Craig McBride leads a group of skiers working their way up a portion of the Larch Hills traverse on Feb. 9. (George Zorn Photo)

Hardy group of skiers brave cold to conquer Larch Hills traverse

Group makes the trip celebrating 10 years since the Shuswap mountain trail was opened

It has been just over decade since the Shuswap Trail Alliance cut single track trail connecting forest service roads running over the Larch Hills from Salmon Arm to Sicamous.

A hardy group of skiers has tackled the epic 38-kilometre journey over them regularly since then.

On Feb. 9, a group of 10 skiers braved the cold and made the approximately 11-hour traverse starting from the Sicamous side.

Related:Ski enthusiast speaks up for Sicamous back country

Blaine Carson, a regular user of the backcountry area of the Larch Hills, said after the skiers hiked up the logging road switchbacks near Sicamous they were treated to beautiful sunshine but also had to deal with frigid wind chill.

“My fingers are still a little tingly and so are my toes,” Carson said.

Related:Trail Alliance seeks grants for trail improvements

Carson said most of the group who skied the traverse on Feb. 5 packed snowshoes along with their skis to handle some of the steeper climbs the route demanded they make.

Carson is familiar with the traverse; he made the ski tour for the first time in Jan. 2009. Weather plays a major role in conditions on the traverse. Carson says 10 hours is the shortest time he has ever completed it in and once, in deep heavy snow, it took him 13 hours.

Carson recently installed winter signage directing people through the traverse, but stressed it is a very challenging winter adventure only for those who are surefooted on their skis and familiar with backcountry navigation.

“You have to know where you’re going,” Carson said. “It’s not something to be undertaken lightly.”

The skiers who did make the gruelling trip had nothing but good things to say about the experience.

“Another epic adventure for the memory banks. I really enjoyed the company. There were a lot of hardships but smiles in abundance,” wrote Craig McBride in an email to the Eagle Valley News.


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