Callaghan Lakes set for tenured snowmobile-ski touring
Previous experience earns green light
By Chris Woodall
The Ministry of Environment Lands and Parks will allow commercial snowmobile tours in the Callaghan Lakes area based on a merger of operations between Canadian Snowmobile Adventures (CSA) and Mad River Nordic Centre ski touring.
Mad River has legal tenure to the area, accessed from the highway approximately 20 km south of Whistler Village. Although it has concentrated on the skiing portion of its lease, a commercial snowmobile operation is within its tenure guidelines.
CSA does not have a lease, but because it has traditionally operated in that area B.C. Lands is allowing CSA join up with Mad River to take advantage of Mad River's commercial snowmobiling options. B.C. Lands would rather see a happy solution than close down a business, says Randall Chappel, B.C. Lands' commercial backcountry recreation co-ordinator for the Lower Mainland region.
The result is a partnership between the two backcountry tour companies.
Once word got out that this partnership was in the works, another snowmobile tour company hoped to be in the running, but it is out of luck, Chappel says.
CSA's link with Mad River was the only way B.C. Lands would allow any commercial snowmobiling in the Callaghan Lakes area, says Chappel. If Mad River couldn't come to an agreement with CSA, no other snowmobile tour company would have been allowed to motor onto the trail.
"It's going to be a beautiful product," Allan Crawford of Canadian Snowmobile Adventures says of backcountry plans for the Callaghan Lakes area. "It's amazing terrain. There's so much to see and there's a beautiful network of mining and logging roads."
CSA will act as something of a "bus service" transporting people by snowmobile 18 km deep into the backcountry from the highway, where they can experience nordic ski sports in a higher elevation setting not always available in warmer and wetter Whistler.
"We decided (CSA's) philosophy on snowmobiling could be merged well with what our nordic centre wishes to offer," says Brad Sills, president of Mad River Nordic Skiing Enterprises Ltd.
People can book excursions through CSA.
Sills has been trying to establish a full nordic centre since 1982. "The avenue hasn't been open to let a nordic centre flourish," he said.
Mad River has 17 km of groomed trails. Two Arctic tents temporarily replace a cabin damaged by snow load, Sills says. He envisions a comprehensive cross-country skiing facility to cater to classic gliders, skaters and touring skiers. A biathlon track that combines target shooting and cross-country skiing is also planned.
"This distinctly different product will be for those who want to get to snowshoe and short ski routes without having to ski long distances to get to them or without having to roar all over by snowmobile," Sills says.