WOLVERINE – Tumbler Ridge
By Mike Reeve
Living in Alberta typically means long hauls to get to good mountain sledding. Calgary sledders usually head west to Golden, Revelstoke and beyond. Edmonton folks travel to McBride, Valemount and Blue River. Grande Prairie, however, isn’t nearly that far from the BC border. Only about a 30 minute drive straight west will take you into BC, and a little over an hour beyond that you start into the eastern edge of the northern Rocky Mountains.
Located 115km south of Dawson Creek on the BC side, and 185km west of Grande Prairie, is the small mining town of Tumbler Ridge. Although Tumbler doesn’t have any snowmobile dealerships, it is no stranger to snowmobiling and does have basically everything else you need for sledding. In it you’ll find a couple of fuel stations, hotels, restaurants, hardware stores and even a community rec centre. And Tumbler has a strong snowmobiling community. In the past they’ve hosted sanctioned hillclimbs, have built a well developed trail system, and there are acres of backcountry exploring to be had. Most recently they’ve established a snowmobiling club and even purchased a groomer.
It was December in Grande Prairie and we wanted to go for a day ride, so we loaded up the trucks and headed west to shred the early snowpack in Tumbler Ridge, and more specifically, an area known as Wolverine. From Grande Prairie there are a few ways to get there, so we decided to skip the fully paved road from GP to Dawson for a shortcut over the Heritage Highway. This route has about 80km of gravel road, but shaves off about 100km from the drive.
We pulled into town early in the morning, hit the Shell station and pressed on west, past Tumbler on Hwy 29 towards Chetwynd. After only about 5km we arrived at the Wolverine FSR & Mine Road. Depending on the time of the year, access on the Wolverine Road can vary in length. Being early in the riding season, we were able to drive about 8km past the Wolverine Mine. The FSR is not maintained past the mine and pullouts can be hard to come by, so it’s recommended to pull out where you can and unload there, especially if you have a trailer. Heading in, we passed a couple of abandoned trailers in the ditches before finding a turnaround and unloading. We rode in the remaining 25km on the Wolverine Road until we reached the warming hut. The snowmobile community has constructed a small emergency day-use shelter, and this is where we decided to drop our fuel.
Within Wolverine there are a few different riding areas: Albright Ridge, Rogers Pass, Pyramid Mountain and Carnage. It’s a pretty diverse zone offering logging road and cut-block access directly to the base of some large peaks. There are also larger open bowls and great early season tree riding. Our December day was about -5C and windy with mostly flat light and about 18” of fresh snow from the night before, so we decided to stick to the trees and lower-lying areas in the Albright Ridge zone at around 1100m elevation. With the new snowfall, even the access on the forestry roads and cut-blocks kept most everyone in our group on their toes, and stuck sleds were all too common. The Wolverine region gets some of the most snowfall of all the Tumbler Ridge riding areas, which can make accessing the higher zones a lot of work after a big snow dump.
With the diverse terrain and good snowpack, Wolverine has something for all types of rider. If you’re into throwing a shovel for a while, there are a lot of areas in Carnage to build booters and air out the sled with long downhill landings. If you tour around the top of Albright Ridge on the east side, you’ll find good wind lips and some exposed rock drops that can be tons of fun. And just up from the cabin there are plenty of tight tree lines that can be either climbed or descended, depending on how much fresh snow there is. We’ve ridden the area as early as December 1st; and as late as May 15th, despite a few bare spots on the FSR going in, there is still typically a good base up top to tour around on. If you’re planning on heading back there, it’s suggested to take a guide, although accessing the cabin via the FSR is pretty straightforward.
The access just doesn’t get much better than Tumbler Ridge for an Albertan sledder looking for an easy day trip or a weekend getaway to the mountains.
TUMBLER RIDGE STATS
- Tumbler Ridge Population:3000
- Areas in Wolverine: Albright Ridge, Rogers Pass, Pyramid Mountain & Carnage
- Elevation: 840m – 2000m (2760ft-6560ft)
- Riding Season: Dec 1 – May 15
- Skill Level: Beginner – Expert
- Mobile Service: Nada
- Distance to Grande Prairie: 220km to unload
- Distance to Fort St. John: 200km to unload
- Distance to Dawson Creek: 140km to unload