Not too many people know that the Sunshine Coast has a winter playground.
Visiting Dakota Ridge is an amazing way to enjoy all that fresh snow has to offer right here on the Coast. While the weather may be foggy or rainy at sea level, a trip up the mountain to this winter wonderland promises snow fun for the whole family during the winter months.
The Dakota Ridge 2013/14 season is scheduled to begin Dec. 15, and if you take advantage before then, you can save 10 per cent on your season passes.
With a four-wheel drive and chains to negotiate the 14-km, scenic logging road that rises to the Dakota Ridge winter recreation area near Wilson Creek, you can access multiple cross-country ski and snowshoe trails. In addition to road and parking area enhancements, Dakota Ridge now also features a new sledding area and, for the first time, trails in the extensive system have been given names derived from the Sechelt and Squamish First Nations languages.
Rolling hills beneath yellow cedar, mountain hemlock and fir are blanketed in sparkling snow. Topping out at 1,200 metres, on a clear day the views from 19 km of world class cross-country ski trails (classic and skate) and seven km of snowshoe trails include the Salish Sea, the North Shore mountains and Mount Elphinstone, creating a real “sea to sky” composition that is fantastic for photographers looking for stark contrasts.
To access Dakota Ridge, turn north off Highway 101 onto Field Road. At the end of Field Road, turn right onto the logging road. It is a good idea to have your chains on or at the ready before moving into the snow zone.
The Sunshine Coast Regional District, in cooperation with community volunteers, maintains the road to Dakota Ridge and the trail system.
Dakota Ridge is growing with nine km of new cross country ski trails this season, and new activities being planned with each additional season. Once at the ridge, you will find a parking lot, trailheads with maps, an outhouse with an eco-holding tank, a newly refurbished Quonset warming hut with a wood stove and picnic tables inside and a user-pay system. There are no garbage facilities, so be prepared to pack it out with you. Dogs are permitted in designated areas, but must be kept on a leash.
Snowmobiles also start at the trailhead, so all are encouraged to be mindful near the start and finish of their loops. Trails are clearly marked with signage with snowshoe and skier symbols on them.
Enthusiasts are reminded that conditions can change abruptly and they should carry emergency supplies at all times. There are six green circles along the trails to mark where users may be able to get cellular phone reception (this is dependent on weather conditions and service provider). Keep extra clothing, food and water and even sleeping bags in your vehicle in case road conditions become impassible.
A growing group of dedicated volunteers provides assistance with operations and management, monitoring the trails, answering questions and reminding users of the pay policy. Day rates are $15 or less depending on age for cross-country skiers, snowshoers pay $8 or less, and children 12 and under can use the facility for free. Group rates and season passes are also available. There is also a flat fee of $6 per vehicle for all visitors who are not purchasing a snowshoe or ski ticket or pass. This fee supports the cost of road maintenance. Season pass holders have the opportunity to ski at other winter resorts, such as Cypress Mountain, Lost Lake in Whistler and Whistler Olympic Park at discounted rates. For example, Dakota Ridge season pass holders can receive 25 per cent off Cypress Mountain’s regularly priced, full day lift ticket, and off their regular cross-country area trail ticket price.
For information on passes, and to learn more about snow and road conditions or for driving directions, go to www.scrd.ca/Dakota-Ridge or find us on Facebook.