Two Island Lake guests check out a large old growth tree while enjoying a day of snowshoeing.
FERNIE, BC — If you’re planning a multi-day trip to the backcountry paradise of Island Lake Catskiing, be sure to take some time out of your busy cat-skiing schedule to enjoy a tranquil snowshoe hike around the lake.
Island Lake is situated in the middle of one of Western Canada’s most unique forests, so it’s more than worth taking an afternoon to experience it up close and personal.
“We have a microclimate here in Fernie that makes the whole area unusually wet, and that’s why we have all of these old-growth trees,” said Mike McPhee, sales and marketing manager for Island Lake Catskiing. The typography of the mountains and valleys surrounding Fernie creates the unique climate, and channels precipitation in the form of soft, champagne powder.
The forest surrounding Island Lake is populated mostly by trees that one would expect to see much further west: Douglas Fir, White Spruce, Tamarack, Hemlock, and Engleman Spruce.
“These wet, old-growth trees are typically found right along the West Coast of Canada, all the way up to Alaska. Fernie is the furthest point east where you’d see a forest like this. Because of our microclimate, we have a coastal-style forest right here in the Rockies.”
Because Fernie is blessed with so much precipitation – around nine metres just in the winter – these trees are able to grow, and thrive. Each tree is coated with a thin layer of ice, which, when hit by sunlight, glitters like diamonds. It was one of the most stunning sights I had ever seen in my life.
“Island Lake is also home to Western Red Cedar, some of which are nearly a millennia old. Not only are the conditions perfect for these long-lived giants, but this forest has managed to escape wildfires for over 800 years.”
For sales and marketing manager, Mike McPhee, Island Lake is a special place and one that he is happy to share with others.
A relaxing snowshoe excursion is a perfect way to experience this woodland paradise, but there’s also the option of cruising the trails in a pair of Nordic skis; and the best part of all is that you don’t need to order a package to do it. Just call the Lodge and they’ll set you up with a beautiful morning/afternoon hike, topped off with an amazing gourmet lunch at day’s end.
The hike offers a great day for both veterans and rookies alike. For someone like me, who had never donned snowshoes before, I was able to experience the best of both worlds. We began our hike at a more relaxed pace on the fully groomed trail that runs all along the lake, but by day's end, the wealth of fresh, dry powder and interesting terrain was too much to pass up.
Bombing through knee-deep snow at a 30-degree incline makes for an intense workout, let me tell you.
The entire staff at Island Lake Catskiing clearly takes pride in their operation, and their land.
“We own about 7,000 acres in this area. We’re the only heli or cat operation in North America that owns its land.”
And it shows. Every trail is meticulously groomed and beautifully maintained.
“This is a special place. We all know that, and we do our best to make sure every one of our guests knows that by the time they leave. And with a forest like this, how could they not?”
For more stories and detail on Fernie check out our SnowSeekers' destination page.
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