It was looking dicey last week but several rainy days at lower elevations have translated to snow at Dakota Ridge, allowing the higher altitude recreation area to open Dec. 20 – within two days of the scheduled opening.
“To us it really does feel like a Christmas miracle,” said Jamie Mani, owner of Alpha Adventures, which provides tours and shuttle services to the recreation area. “If you look at Facebook imagery on Dakota Ridge … it was dirt in spots. Now there’s one picture of a volunteer groomer who stepped off the machine and dropped to his waist. That’s pretty miraculous.”
The Sunshine Coast Regional District (SCRD), which operates the recreation area, posted on social media Dec. 20 that overnight the area had received 25 centimetres, creating a base of 90 centimetres – enough snow for a partial opening. Last week the SCRD had planned to open Dec. 18.
Mani said “an intense storm system” over the past week is to thank for the turnaround and volunteers and staff have been working to prepare the trails.
Trails open include Sechelt Main, Squamish Main, Wren, Chickadee, Yellow Cedar, Squamish Loop Connector and Hemlock to the First Lakes. Balsam Loop, Raven's Loop and Blueberry Trails “are not quite open,” according to the Dakota Ridge Facebook Page.
Dakota Ridge isn’t the only area to benefit from the snow. Cypress Mountain’s Nordic ski area, which is close to the same elevation as Dakota Ridge, opened Dec. 19. “They’re serving a much bigger population,” said Mani. “The fact that we’re open within a day of each other, that’s pretty awesome.”
While snow may be plentiful, temperatures have been fluctuating, resulting in slippery road conditions leading up the mountain.
Drivers heading up the Forest Service Road should use all-wheel drive vehicles with snow tires and have snow chains at the ready. The speed limit for the road is 30 kilometres an hour, which Mani has asked people to respect. “You need to exercise caution. I know everyone is hungry to go and see snow but when you travel that road you need to be prepared for it.”
Those hungry to get up there can also look forward to sunny days and cold temperatures over the next week, which Mani said could make for ideal conditions. And another “Christmas miracle,” he said.
Updates on conditions can be found on Dakota Ridge’s Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/Dakota.SCRD
More details can be found at: https://www.scrd.ca/dakota-ridge
For those who would rather skate, a free public skate is scheduled for Saturday, Dec. 21 at the Gibsons arena from 2 to 4 p.m. Donations for the food bank will be accepted. And a Winter Wonderland Skate has been scheduled for Dec. 24 at the Gibsons arena from noon to 4 p.m.