A sledder kicks up a wake of snow in Golden, B.C.
GOLDEN, B.C. - So you're looking for fresh snow to ski and ride. Then why not slip a sled under your butt and take a sweet ride into the backcountry near Golden, B.C?
Snowmobiling adventures can range from beginner to outrageous terrain, offering some high adrenaline experiences.
That’s what you’ll find in Golden as the snowmobiling community there opened more than 40 kilometres of new groomed trails last season. Named the West Bench Trail, it brings the total of groomed or maintained trails to more than 240 kms in a sledders’ paradise of thousands of hectares of bowls, high alpine meadows and rugged valley trails.
More importantly, the newest trail will provide an enormous destination for beginners and families to enjoy safe riding. The West Bench Trail can be accessed from two different staging areas, making it accessible from either direction you come from on the TransCanada highway.
Local go-to guy and president of the Golden Snowmobile Society, Aaron Bernasconi said the trail is the perfect place to learn to handle a snowmobile.
“The trails in the higher elevation are great for sledders who know how to ride snowmobiles and have avalanche safety awareness,” said Bernasconi. “The West Bench is low in the valley and doesn’t have any threat of avalanche so people can head out and have a lot of fun.”
Just west of Kicking Horse Mountain Resort at the Golden Golf Club is the access to Gorman Lake sled zone and the head of the West Bench Trail.
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More experienced sledders can take to the 32 kms of maintained trail up to and beyond Gorman Lake. The elevation gain to 2,743 metres is quick to alpine meadows dotted with snow crusted trees. There are bowls and meadows, benches and cliffs covered in waist deep powder to carve and jump. Beyond Gorman is access to other epic sledding playgrounds of Holt, Lang, East Quartz and Cirque.
Local snowmobile enthusiast, Pat Garbutt said the West Bench heading west from the same parking area is a great addition to the trail system.
“The West Bench will be gentle enough for families to ride out on an adventure together,” said Garbutt. “What’s great is they can head out for as long as they want or spend the day completing the whole distance.”
West Bench Trail stays relatively flat on an undulating terrain, skirting the base of the Dog Tooth Range, crossing five different watershed regions. This will be great for riders looking to improve their skills or for the family looking for a great day in the snow. The trail stays below the tree line with a few open meadows and frozen lakes to add to the fun where sledders can kick up a wake of snow as they carve fresh tracks or play games. There are also a few places to go “off trail” to practice low angle climbs. The trail incorporates the club trails and a few old logging roads.
After 40 kilometres, the West Bench Trail links into the staging area for Quartz Creek or another access point for the valley trail. By turning back here (or starting here and coming back) the ride is about 80 kilometres and can easily be done in a day.
Photo courtesy Golden Snowmobile Trail Society
The Quartz Creek area is one of the most popular sledding zones in the Golden Area, reached quickly at 14 kilometres from the staging area. After ripping up the trail, a cabin supplied by the Golden Snowmobile Club is available to warm up in or to meet with other back country enthusiasts. From there, the terrain gets more advanced with massive bowls with untracked deep dry powder for the early bird riders. Ridges, huge powder fields, open glades and absolutely the most stunning views round out the region. Expect to see snowmobiles with snowboards strapped to the back. The glades prove to be great temptations to combine the sports.
The Golden Snowmobile Trail Society and the Golden Snowmobile Club work together to create and maintain the trails so a small fee is charged at the entrance to the zones. During the winter, most trails are groomed three times a week, the summer months are used to improve the condition of the trails and bridges.
The town of Golden sits comfortably at the junction of the frothy Kicking Horse River and the mighty Columbia River. On one side of the valley is the Purcell Mountains and the other, the Rocky Mountains.
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