Four people with varying degrees of skill, agility, and balance set off one beautiful, warm, morning in January on a journey to Island Lake Lodge — cross country skiing up Cedar Vally Trail. I grew up cross-country skiing in the wilderness of Northwestern Ontario, with two very avid cross-country skiers as parents. My friends, one from North Vancouver, BC; one from Richmond Hill, Ontario; and one from Aberystwyth, Wales; on the other hand, had never tested out their Nordic skills and were hoping their alpine abilities would cross over. We had our skis waxed, packed some water and snacks, and headed up the groomed cat road. It turned out to be one of the most memorable days on skis!
There was definitely a steep learning curve on the upward climb for my friends. I showed them the herringbone, the sidestep, and edging our skis for control. After a few slippery missteps, everyone was getting the hang of it. We stopped for photographs and admired the beautiful mountains that surrounded us from every side. More than once we marvelled at how this kind of beauty was present in our backyard.
After a vigorous two hour climb to the top, all of us had worked up an appetite for a gourmet lunch, served in one of the most spectacular lodges in BC. We sipped wine from the impressive 3000-bottle library as the sun peeked through the windows of the Tamarack Lodge. For lunch, I had the Sweet Pea and Butter Leaf Soup with a BBQ Tofu Wrap, while my friends had the chef’s plate with slow-roasted Alberta beef strip loin. Although we had been skiing uphill for two hours, I would have climbed another four for the amazing food prepared by the Island Lake Lodge culinary team.
The sun was lowering behind the mountains, and we began to feel sleepy beside the warm fire. It was hard to leave the impressive great room of the Tamarack Lodge with its high timbered ceilings and warm cedar decor, but the time had come to bundle up and make our way home. We had the most spectacular ride down, soaring down the snowy, curvy road. My friends, who had mastered the incline technique, took a few falls to get their downhill bearings and trust their ability while they cruised down the slope, but after a few minutes, we were all cruising down and having an incredible time.
By the end of the trail, we were all laughing, smiling, and dusted with snow, with full bellies and burning legs. This is one Fernie adventure that is suitable for all types of active people, from those new to cross-country skiing to seasoned veterans; and will become one of my annual winter experiences.
Don't forget to book your seat to Island Lake Lodge
Lunch at Island Lake Lodge must be booked 24 hours in advance. Island Lake Lodge also offers a snowcat ride & lunch package to enjoy their winter wonderland — save the burning thighs and ride up to the lodge in the comfort of a heated snowcat, then enjoy the gourmet lunch before returning. Snowshoe rentals are available for $20 so you snowshoe hike or the lakeside trails directly from the lodge; spa treatments are available by reservation at the Island Lake Spa.
Trails are free for nordic skiing and snowshoeing at Island Lake Lodge.