If you ask Tony Cailes his opinion about where Squamish ranks as a sledding destination, the president of the Black Tusk Snowmobile Club doesn’t exactly mince his words.
“This is the best place in the world to snowmobile,” he said. “And, that should be bolded and underlined!”
As evidence, he points to the sheer number of tourists who descend on the area every year to chew up fresh powder in the backcountry.
“People come from all over the world just to snowmobile here,” Cailes said. “And really, what sets us apart is the fantastic snow quality, the views and clarity, and the fact that our avalanche conditions are much more stable than in a place like Whistler, where they have ‘faster’ avalanches.”
Avalanche training is a big part of Black Tusk Snowmobile Club’s mandate. The association boasts close to 200 members and maintains the access road and chalet at arguably Squamish’s best sledding destination – Brohm Ridge.
“We are the stewards of the snow, here,” he said. “For the past 45 years, we have worked to maintain Brohm Ridge, make it better for snowmobilers, and teach people about avalanche safety while sledding in the area’s backcountry.”
For Cailes, Brohm Ridge, once the proposed site for a ski resort in the 1960s (with a sweet 10,000 sq. ft., 50-person chalet they acquired as a clubhouse), is absolutely the ultimate snowmobile paradise in the Sea to Sky Corridor.
“Brohm Ridge is the safest place to drive a snowmobile, in terms of avalanche safety,” he said. “It is also the first place you can snowmobile in the area at the start of the season, and the last place you can snowmobile at the end of the year.”
The Squamish snowmobile season starts at the end of November and can last until June if it’s been a particularly good snow year. In the spring, it is not uncommon to spend the morning snowmobiling and then play a round of golf in the afternoon afterward.
“I think the best thing would be a co-existence.”
“Other spots melt out, or you have to ride on a gravel road for way too long before you hit snow,” he said. “Plus, Brohm Ridge is a great place for an intro to snowmobiling in the area, no matter your level, and you can always make arrangements to stay in the chalet overnight, which is always a treat for people.”
However, the fate of Cailes’s favourite Squamish sledding spot may be in question, as the idea of developing a ski resort in the area has resurfaced in recent years, under the name “Garibaldi at Squamish.”
But, he said he thinks there is room for everyone on Brohm Ridge, as well as all of the Sea to Sky’s backcountry.
“I think the best thing would be a co-existence,” Cailes said. “I’ve spent a lot of time on that mountain. I’ve snowmobiled it. I’ve skied the whole thing. It’s really not a practical place to ski. I think something they should look at is reducing the footprint of the ski resort, and putting it in a more stable and practical area of the mountain. Make the top of the mountain a shared ‘mountain sports centre.’ It’s the same with any developments that may come along. We can all live together and share the backcountry. It’s the safe and practical thing to do.”
And, Brohm Ridge is not the sole spot in the Squamish area that’s a sledding paradise, either. Just a little further north along the Sea to Sky Highway, the Brandywine area comes in at a close second for snowmobiling, according to Cailes.
“Brandywine is excellent because of the parking and the road,” he said. “You can practically just drive in, park, unload your sled, and away you go. And it continues to improve over the years, too.”
He also said the Lillooet/Goldbridge area, north of Whistler Resort, is another breathtaking place to ride a snowmobile, although he classifies it as more “trail-like” than the deep and sweet backcountry powder you’d be roaring through on Brohm Ridge or at Brandywine.
“Really, to enjoy the experience here, you have to be prepared for the conditions in which you’ll be riding,” he said. “An Ontario trail sled isn’t practical around Squamish. Everyone here drives the ‘Porsches’ of snowmobiles. And, you really need to have avalanche gear and some avalanche training. Then you can just have fun and enjoy the experience.”