides

One of his most memorable rides was to Bijoux Falls, where he’d put a trail in for trapping and snowmobiling.

“I took my wife in there and a bunch of friends and we went all day and then stopped for a weiner roast,” said Napier. “It was nice weather and there is beautiful scenery back in there and easy riding.

“You don’t have to get back into the mountains to enjoy that area. There are big meadows you can play in and there is also an historical element—I’ve found old trapping and guiding trails and a camp back in there too.”

One of his best stuck adventures involved a broken sled way back into Bijoux Falls territory and a 26-mile walk out.

“I sunk my snowmobile in the creek when the snow bridge collapsed under me,” said Napier. “Usually I just winch myself out with a rope, but this time my rope was about ten feet too short to reach. I was able to snowshoe to somewhere I could get on my sat phone and call my wife, who sent some guys out to find me. It was pouring rain and pretty wet.”

Last season, Napier logged some miles on Powder King and at Old Friend—his favourite destination at Bijoux Falls.

“A lot of people like Old Friend,” he said. “There is a lot of big hills—some you don’t want to climb and some you do—but the beauty is the play areas and that you can always find a place with no tracks.”

As a seasoned search and rescue worker, Napier knows his stuff when it comes to staying safe in the area.

“There is some avalanche terrain up there, but it is easily avoided,” he said. “You don’t have to go through it.”

Sledders can check out Canadian Avalanche Center for advisories and avalanche safety training in almost any area of B.C.

Meet the Rider

Name: Lawrence Napier

Hometown: Mackenzie, B.C.

Currently lives in: Mackenzie, B.C.

How many years sledding? 25

First sled: An old 1960s Moto Ski

Current sled: Two Bear Cat Arctic Cats, a 2000 and a 1995

What do you like about your sled? They will go anywhere. It’s good for me for search and rescue and for trapping, because even in deep snow they keep going. They can pull and carry lots and are a good overall trail-breaking type sled.

Would you change anything about it? I’d put a little more paddle on it.

What’s the best trail you ever made? I found a way through Mackenzie to Powder King through the back way. Not a lot of people have made that trip, but it’s not that hard—about six hours or 70 kilometres by road. I’ve gone from Mackenzie to Powder King, had a burger and rode back at end of day. We also put a trail up Beaver Creek and up to Old Friend. We knew what was up there from hiking through it and thought it would be awesome sledding, so we put in a trail and fixed it up so there is a lot of room for sledders.

Favourite type of riding: I don’t like hill climbing, but like getting into the hills and mountains and exploring. I’m not big on big groomed trails. I’d sooner be out putt-ing through the bush on trails I’ve cut and finding different areas to explore. And I always carry snowshoes.

Where do you want to ride in the future? Anywhere I haven’t been. I just look at the maps and find new places to explore.

What does sledding mean to you? It means an easier way to get out and enjoy all our province has to offer in the form of nature and seeing the nice countryside. It keeps a person fit and I enjoy the camaraderie and, at the same time, the aloneness. I can go out and sit at the top or the bottom of a mountain and just enjoy being there.

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