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.”
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.