Snowmobiling in Pemberton: Key Players and Signature Sleadhead Haunts
Photo by Dave Steers
When driving towards Pemberton from Whistler, it is almost impossible to miss the ongoing lineup of trucks -- all hauling trailers and snowmobiles -- pulling off Highway 99 into Rutherford Creek’s gravel parking lot (just 6 kilometers south of Pemberton.) Crammed full of sledheads, skiers and snowboarders from near and far, Rutherford’s sounds of revving sled engines is tantamount to the starting of Whistler’s Peak Chair on a powder day: Let the race to the top begin.
Pemberton is among the most popular and rewarding places to ride a snowmobile in the Pacific Northwest. From the Rutherford parking lot, a trail eventually leads to the Pemberton Ice Caps. The trail is groomed bi-weekly by the local snowmobile club -- but many locals and up-and-coming roosting kids blast right on past, leaving nothing more than two-stroke adrenalin in the air. On the sprawling glaciers, an elite group of hard-core sledders -- the Slednecks, Roops of Hazzards, and Pemberton’s own A-Team—huck their snowmobiles off drops, booters and side-whippers. The Ice Caps (which are dotted with crevasses and ice caves) are southernmost in a series of very long ice fields extending north to Alaska. With safety in mind, there’s plenty of terrain for everyone to go full bore and get their boon-dogging and hill climbing on.
Heather Gamache, treasurer to Pemberton’s Snowmobiling Club, explains the club’s involvement. “When I travel outside of Pemberton to go snowmobiling, I have two main concerns, and that is to make sure that their clubs aren’t running some sort of shoddy groomer and the other is to know what kind of terrain can be expected.” With those thoughts in mind the Pemberton Snowmobile Club purchased a new groomer in the 08/09 season, enabling sledders’ backs to enjoy 23 kilometers of a rut-free groomed road up the Rutherford Creek Trail. Members collect a day-fee at the trail’s base, and combine those funds—with others raised through the B.C. Snowmobile Federation (BCSF)—to pay for snowcat drivers, fuel and maintenance on the grooming cat, as well as to support events like the Canadian Avalanche Association’s Awareness Week every January.
Although Rutherford is situated at Pemberton’s gateway, there are many other local sled zones, including the 45-kilometer Hurley Pass, which leads to the old gold-mining towns of Bralorne and Gold Bridge. Stop along the way at the Meager Springs Hot Springs or go for some good old fashioned pow-slashing through the open meadows at the summit of the pass.
Also accessible from the Hurley River Forest Service Road: Backcountry Snowcats. Run by Reg and Kathy Milne, Backcountry Snowcats operates on a 1,200 acre tenure of pristine backcountry land. Reg, who has more than 20 years of experience grooming slopes for Whistler Blackcomb, is the current President of Pemberton’s Snowmobile Club. Backcountry Snowcats offers more than just backcountry cat tours and lodging: Visitors can also take their sledding up a notch, go a little faster and learn how to ride bottomless powder.
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