Radium: Sled. Soak. Sleep. Repeat.

Radium Hot Springs, B.C., is the best place to shred the snow and sit in the springs

by Kyle Born

Dean Ingram gives a thumbs up of approval in support of sledding around Radium Hot Springs.
Dean Ingram gives a thumbs up of approval in support of sledding around Radium Hot Springs. Photo courtesy Dean Ingram

If there’s one thing Radium is known for, it’s the hot springs. It is, after all, part of the village’s name. As nice as it is to take a dip in the warm pools—and it truly is wonderful—most visitors to the area are missing out on an even bigger draw: epic sledding.

“You couldn’t have a better place to be than where I live,” said Dean Ingram, Windermere Valley Snowmobile Society club member. “I live in one of Canada’s most beautiful places. I like to be out in the mountains as much as possible.”

Hot water, cold powder

Sure, you could take in your surroundings while soaking in the mineral-rich hot water of the natural springs, or you could plunge into the pools after a romp in the powder. Radium’s picturesque setting isn’t just meant to be admired, it’s there to explore as well. For those who take the time to delve into the lush landscape, they’ll be rewarded with otherworldly vistas.

“I like to access areas that nobody has been in before,” Ingram said. “Some of the areas are a little difficult to get into. I take my wife out hiking in the backcountry in the summertime to check new areas out and then try to access them in the wintertime. We go on Google Earth and explore the valleys and go from there.”

Dean Ingram rides a 2017 Ski-Doo Summit 850.
Dean Ingram rides a 2017 Ski-Doo Summit 850. Photo courtesy Dean Ingram

And there certainly are a lot of areas to go explore. The most popular destination is Forster Basin. To access the open space, you’ll need to get to the staging area first, which is located west of Radium past a sawmill at the 19 kilometre mark on the Forster Access Road. Once unloaded, cruise through 50 kilometres of trails maintained by the club’s recently acquired 2011 Prinoth Bison Snow Cat groomer. Trails lead to the Forster Cabin warm-up shelter and open up into the Forster Meadows.

Dean Ingram stands proudly on top of a mountain near Radium.
Dean Ingram loves summiting mountain peaks around Radium. Photo courtesy Dean Ingram

“The area is fairly big,” Ingram said. “There’s hillclimbing to do and some nice meadows. The Catamount Glacier opens up February 15th, then it becomes a really big area. It used to be a heli ski area. The snowmobile club here fought to get us access to it from the 15th on.

“Once you’re up on the glacier, there are bigger mountains to climb. It’s vast and wide-open terrain. You can summit a mountain right to the peak. The ability to get your sled to the top is a challenge because of the lack of snow and the wind scour. Once you get up to the top, there isn’t a snow line. Sometimes you gotta do a little gravel riding to get to the top.”

Working for the weekend

The thrill of outdoor adventure beckons Ingram every winter, consuming the majority of his winter. “I ride pretty much every weekend,” he said. “I put 3,000 to 5,000 kilometres on every year.”

Ingram is such a dedicated sledder that even drastic accidents don’t keep him away from his favourite sport. 

Dean Ingram sleds down a mountain in Radium.
The Windermere Valley Snowmobile Society maintains trails around Radium Hot Springs. Photo courtesy Dean Ingram

“I tore my shoulder apart two years ago,” he said. “I hit a rock with my carbide tip and it ripped the handlebars out of my hands. It tore my shoulder apart. I had to have surgery. All the tendons in there. It felt like I separated it at first. When I went to the doctor, he said all the tendons were ripped apart. They had to cut it open and stitch them back together. It took a fair bit of rehab. It’s still not quite there yet. Even after I tore it, I still rode the whole year. I just tried to not be so radical out there, you know? Ha ha.”

If you happen to take a bump in your adventures or just need to unwind after a day of playing in the pow, there’s always the hot springs. After all, soaking in the springs soothes muscles, accelerates healing and relaxes both body and mind. Where else are you going to find world-class snowmobiling to coincide with natural hot springs?

Changing of the guard

“Radium is one of those unpolished gems,” said Gary Prosser, president of the Windermere Valley Snowmobile Society. “It’s steep and deep.”

Radium sledders are sure to notice and appreciate the recent changes in the region. Three years ago, Prosser took over as president of the club.

“When I attended the first meeting, I saw that there was no direction or plan, but I found out that the club has a lot of potential,” he said. “I stepped up and said I wanted to be a director so I could help turn this club around so we can get more members and have more activities going on.”

During this brief time, Prosser has managed to take the club to a whole new level. Here are some of the notable achievements that the club has accomplished in the past few years:

  • Named outstanding club of the year for all of Western Canada by the British Columbia Snowmobile Federation (BCSF)
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  • Finished first in Invermere’s Santa Claus Parade for non-profit, the first time the club has been a participant
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  • Put together a business plan
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  • Purchased a new groomer, a 2011 Prinoth Bison Snow Cat, to replace the old and unreliable one
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  • Organized a successful poker run, the first to happen in at least 10 years
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  • Participated in a local ride put on by Avalanche Canada to help educate backcountry users
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  • Held a fundraiser lunch for local search and rescue
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  • Created a new logo to refresh and revamp the club’s image, including a clothing line so members can show off their pride in their club by wearing toques, hats, shoes and shirts and hoodies

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