Plenty of Places to Ride in the southeast Kootenay
DISCLAIMER: Snowmobiling in the mountains carries inherent risk. It is up to the rider to gain the necessary training, skills and experience required for safe snowmobiling in the mountains, and to exercise caution in areas with avalanche danger and other hazards.
Where to begin? Fernie is a logical choice, especially if you’re coming from Alberta. Only two hours and 15 minutes from Lethbridge and three from Calgary, this friendly, eclectic town has access to five zones—one of them being Coal Creek, just five minutes from downtown. Staging and groomed trail access is provided by the Fernie Snowmobile Association (FSA). An extremely active group, the FSA maintains some 160 kilometers of trails throughout the Fernie area, plus three warm-up cabins. You can visit the FSA website, or follow them on social media to get the latest grooming and snow reports. Speaking of snow, Fernie is known for its light, dry powder that comes in abundance—as much as 11 meters is known to fall in a season.
Fernie is also home to a world-class ski resort. It’s no surprise then that the town is geared highly toward winter visitors, offering excellent choices in dining, entertainment and accommodation. Après sledding at its best! Another reason you may want to begin your trip in Fernie is that it has the region’s best variety of terrain. The rolling hills and pow-filled meadows are good for beginners, while more advanced riders can discover steep climbs and hidden alpine bowls. The rugged limestone peaks of the South Rockies, Lizard and Flathead ranges also make for some dramatic scenery.
Once you’ve had your fill of Fernie, it may be time to hit the next sledding sweet spot in this region.
An hour’s drive west will bring you to Cranbrook and into the Purcell Mountains via Lumberton.
Managed by the Cranbrook Snowmobile Club, Lumberton has over 50 kilometers of groomed trails, two warm-up cabins and tons of tree riding of varying degrees of difficulty. A number of small lakes, cutblocks and some relatively open alpine areas can be found here as well. But if you want to get at the real goods, you’ll quickly need to get accustomed to riding off-camber and in the trees.
Riding elevations range from 1400 m at the parking lot to over 2300 m. When it comes to snow and weather, Lumberton benefits from its own microclimate. Frequent storms are often followed by those amazing bluebird days we all yearn for. Both Cranbrook and its neighbour to the northwest, Kimberley, are known for having an abundant supply of sunshine hours, even throughout the snowiest months of winter.
If you find yourself really into the region’s technical terrain and have befriended some locals along the way, it may be time to check out Kimberley.
This friendly, laid-back town also has the Purcell Mountains to thank for its awesome snow conditions as well as large variety of wintertime activities. From downhill skiing and snowboarding at Kimberley Alpine Resort to cross-country skiing, fat-tire biking and snowshoeing, there is something for every kind of winter visitor. Kimberley also has all the dining, shopping and other amenities you’d expect from a resort-based community. The only thing missing? Organized snowmobiling. With that in mind, if you are thinking of sledding Kimberley, know that you are on your own. Strong navigation skills are needed to access what is mostly very tight and highly technical riding. For more information about the southeast Kootenay region, visit Sled Kootenay; or Tourism Fernie, Tourism Kimberley and Tourism Cranbrook. – Kirsten