If Vancouver Island is the crown of British Columbia, then Strathcona Provincial Park is it’s most elegant jewel. Part of the unceded traditional territory of the K’ómoks First Nation, Strathcona Park is located in Canada’s extreme southwest corner. The 250,000 hectares that make up the park consist of rugged mountains and alpine landscapes, crisscrossed with numerous streams and rivers, and dotted with lakes and glaciers. It is a land of striking scenery, boundless nature, and endless adventure.
This park also happens to have some of the best recreational trails in the entirety of British Columbia, and is a perfect winter and spring destination for Skinbased skiing and skishoeing. With that in mind, let us take a deeper dive into some of the top spots for Skinbased adventures in Strathcona Provincial Park.
Perfect for a day or an after-work ski session, Mt. Becher offers relatively quick and easy access to gorgeous views and fun skiing terrain. This gentle giant features a rounded summit, and offers views of the expansive Forbidden Plateau and other nearby peaks. For XCD enthusiasts, the real joy is located on the peak’s eastern flank, at the sight of the old Wood Mountain ski resort.
One of the easiest ways to access the Strathcona in winter, it is normally possible to reach the start of this tour using only a 2wd vehicle. Beginning at the remains of the old ski operations, you can pick your way up the old ski runs to the top of the abandoned T-bar lift, near the park’s boundary. With the day’s best snow now most likely now behind you, it's decision time. If you are a xc-downhill skiing fan, you can choose from the near endless variety of fun descent options now at your feet. Many people spend the entire day on only this part of the journey, making multiple laps up and down the hill. If the summit is beckoning you onward though, continue southwest from the park boundary, passing two well-marked trail intersections, to eventually reach the summit of Mt. Becher. As always, exercise cautious and good judgement, especially on the upper parts of this tour, as variable snow can often make conditions challenging.
The Elk River Trail
Curving along the Elk River Valley, the Elk River Trail is one of the most popular outings in Strathcona Park, and for good reason. This 25km out-and-back tour follows the Elk River up to Landslide Lake, where you will be rewarded with an awe-inspiring view of the magnificent Mt. Colonel Foster. Along the way you will ski along a well-marked trail, passing through idyllic temperate old growth rainforest.
Often quite busy during the summer months, winter and early spring provide a perfect opportunity to enjoy this area in solitude. With only moderate vertical gain/loss, this Skinbased tour can be done either as a longer, single-day outing, or as a multi-day adventure, making use of the two backcountry campsites located along the path. Whichever way you choose, your KARs and WAPs will be sure to love it!
Mt Cain Alpine Resort
Mt Cain Alpine Resort and its surroundings have a reputation for hosting the best powder on all of Vancouver Island. In addition to the small downhill resort, the area is also home to 15 km of marked recreational trails and logging roads, all of which are easily accessible from the resort’s parking lot. Many of these trails and logging roads make ideal playgrounds for Skinbased ski tourers looking to find their own backcountry powder stash. Stunning views of Mt. Cain, snow-covered forests, and perfect tree skiing await you in this winter wonderland. You will need to be well prepared if you wish to access this area though; tire chains are required and a 4x4 vehicle is highly recommended.
These are just a few of the many excellent destinations for Skinbased skiing and skishoeing that can be found on the magical Vancouver Island. One of the best parts of Skinbased™ skiing on the island and in Strathcona Provincial Park specifically, is the variety in both terrain and adventure types. Whether you are happiest with a short afternoon tour in the forest with your dog, a long, multi-day trip in the backcountry, or spending time on the hill with your friends, you will find it all and more in Strathcona Park!
Photos: Giacomo Edifizi / Gamic Sports