When you think about skiing and snowboarding in British Columbia, Canada you probably think about resorts like Whistler and Sun Peaks. But did you know that there are some great places to ski and snowboard right here on Vancouver Island? While Vancouver Island may not be known for having a lot of snow, there are a few peaks in central and north Vancouver Island that get quality snowfall and provide skiers and snowboarders with epic ski experiences. No matter where you’re staying from Victoria to Nanaimo or farther north, these ski hills offer incredible winter activities from high-speed alpine adventures to mellow nordic adventures!
History of Skiing on Vancouver Island
The history of skiing on Vancouver Island traces back to the early 20th century, where winter sports enthusiasts explored the Island’s diverse terrains looking for a place to ski. Green Mountain near Nanaimo served as a pioneer alpine destination in the 1930s, where enthusiasts captured the thrill of downhill skiing on one of the nearest snow-covered mountains. Later, Forbidden Plateau in Strathcona Provincial Park emerged as a nordic skiing destination in the 1940s, and still draws cross country lovers and snowshoers to its gentle slopes and trails. Mount Arrowsmith also played a crucial role, as winter sports gained popularity and people looked for nearby mountains to explore. Over the years, these hills became cherished spots for outdoor recreation but alpine recreation on Vancouver Island has moved to two main locations: Mount Washington and Mount Cain.
The most popular ski resort on Vancouver Island without a doubt, is Mt Washington. Located just 30 minutes away from Courtenay in the Comox Valley, Mt. Washington offers world class downhill alpine recreation and nordic winter activities like snowshoeing and cross country skiing. If you’re staying in Campbell River or Nanaimo, you’ll find that this ski resort is easy to get to but even if you’re staying in Victoria and you want to take a ski trip, Mt. Washington ski resort is only a three hour drive away! With easy ski-in access and lots of rental and lesson options on the mountain, this ski resort is a great way to enjoy alpine recreation on Vancouver Island!
If you’re looking for nordic adventures, Mt. Washington’s Nordic Center has cross country skiing, snowshoe and fat tire bike rentals, plus lessons, maps, gear and so much more! With kilometers of groomed trails to enjoy that weave into Strathcona Provincial Park you can spend a whole day enjoying the peace and quiet of the winter on the mountain.
Unlike Mt. Washington, Mt. Cain is not your typical ski resort. Nestled amid the wild beauty of Northern Vancouver Island Mt. Cain Alpine Park ski area boasts incredible powder, exceptional tree skiing, and untouched backcountry, all with minimal crowds. You won’t find the crowds and chairlift line-ups like Mt. Washington, because this ski hill is as rustic as it gets! The village itself has only basic cabins for accommodation, a ski school that caters to school-age kids and a canteen in the Main Lodge where you can find basic food items. There are no chairlifts, instead two T bar lifts to get you to the top.
However, once you’re at the top, you’ll find incredible terrain and pristine snow conditions.
This mountain offers some of the best skiing and snow conditions on Vancouver Island and is known for its incredible, challenging backcountry skiing. If you are planning on visiting with kids, there are runs for lower skill levels as well and children are frequently found skiing down the bunny hill. If you are planning to ski Mt. Cain and explore the backcountry, remember it’s important to be prepared and have the skills to be able to navigate the terrain safely!
If you’re looking to stay nearby, Campbell River, Sayward and Woss are great options to look for nearby accommodation. To get to the mountain however, you’ll need a reliable 4WD vehicle and chains to navigate the icy logging roads. The road is unpaved and full of potholes so it’s an adventure to get up there in the first place!
So, whether you’re a seasoned powder hound, a novice or looking for a ski getaway for the whole family, Vancouver Island’s ski slopes promise an unforgettable winter adventure! Embrace the excitement, natural beauty, and enjoy the west coast winter wonderland and the magical moments you can make!