The High Road to the Snow in SW British Columbia

The road to the high places in SW BCThe climate around the Salish Sea is one of the mildest in Canada. So we have only a few days of snow every winter. For those of us who like to ski, there is lots of snow in the local mountains. Knowing where to find it on a day trip from Vancouver is the key to planning.

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Most of my trips to the backcountry begin by driving North from Horseshoe Bay [7], West Vancouver.

Between here and Lillooet [5] there are only two places where the paved road is high enough for spring snow.

The ski resort municipality of Whistler [1] is famous and is the high point on the Sea To Sky Highway. The town is at 2500 feet. The surrounding peaks soar above 7,000 feet.

Northward from Whistler, the highway descends to the hamlet of Pemberton and then winds around the mountains at the north end of Garibaldi Park. From that valley, the paved road climbs steeply up from Lillooet Lake to Cayoosh Pass [4]. It tops out about 4500 ft. There are lots of wilderness adventures possible around Cayoosh Pass.

If your 2-wheel drive vehicle can stand a dirt road, there is a summer route NW out of Pemberton to the town of Gold Bridge. The high point of that is Railroad Pass [3], also about 4500 feet. This is fierce country in mid winter and there is no attempt to clear the snow. The plows do make a corridor sometime in the spring, and then this becomes a wonderful ski destination.

The dirt road to Callaghan lake [2] would be wonderful, but it is a snowmobile track until the snow melts. The lake is at 3900 ft.

All other routes involve either long hikes up the hills from low-altitude trailheads, or a sturdy 4×4 that is capable of managing steep, narrow, rough, mountain roads.

An interactive version of the map is here.


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