The heaviest snowfall in years at Dakota Ridge recreation area has given snow enthusiasts what they came for while creating a few challenges for Sunshine Coast Regional District (SCRD) staff and volunteers.
“There is an extreme amount of snow — close to three metres of snow,” SCRD parks planning coordinator Sam Adams said Jan. 9. “This has been really, really crazy weather.”
Adams said the heavy volume of snow has narrowed the Dakota Ridge access road, exacerbating the usual traffic issues.
“People not familiar with the site don’t know the protocol, which is to use the pullouts. There is some confusion about the pullouts and there are some members of the public not taking heed of our policy to use chains,” Adams said. “All it takes is one person and that person can create a traffic jam.”
The sight of drivers climbing the hill without tire chains is a daily occurrence, Adams said.
“They block traffic because they get stuck. They also end up polishing up the road for other people, making it more icy, and they make big grooves that create ruts in the road.”
When passing oncoming vehicles, the vehicle coming down the hill has the right of way, but Adams said common sense should prevail.
“Wherever you are on the hill, the person closest to the pullout should get into the pullout,” he said.
Also, with more and more people venturing into the backcountry for snowshoeing, Adams said they have to be outfitted properly. They should carry a headlamp, extra food and water, and some way to communicate in case of an emergency.
Search and rescue had to be called in after one group got caught out after dark, he said. “People need to be really prepared to head into the backcountry,” he added.
Snowshoeing represents about 40 per cent of the activity at Dakota Ridge this season, with cross-country skiing and the sledding hill each drawing about 30 per cent of total traffic, Adams said.
While usage numbers were not yet available, Adams said weekend traffic has never been higher.
“We had most certainly our biggest Christmas holiday,” he said. “Now we’re looking to promote weekday use to spread out the traffic. The dance card is quite filled up on the weekend.”
Despite the access issues, the feedback from the public has been overwhelmingly positive, Adams said.
“I believe that 99 per cent of people going up there are having a great time, but from time to time there are issues. If our road was double the width and paved, we’d still have issues.”
Completed last month, the Dakota Ridge road upgrade project was worth almost $400,000, with about $320,000 of that coming from a provincial government grant.
A ribbon-cutting event is scheduled for Family Day, Feb. 11, to celebrate the road improvements, parking lot expansion, sledding hill and trail names with their Sechelt and Squamish Nation translations.
The ceremony will be followed by cross-country ski and snowshoe demonstrations and tours.