We are lucky to live in an area where we are free to explore our mountains at will, only the valley bottoms and areas close to the roads are private property. The Rocky and Purcells Mountains around Golden don’t care about what the Canadian dollar is doing, or what the price of oil is; time stands still and the only thing that matters is the mountain in front of you. The logging and mining industry not only brings employment to the province of British Columbia but they also build roads for resource extraction that we can use to access the backcountry
If riding the main managed sledding zones is feeling redundant, or if you are looking for more adventure in your sledding vacation to Golden, there are more than enough valleys and drainages to explore. Get on google earth or grab a backroads map book and look for logging roads that wind their way up close to the alpine. Be sure to check with for wildlife closures and for parks regulations regarding snowmobiles before you venture out into non-regulated areas to ride. It cannot be stressed enough that when sledders ride in national parks and wildlife closures, it puts stress on the relationships between snowmobile clubs and government and jeopardizes management agreements already in place.
Keep in mind that when you venture away from groomed trails and managed areas you are also leaving behind the safety of being around other people that can potentially help you if something goes wrong. Being self-sufficient does not just mean carrying a spot or an InReach; sometimes if a rescue is necessary, bad weather could inhibit access by a helicopter for days. Always plan for a worst case scenario and carry emergency supplies to survive a night in the cold.
At the very least have:
- Emergency blanket
- Basic first aid kit
- GPS and/or map
- Tools/simple repair kit
Make sure you plan your route carefully and tell someone your departure and return time; there is strength in numbers so travel with a few friends.
Tent based overnight sledding trips are the best way to explore the farthest reaches of an area if a one day trip is not going to be enough time. Winter camping brings a different set of challenges than summer camping, mostly keeping dry and warm. Camping in a wooded area is best for shelter from the wind, blowing snow, and will allow access to fuel for a fire, however, waking up on a glacier to the sun cracking light on the peaks through a clear sky is something that cannot be described and must be experienced. There are many options for lightweight winter camping gear; be sure that any gear you are bringing is recommended for four season camping. With all the extra overnight gear comes the dilemma of how to transport it; there are a few options available
- Rack on the back of the tunnel to strap gear to.
- Larger bag to carry all the gear on your back
- Towing a skiff
There are pros and cons to each option: carrying everything on your back ensures nothing will end up scattered on the trail but will be extra weight on you back and inhibit your range of motion. Carrying your gear on a rack attached behind the seat keeps the weight off your back but instead transfers it to your sled and could potentially bend or break the aluminum tunnel. Towing a skiff keeps the weight off your tunnel and your back but drastically reduces the ability to negotiate any necessary technical riding to reach the destination.
Things to think about for snowmobile based winter camping:
- Lightweight camp stove with winter fuel
- Down filled sleeping mattress
- Sleeping bag
- Bivy bag or tent
- Easy to transport food
- Snowshoes/touring skis or splitboard as a plan B for getting out
Exploring a new zone by snowmobile with the intention of staying overnight can be the best way to satisfy even the most adventurous sledder, but be mindful of the challenges that differ from heading out into a managed area for the day. You must be completely self-sufficient in case of a mechanical breakdown, medical emergency, whiteout, or something else completely unexpected. Do some research if you are unsure of anything, and as with any day sledding, be sure to check avalanche and weather forecasts.