Sledding into Radium’s thin air

Snowmobiling around Radium Hot Springs, B.C., was an experience this writer won’t soon forget

by Kirsten Armleder

Snow billowing behind a snowmobiler who was jumping and the Bugaboo spires in the distance.
A big thank you to Mark Starr, Thierry Provencher (pictured here) and the other members of the Windermere Valley Snowmobile Society who were kind enough to put up with my camera-happy trigger fingers. Kirsten Armleder photo

If Mark Starr, president of the Windermere Valley Snowmobile Society, had any reservations about guiding a snowmobile writer and her husband into what may be the best-kept secret around Radium Hot Springs, he certainly didn’t show it.

It was the morning of December 23, 2015, and we were unloading 16 kilometres up the Bugaboo Forest Service Road. With Starr in the lead, we began our ride into Rocky Point.

Fog hung low in the sky, keeping temperatures to a frigid -20 C and worst of all, visibility to a minimum. But as the trail climbed, steady and steep, we found ourselves in the sunshine with the promise of a bluebird day.

Two snowmobilers looking at mountains in the distance.
Mark Starr (L) and Monte Smith enjoy the view from 9,800 feet. Kirsten Armleder photo

After crossing a few slide paths (avalanche safety equipment and training is a must here) and winding our way through a hefty timber jungle, the trail opened up to what I thought were the goods: a huge rolling meadow flanked on either side by colossal mountains. But Starr kept going, and I thought "How much better could it possibly get?"

Much better. Over the next pass was an open canvas of small to medium-sized rolling hills, gullies and wide open faces that left nothing to be desired—except maybe trees. And snow. As the name implies, Rocky Point is known for being hard on A-arms and it takes a lot to cover the landmines here.

After making a few tentative turns in the powder, we headed for Rocky Point Ridge. To be honest, I was a bit intimidated by the sheer size of it all, but, pulling up my big-girl panties, I grabbed a handful of throttle and followed Starr to the top of the ridge where right in front of us stood North America’s most famous cluster of sheer granite spires—the Bugaboos.

A view of the Rocky Mountains.
Behind us on the ridge in the distance we could see the Rocky Mountains as well. Kirsten Armleder photo

Stopping at where the altimeter read 9,800 feet, I climbed off my sled and stood in complete awe. On this day, Radium had delivered more than just great sledding. And it wasn’t over yet.

The next day, Starr and Steve Langevin of Radium Snowbike and Snowmobile Rental toured us into Brewer Creek, another unmaintained and awesome area near Radium Hot Springs. Of course, I had to get some seat time on a snow bike—I’ll tell you more about it in the future—but for now, you’ll just have to believe me that when it comes to snowmobiling or snow biking, Radium Hot Springs is the place to go for the kind of terrain and scenery that will take your breath away.

Snow biking in Radium.
Five minutes on the bike and Monte Smith was ripping through the trees like a boss. Kirsten Armleder photo

When you go: 

If it’s your first visit to Radium Hot Springs, try Forster Creek first. Rocky Point and Brewer Creek are both unmaintained areas that can be challenging to access. That may change in the future, however, as Starr said there are plans to expand the Windermere Valley Snowmobile Society’s grooming program beyond Forster Creek.

See our Snowmobiling in the Columbia Valley page for more information about Forster Creek. 

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