January 1st, 2021

5 Things You Need To Know for Riding the Coast Zones, British Columbia

When I travel, the number one question I get is: “What is the riding like on the Coast?”

Riding the Coast area between Vancouver and Pemberton is pretty special. The area in general is one of the best places on earth for outdoor recreation.

Now don’t get me wrong, I actually enjoy riding in the interior of British Columbia just as much as I do at home. But for the sake of this article, I’m going to describe why the riding on the Coast is so epic, and 5 things you need to know to make the most of it.

5 Things You Need To Know for Riding The Coast Zones of BC

1. Where to Ride

In close proximity, we have a ton of wicked riding areas from Vancouver Island and the Sunshine Coast to Pemberton—all within a distance of only 150 km as the crow flies.

From the beautiful views on Brohm Ridge and the number one visited spot at Brandywine, to the epic vastness of the Pemberton Icefields, there is something for everyone. Here you will find open cut blocks, mellow and steep tree riding and open bowls with endless mountain views in every direction.

Thanks to the awesome snowmobile clubs here—Black Tusk, Powder Mountain and Pemberton Valley—there are groomed trails with quick access to these spots! Visit their web sites for updated conditions, web cams and the latest info. And be sure to purchase a trail pass!

With this area being so special for winter recreation, it also means some zones have been designated for use by cat-skiing, heli-skiing and ski touring operations, making them closed to motorized users.

So please do your homework on this as we have had some amazing individuals and groups working hard on keeping everyone happy and sledding zones here open. You won’t want to be the visitor that upsets it all by entering a closed area by mistake.

2. Weather

Conditions can switch in a matter of hours on the Coast. Staying in tune with the current weather conditions is the key to finding the good snow here.

Good weather forecast apps show temperatures at different elevations, which is essential to being able to accurately predict good conditions. Web cams like those at Whistler Blackcomb are also a huge help in seeing what’s going on up top.

Keep in mind that adventure and exploration are two main elements of sledding, so even when the conditions are poor, you can always find somewhere fun to explore.

Riding The Coast_-4
Following the conditions closely will allow you to find the best snow in the Sea to Sky for sledding or riding on two planks.

3. Avalanche Conditions

Generally speaking, avalanche conditions can be safer on the Coast than inland. The warmer temps can lead to better snow bonding, and less likelihood of avalanches.

However, since we do get warmer conditions and sometimes rain, conditions can also go from great to VERY BAD quickly. If there is special avalanche bulletin for the Coast, take it seriously!

Like anywhere you ride, prior to visiting the Coast you should check the local weather and snow conditions and the Avalanche Canada forecast bulletin for the Sea to Sky region or the South Coast Inland region, depending on where you’re planning to ride.

Riding the Coast Avalanche Canada Forecast
From the Avalanche Canada forecast bulletin for the Sea to Sky region, January 1, 2021.

4. Dress for Success

I remember my first ride around Jackson Hole, where it can be extremely dry and cold. I was always cold on that trip, but through that experience I learned what to bring when I travel to different areas.

This is no different than when you come to ride the Coast. Even though it is warmer, you can get cold quickly here due to sweating if you’re wearing too much, and also because of the humidity. It’s just as important to dress in layers when riding the Coast.

A good rule of thumb is: You should be cold in the morning getting out of the truck. If you’re warm when you start, then by the time you’re riding you will really be sweating, and then get cold when you slow down.

Always bring an extra fleece top or down jacket (which should be a part of any safety pack anyway), just in case. I usually add a layer when I head into the interior, so taking one off when you hit the Coast is a good rule of thumb. Just keep it in your pack so you can adjust to changing conditions.

Riding The Coast_-2

5. Dial It Back When Exploring New Terrain

We all have our local zone where we know most of the hazards and places we shouldn’t go. But when we travel to new areas, every bump in the snow or drop off is unknown—and that’s half the fun.

My general rule is to back off to 75-80% when I’m in an unfamiliar area. This ensures I have still have a great time without risking something bad that can ruin everyone’s trip.

Especially in the morning—take it easy, warm-up thoroughly and check out the areas you are riding first. Then once you’re ready, you can start finding and hitting those more challenging features.

I’ve said it a million times, but being with a guide speeds up this process. You may not need any help or tips as a rider, but a guide will get you to the best goods faster and with less energy. Consider hiring a guide and ask them about places that best suit the ability level of your group. They will be able to help you avoid hazards and explore unfamiliar zones with more confidence.

The result will be more fun out in the backcountry, and that is really what it’s all about!


– Dave


Dave’s adventures around the Sea to Sky area and beyond can be followed @davenorona on Instagram and @dave.norona on Facebook.