First chair all summer: Hike western Canada ski resorts
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UPDATED July 4, 2022
There you are, standing on the top of a ridge. You’ve been there so many times, your skis know exactly what route to fly down. But wait! You don’t have those trusty boards strapped to your feet.
No, it’s not a nightmare loop. With so many of our favourite mountain resorts in Alberta and BC offering their landscape to hiking and biking, this is your opportunity to explore the terrain without the snow. And no surprise, it’s just as fantastic in the summer.
Here’s our top picks for chairlift-accessed hiking in British Columbia and Alberta.
BC Ski Resorts offering exceptional hiking
Hike above the valley at SilverStar Mountain Resort. Mere minutes from the beaches in Vernon BC you will find the SilverStar Gondola lifting you (and your furry hiking buddy) to the summit to experience breathtaking views across the Monashee Mountain Range and the Okanagan Valley. From there, hike around the upper mountain trails or use any of four designated trails to the base, or just lingering to admire the view before riding the gondola back to the village. If you really want to work for your apres hike meal, forget the gondola (or the Comet Chairlift during weekdays) and hike/run the trails to the top.
If you’ve brought your mountain bike, rip down the designated bike trails any day of the week off the Comet Chair. If you’d rather go cross country, there are 70 km of purpose-built single-track trails looping around the village. If you are up to the challenge – try the 35 km Beowulf EPIC loop that includes ridgelines, cedar forests and grassy meadows.
Sun Peaks Resort invites you to hike through their alpine garden of wildflowers. Explore 18 designated hiking trails from easy sight-seeking strolls to lung-busting summit climbs. But don’t forget to smell the flowers along the way. Tod Mountain is home to a bountiful array of wildflowers. While the best views are during hot days of mid-July to mid-August, expect to find bloomers on any hike. Hike or use the Sunburst chair to access the high alpine meadows.
If smelling flowers isn’t your gig, roll out the mountain bike to explore the biking mecca. What used to be saved for the shredders on wheels, the Sun Peak bike park has changed – for the better. Rowdy trails like Insanity One and Smitty’s Steep are still there but they are building out to accommodate everyone from the learners to the burners.
Far out fun at Fernie includes excellent hiking trails. Who knew there was such beautiful foliage underneath that snowpack! Fernie Alpine Resort offers hiking routes from the base or, hop on the Elk Chair to explore ten rooftop trails with spectacular views in every direction. With so many of the trails listed as easy, it’s a perfect “gateway hiking” spot for the family.
Alberta Mountain Resorts offer epic alpine hiking
Hiking at Lake Louise Ski Resort, you have the best opportunities. Use the gondola or the chairlift to access the alpine trails high above the village. If you are lucky, the resident grizzly family will be noshing on the vegetation as you drift overhead. At the top, enjoy the trails to the west to view Kicking Horse Pass or around to the north to view Ptarmigan Valley. And once you are up there, slow down and enjoy a delicious lunch on the deck at Whitehorn Bistro while gazing out at Victoria Glacier across the Bow Valley.
Did someone say huck? Castle Mountain – tucked into the southwest corner of Alberta used to be a secret stash of pow but now, lots of powder hounds are making the trek in summer. But other hounds may want to know about the stash of huckleberries that coat the alpine slopes. The resort usually hosts a Huckleberry Festival at the end of August where people with their buckets head up the mountain to access the sweetest of the fruit. Here’s the link to the Huckleberry Festival.
Hiking at Castle Mountain Resort links the best of two landscapes. Castle is right next door to Castle Provincial Park so enjoy easy strolls along the Westcastle River or a lung-busting hike to the ridge tops of Mount Haig and Gravenstafel, and anything in-between! The best part is, once you’ve finished your hike, the famous T-Bar Pub and its equally famous nacho platter are waiting for you.
REMEMBER YOU ARE IN BEAR COUNTRY
Don’t forget, these resorts are all in bear country. Please travel prepared. Along with your first aid, lunch, water and camera you should be carrying bear spray. Check out our story on how to stay safe when you see a bear.