Video: Sledding in Kimberley, BC
Colin Wallace | On 09, Feb 2017
For the second year in a row, Mountain Sledder is back in Kimberley to sample some of the super dry, champagne powder and technical riding offered there.
Beat the Crowds
If beating the crowds is your style, then with no groomed trails, plowed parking lots or cabins, Kimberley will fit into your adventure sledding holiday quite nicely. In contrast, what it lacks in the backcountry for snowmobile infrastructure and managed areas, it makes up for with its family-friendly atmosphere in town.
Kimberley Alpine resort is one of the best family-orientated ski hills in the province. It is easy to navigate with mellow terrain and also offers night skiing. The extensive nordic ski trail scene offers groomed night skiing and a cozy lodge to warm up in, and for the more adventurous xc skier, there are endless possibilities right off the groomed trail.
The sledding around Kimberley can consist of anything from a family trail ride on a logging road to steep and tech tree lines in some super remote areas. If not everyone in the family is wanting a strictly sledding holiday, keep Kimberley in mind when planning a winter get away.
Like many small communities in the Columbia valley, Kimberley’s roots can be traced back to mining; the success of the Sullivan mine and the innovative techniques it developed put Kimberley on the map as one of the richest sources of lead, zinc and iron in the world.
The Early Days
The story begins in 1891 with the discovery of Galena on North Star Mountain (where Kimberley Alpine Resort is currently situated). Four prospectors arrived (Walter Burchett, EC Smith, John Cleaver and Pat Sullivan) and were saddened to discover that most of North Star Mountain had been staked. Undeterred, they found ore and staked three claims across the valley on the other side of Mark Creek on what is now known as Sullivan Mountain.
The partners formed a company called the Sullivan Group Mining Co. in memory of Pat Sullivan, who died in a cave-in at a mine in Idaho. The settlement of Mark Creek was formed to house the mine workers and was renamed Kimberley in 1896 after the very successful diamond mines in Kimberley, South Africa.
Ore was first shipped to the smelters in Nelson and Trail in 1900, and continued the long journey down south until a smelter was constructed in Marysville in 1903. Due to the difficult extraction process, the smelter in Marysville was shut down in 1907 and once again, ore was shipped to the smelters in the West Kootenays. In 1909, the Sullivan Mining Co was purchased by the CPR owned Consolidated Mining and Smelting Company of Canada which is now Teck Cominco.
The mine’s economic success can be directly related to the development of the differential flotation process that allowed separate recovery of lead and zinc concentrates in the milling process; this technology, developed by Trail smelter has been used worldwide for various types of ore bodies. In its lifetime, the mine produced ore containing over 17 million tons of zinc and lead and more than 285 million troy ounces of silver, which were together worth more than $20 billion. After 92 years of active production, the Sullivan Mine was closed in 2001. Since then Teck Cominco has been undertaking an extensive decommissioning and reclamation process at the site.
Economic shift to Tourism
In 1968, Kimberley officials recognized that the mining industry that brought the town prosperity and economic growth wasn’t going to last forever and looked for other ways to draw visitors to the area. In 1973 the Bavarian City in the Rockies theme was adopted and with the realization of the recreational potential of the area, Kimberley began its transition to tourism and resort destination. Today, the focus on tourism and recreation remains strong, but the Bavarian theme is only evident on some of the older buildings around town and has since been abandoned in favour of more contemporary architecture.
Kimberley is not your average sledding destination: there are no managed areas, no cabins, no groomed trails, and no plowed parking lots. That means there are no trail fees, no crowds, and unlimited potential for adventure. Good route finding and backcountry knowledge is a must, as there are no ‘sledding areas’ and you are completely on your own here.
The reward is untouched powder. Either riding trail with the family down one of the many logging roads or pushing up a creek to get to the alpine, chances are you will have the place to yourself. Just be aware that there are many wildlife and environmental closures in the area, so be sure to inform yourself about them here.
Most of the off-trail riding you will find here is gladed, steep, and technical tree riding. After a good snowfall, expect to spend some time with a shovel in your hand. It is possible to break out into a few alpine bowls, but you’re going to have to find those yourself as access is difficult and varies throughout the year as creeks get filled in and wind blows the snow around.
The alpine terrain is different around Kimberley and the far East Kootenays. The area grows a lot of larch trees—which lose their needles in the winter, giving the alpine an eerie desert-like feel and offering up great vistas.
94 octane fuel can be found and there is room to pull an enclosed trailer through most of the gas stations in town.
Unfortunately due to the smaller size of Kimberley there is no dealership, you will have to travel 31km down the highway to Cranbrook to find parts and service.