GORMAN LAKE – Golden, BC
A medium –sized drainage that connects to a massive network of valleys beyond, Gorman is the access point for exploration of a huge part of the Dogtooth Range of the Purcell Mountains. You won’t find a lot of trees to ride, but there are bowls, hills and chutes as far as the eye can see.
One underrated benefit of riding Gorman is its proximity to town. At only 8km from downtown Golden, BC, you can be at the trailhead within minutes of fueling up. You don’t even have to get on the highway, which means you never have to be concerned about road closures spoiling your fun. In fact, a few locals have been known to tempt fate and the ire of the local constabulary by sledding directly to the zone from their own backyards.
From the trailhead, the 20km groomed trail follows a series of logging roads that wind their way up the bench and into the Gorman drainage. Along the way you’ll see the turn off for the West Bench Trail, which meanders its way north for 40km. But that’s not what you came for. Continue on, and before long you’ll find yourself cruising through some high elevation cutblocks with mammoth, breathtaking cliffs across the valley.
At the end of the trail, as you break through the trees into a meadow, be aware that you’re in big country now, and on both sides you’ll be exposed to avalanche paths. If you haven’t already got you your airbag handle, now is the time. Before gaining the lake, beginners will find themselves challenged by a mandatory climb of a short, but moderately steep hill that has thwarted more than a few greenhorns on their first attempt. Keep at it, and once you make it past that hurdle, it is relatively smooth sailing on up to the lake.
If it’s a sunny day when you crest the rise and look down over the lake, you’ll realize why Gorman Lake is such a popular place when the weather’s good. The lake itself is surrounded by a cathedral of gorgeous peaks, and the zone is just beginning. If however, it happens to be socked in or snowing, then you’ll quickly understand why you’re the only group there. With little in the way of trees in this alpine environment, it can be like navigating around the inside of a ping-pong ball when the weather’s poor. If that’s the case, then it’s best to cut your losses and head back down the play in the well-spaced trees alongside the cat-track below.
Around the lake there are several massive chutes to pull if that is your bag, but be aware that the slopes on the north side of the lake tend to be sun-affected and are less ideal. Also, if you feel tempted, as many do, to drag race your flatland compatriots across the lake, note that the edges of the lake are hard to see at times and there may just be a surprise jolt at the finish line.
Once past the lake, you can head either north or south over the adjacent passes into the next drainages. To the south lies Holt, which is a broad, roly-poly valley with numerous fun quarter-pipe and windlip features. North, however, is the direction to head if you’re looking to venture out far into the backcountry. When the visibility is good and snow tight enough, you can travel a long ways through Lang and Cirque Creeks, and on to Quartz Lake. You also access East Quartz via a burly climb to the west of Lang Creek. Each of these drainages is a mini-zone of its own, all gained from the same starting spot, Gorman.
Gorman Lake is maintained by the Golden Snowmobile Club and a $20 (cash only) day pass is required of non-members. BCSF members receive a discount on day passes. Access is via Dogtooth Forest Service Road, near the Golden Golf Club. Due to active logging, the use of VHF radio communication is advised. Watch for posted signs and give logging trucks the right of way. The parking lot is reasonably large and can accommodate 4-place trailers, although on busy weekends parking may overflow onto the roadside.
- Elevation: 2743m/9000ft
- Trail Distance to Alpine: 20km
- Difficulty: Advanced