When the sun isn’t shining, it’s time to go play in the trees; this is 98% of the time in January and February, so having a good stash of tree riding spots is key. The mountains around Golden are synonymous with incredible alpine riding and easy access, but just off the groomed trails are playgrounds of deep snow and perfectly spaced trees. I’m not gonna let you in on all my secret spots, but I will say this, head to Silent Pass to explore a little beyond the groomed trails and rolling alpine.
Silent Pass is the lesser travelled, (and furthest from town) of the three areas managed by the Golden Snowmobile Club, but is always worth the drive, especially mid-season when there has been a bit of a snow drought and Gorman and Quartz are looking a little more trampled.
Head south-east out of Golden on highway 95 for 37km towards Parson; there is gas (premium, regular and diesel) and lunch supplies available at the Twig n Berry store right off the side of the road as soon as you hit Parson. Turn onto the Spillamacheen River North Fork forest service road and cross the Columbia River; make a quick stop at the ticket booth to grab trail passes and continue up along the road. How far up the road you will be able to drive depends on the logging situation, visit www.sledgolden.com for details and radio channels.
The good riding starts right at the end of the groomed trail, there is a single-track trail that gets put in every year and winds its way up through the trees, but don’t feel like you have to stick to it, there are endless opportunities to punch your own way up to Silent Lake off the main trail. There is a climb up a waterfall that may be a bit much for beginners, however, getting up the waterfall won’t limit riders of that skill level as there are some mellow turns to be had just below.
Once up at the lake, the goods are accessed to the right where you will find rolling alpine meadows intersected by the odd cliff band and patch of trees. On a clear day when conditions are right, continue up to the ridge above the lake and drop into the old burn for some deep turns on the Duncan Lake side of Silent Pass. However, be wary of dropping down too far and not being able to climb back out or you’ll be having an unexpected overnight camping trip down there.
Heading left at the lake will take you to some perfectly spaced glades and hidden cliffs that usually don’t get tracked out. It is here that you will find some steeper terrain punctuated by towering old growth to test your tree riding capabilities. Or tree avoiding capabilities. There is even a good sized pillow field tucked away in there that I’ll let you find for yourself. If you do happen to come across it, you’ll be rewarded with a whole days’ worth of lines and powdery pillow smashing for a small group.
If your idea of a good time is to pick your way through timber and snipe tree lines, Silent pass will fulfil those needs; and when the sun isn’t shining and the light is flat you’re going to want to be in the trees anyways. Silent pass may be a bit out of town, but it doesn’t get as many tracks, the snow is always good and the drive through the serenity of the Kootenay Valley is a great way to start your day.