Slide into Quesnel’s winter scene for chill skiing, après

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Quesnel is a northern BC hub for winter activities, from skiing and snowboarding to cross-country skiing, with Hallis Lake Nordic Centre just outside town and Troll Ski Resort less than an hour down the road.  

Quesnel, BC - Savannah Robinson jumps into her skis and surveys Mike and Cara Nault with a quick glance. The couple are standing trailside, fiddling with their cross-country skis.

Though the Naults are winter sport enthusiasts (they and their family are all snowboarders and their kids are in hockey), the couple are less familiar with the brand of sliding here at Hallis Lake Nordic Centre, about a 15-minute drive from the town of Quesnel. At the confluence of the Fraser and Quesnel Rivers, Quesnel is a quietly surprising, chill winter hub, a laidback town of about 10,000, with Troll Ski Resort just 48 kilometres up the road, lakes close by for ice fishing and cross-country skiing here at Hallis Lake.  

In a beat, Robinson hops in to help sort out the binding issue and get the Naults on their skis. Then she offers to guide them out onto the trails. Like many of the Cariboo Ski Touring Club’s members, she wears many hats - junior racer, biathlete, ski tech. She knows Hallis Lake's 40 kilometres of cross-country skiing trails (and another 10km of snowshoe trails) like the back of her hand, and there’s a lot more to it than meets the eye. 

What does meet the eye, however, is nothing to scoff at. Pulling up at Hallis Lake, you walk up to a classic log cabin-style lodge, with ski racks out front next to wide groomed tracks leading in all directions. There is a stadium loop where major races begin and end, and lit trails for night skiing. 

Inside the lodge, ski rentals and a tech shop provide support to everyone from recreationalists to elite athletes. The ubiquitous scent of hot wax mingles with old wood in an intoxicatingly cozy way. And, to complete a nordic outing, some hot chocolate on the deck for après. By the time they leave, Mike’s a convert. 

LET QUESNEL'S WINTER SCENE CONVERT YOU TO #SKINORTHBC. 

“In all the years I’ve lived here I’ve never been up here,” says Mike, with a satisfied smile. “It was quiet, not overly crowded, there’s lots of trails - I couldn’t believe how much they have here. I was shocked when I looked at the map. Almost enough that you could get lost!”

Cara Nault skis with a friend at Hallis Lake Ski Centre.

That’s not to suggest he is giving up his regular pursuits, only that he’s diversifying. And Quesnel is a great place for the winter sport generalist. There’s ice fishing, snowshoeing (read more about that here), and up the road, there’s Troll Ski Resort, where the Naults are aiming for this evening. 

In between daytime and evening pursuits, they pop back into town to Rocky Peak Outfitters, the local ski and outdoor gear shop. Then, over to the Barkerville Brewery, a convenient and tasty place to refuel. While the craft beer is the main draw, the kitchen deserves equal attention, with plates ranging from meaty, cheesy delights to refreshing vegetarian charcuterie. 

SLIDE INTO QUESNEL THIS WINTER FOR A #SKINORTHBC ADVENTURE.

The obligatory selfie of the evening comes as the couple walk up to the Billy Barker Hotel. Designed like a giant steam-driven paddlewheeler, the kind that used to ply the rivers up here, it is a sight to see when it’s all lit up at night. 

  • Quesnel BC winter scene
    Stocking up on outdoor gear at Rocky Peak Outfitters. / Bonnie Grenon
  • Quesnel BC winter scene
    A flight of Barkerville Brewing Co. beers hits the spot. / Bonnie Grenon
  • Quesnel BC winter scene
    Mike and Cara Nault grab an obligatory selfie outside the Billy Barker Casino Hotel. / Jeremy Derksen

But the day isn’t over yet - there’s still some downhill riding to come. The Naults being the passionate snowboarders they are, it’s off to Troll Ski Resort, just a 45-minute drive from Quesnel, for an evening rip.

Night skiing has returned to Troll after a 20-year hiatus, and the Troll faithful are gobbling it up. In true community fashion, when the Naults roll up there are large firepits, a big screen showing ski movies and a camaraderie that’s hard to find anywhere else.

Winding it down with a local Barkerville beer by the fire at the Troll lodge, after their busy day cross-country skiing, exploring and hitting the slopes on their snowboards, the Naults are pretty satisfied with a day well spent sliding into Quesnel’s winter scene.

WHEN YOU GO

Quesnel is a 1h25m drive from Prince George.

Book your own Quesnel #SkiNorthBC ski and stay package with discounts on your stay, activities and dining at: 

For more winter inspiration and travel tips, visit Tourism Quesnel.

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