Four sets of skis and eight children from Carlin School in photo from February 1936. (Image from the Denis Marshall Collection in the archives of R.J. Haney Heritage Village )

Four sets of skis and eight children from Carlin School in photo from February 1936. (Image from the Denis Marshall Collection in the archives of R.J. Haney Heritage Village )

Column: Skiing in the Shuswap and Salmon Arm’s history of downhill runs

Shuswap Passion by Jim Cooperman

There are many opportunities to ski in the Shuswap — three-tracked Nordic ski areas, backcountry ski options, three cat-skiing lodges, a downhill resort, a heli-ski lodge and any number of untracked logging roads, park trails or frozen lakes.

Few people realize a significant portion of Silver Star Mountain is in the Shuswap watershed, including about two-thirds of the Sovereign Lake trails and the backside runs at the resort in the Putnam Creek drainage.

The origins of our local skiing culture can be traced back to the arrival of the Scandinavian settlers who homesteaded at White Lake, Sunnybrae and Gleneden. They brought both their skills and their love of the sport with them, building heavy, homemade skis out of birch with leather straps.

In 1930, the Gleneden Finnish community formed a sport club that sponsored a variety of activities such as ski jumping on “Boot Hill” just above the hall and cross-country racing with homemade skis.

In the late 1950s and early ’60s, there was a passion developing for downhill skiing and a club was formed that purchased land in Salmon Arm below Mt. Ida on 9th St. SE to build a small ski hill.

A rope tow was built, but they soon realized due to the hill’s low elevation, snow conditions were not reliable enough for downhill skiing.

Colin Smith learned to ski on “Riddle Hill” and he remembers how a good skier would only do five turns from top to bottom.

There was a mound of snow in the centre of the run that was used for a jump. After a good snowfall, the club would gather on a Saturday morning to pack the hill with their skis.

Smith also skied at a larger ski hill east of Sicamous which had two rope tows.

Read more: Storm damage closes Tsútswecw park in North Shuswap, trees fall on cabin

Read more: Column: 2020s will bring roar of wildfires, storms, social upheaval

Read more: Column: Sport where stones slide to the house remains popular in the Shuswap

Gordie Lidstone built another downhill ski hill in the early 1970s on his property near the Industrial Park. It included both a rope and a cable tow.

There was also a warming hut and a concession, but lack of snow ended the venture.

In the late 1980s, a developer purchased the property adjacent to the cemetery on Foothill Road, cleared runs on the hill and used a snowcat to transport the skiers.

Unfortunately, he had not consulted with any locals about the unsuitable snow and weather conditions, which resulted in the ski hill’s closure after only one season.

There are three cat-skiing lodges in the Shuswap’s Monashee Mountains: Mustang Powder located northeast of Craigellachie, K-3 Cat Ski located northeast of Malakwa and Monashee Powder located northwest of Sugar Lake.

This is a sport for very fit, experienced skiers and snowboarders who enjoy steep runs in deep powder.

Eagle Pass Heli-ski has a lodge at Griffin Lake and much of its terrain is in the Shuswap.

For daytrips, the premier ski touring area in the Shuswap is Gorge Creek below Queest Mountain, which attracts skiers and split-boarders from as far away as Kamloops, Kelowna, Revelstoke and Vernon.

There is more than enough terrain to cover in a day and an abundance of steep slopes and bowls filled with deep powder.

However, there is only good access if loggers are plowing the road. If not, then a snowmobile is needed.

The area is included in the regional district’s park plans and hopefully one day a parking lot will be established along with a publicly funded winter access plan.

There are two backcountry ski lodges in the Shuswap.

The Blanket Glacier Chalet, built in 1982, was originally a telemark base camp for the Nordic Ski Institute.

The newer Sol Mountain Lodge, established in 2004, has 12,000 hectares of diverse terrain and is also open in the summer for hiking and mountain biking.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

 

After several hours of slogging, the snow at Granite Peak lookout lay under the skis of Mamie Hill, Matt Hill and Yuri Maki. The year was 1938, the photo by Mamie Hill Reynolds, which appears in the book, Fleeting Images. (Salmon Arm Museum photo)

After several hours of slogging, the snow at Granite Peak lookout lay under the skis of Mamie Hill, Matt Hill and Yuri Maki. The year was 1938, the photo by Mamie Hill Reynolds, which appears in the book, Fleeting Images. (Salmon Arm Museum photo)

Just Posted

An air ambulance carrying a suspected injured longboarder takes off from a Spallumcheen property near Otter Lake Road Saturday, April 17. (Richard Breaks photo)
Suspected longboard crash in Spallumcheen sends individual to hospital via air ambulance

Accident involved a North Okanagan man in his late 20s on Otter Lake Road in the township

Vernon Vipers forward Ryan Shostak (centre) fends off a check from Salmon Arm defenceman to get a close-in scoring attempt on Silverbacks goalie Owen Say during Vernon’s 3-2 B.C. Hockey League pod play shootout victory Saturday, April 17, at Kal Tire Place. (Lisa Mazurek - Vernon Vipers photography)
Vernon Vipers use shootout to subdue Salmon Arm

Snakes score 3-2 B.C. Hockey League pod play win at Kal Tire Place

A GoFundMe page has been launched for a Vernon man whose BX orchard property home off Pleasant Valley Road near Stickle Road was totally destroyed in a fire Saturday, April 17. (Brendan Shykora - Morning Star)
Fundraising campaign launched for Vernon man who lost home to fire

A GoFundMe page has been started by family; man taken to hospital with injuries from fire

Armaan Dhaliwal hands a cheque for $500 to Shuswap Hospital Foundation president Angie Spencer as his proud grandparents Gordie and Nancy Dhaliwal watch on Friday, April 16. (Jim Elliot/Salmon Arm Observer)
Salmon Arm boy’s samosa sales benefit hospital foundation

Armaan Dhaliwal was able to give the Shuswap Hospital Foundation a $500 donation

School District 83 trustees are expected to be discussing the current Long Range Facilities Plan options at the April 20 school board meeting. (File photo)
Letter: Let the people have their say on Salmon Arm school options

Parent encourages School District 83 board to hold off on making a decision

Vancouver resident Beryl Pye was witness to a “concerning,” spontaneous dance party that spread throughout social groups at Kitsilano Beach on April 16. (Screen grab/Beryl Pye)
VIDEO: Dance party erupts at Vancouver’s Kitsilano Beach to the dismay of onlookers

‘It was a complete disregard for current COVID-19 public health orders,’ says Vancouver resident Beryl Pye

A North Okanagan man in his late 20s was flown to hospital by air ambulance Saturday, April 17, shortly after 6:30 p.m. after allegedly crashing on his longboard on a Spallumcheen roadway. (File photo)
Suspected longboard crash in Okanagan sends individual to hospital via air ambulance

Accident involved a North Okanagan man in his late 20s on Otter Lake Road in Spallumcheen

Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance Chrystia Freeland responds to a question during Question Period in the House of Commons Tuesday December 8, 2020 in Ottawa. The stage is set for arguably the most important federal budget in recent memory, as the Liberal government prepares to unveil its plan for Canada’s post-pandemic recovery even as a third wave of COVID-19 rages across the country. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Election reticence expected to temper political battle over federal budget

Opposition parties have laid out their own demands in the weeks leading up to the budget

A Kelowna Pride Festival 2019 participant holds up a flag. (Kelowna Pride Society)
Kelowna Pride, RCMP continue to work on ‘Safe Place Program’

A new committee has been formed to refine the ‘Safe Place Program’ created by the Kelowna RCMP

Coldstream Fire Department crews stationed at Kal Lake Provincial Park parking lot on Cosens Bay Road on Sunday, April 18, after a car went over a cliff in the area. (Roger Knox - Morning Star)
Driver escapes after car goes over North Okanagan cliff

The driver has been transported to hospital with unspecified injuries

A strange odour at a West Kelowna apartment building prompted the evacuation of 150 residents on Sunday morning, April 18. (Aaron Hemens - Capital News)
Strange smell at West Kelowna apartment prompts evacuation of 150 residents, pets

150 residents ordered evacuated from a West Kelowna apartment building early Sunday morning

This is what’s left of a truck that caught fire at Pyramid Provincial Park off Highway 97 near Summerland Saturday night. (Monique Tamminga Western News)
Photo Gallery: Truck gutted by fire at popular Okanagan park, trees saved

Just a metal shell of what once was a pick up truck is left at the scene

A syringe is loaded with COVID-19 vaccine at a vaccination clinic run by Vancouver Coastal Health, in Richmond, B.C., Saturday, April 10, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
B.C. to open up COVID vaccine registration to all B.C. residents 18+ in April

Registration does not equate to being able to book an appointment

(Black Press file photo).
UPDATED: Multiple stabbings at Vancouver Island bush party

Three youths hospitalized after an assault in Comox

Most Read