A path going through snow covered trees

Dakota Ridge remains closed due to unseasonably warm weather

Editor’s note: Last Friday we reprinted an article discussing the lower snowfalls on Mount Washington and the Comox Glacier in recent years. On the other side of the Salish Sea, Whistler Blackcomb opened on November 23, 2023, but conditions are poor. Closer to Vancouver, Mt Seymour, Cypress Mountain and Grouse Mountain are all open but so far this year report poor conditions.

By Jordan Copp, Coast Reporter, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

While the snow may be taking its time to reach the Sunshine Coast, forecasts suggest that this may be changing over the next week. In the meantime, the Coast’s winter playground, Dakota Ridge, remains closed.

The Sunshine Coast Regional District (SCRD)-operated recreation area had been set to open Dec. 15, but that opening date has been postponed several times. Jan. 2, the SCRD said Dakota Ridge remains closed due to lack of snow. 

Dakota Ridge recreation area is a popular spot for Coasters in the winter, and has the Sunshine Coast’s only dedicated cross-country ski trails, with over 20 kilometers of maintained trails. 

Aidan Buckley, SCRD manager of communications and engagement, confirmed that the ridge traditionally opens mid December and noted that staff were at the ridge Friday, and will be able to provide more information next week.

Buckley added that conditions in the 2014/2015 season were similarly poor, and that Dakota Ridge was closed for most of that season.

Longtime volunteer trail groomer at Dakota Ridge Steve Sleep remembers 2010 as also seeing poor conditions this late into the season. He explained that conditions can vary greatly during the year, and that though the 2010 season started with poor conditions, a shift in weather patterns resulted in them receiving more snow than they were able to manage by the end of the season.

As a volunteer since 2008, Sleep has witnessed more than a decade of ski seasons. Sleep said that Dakota Ridge traditionally sees its heaviest snowfall in late January or early February, and the snow that falls earlier in the season is wetter and gets packed down to create a base. 

He added that in all the years he’s been trail grooming, they have never had to wait until after Christmas to open.

Sleep is hopeful locals will be able to hit the trails soon. He said that Dakota Ridge received 10 cm of snow over the last 24 hours and that it was snowing “like crazy” Friday. 

As snow is also expected in the Sunshine Coast’s forecast for next week, the question remains if the temperature will remain low enough for the snow to stay.


Tetrahedron Provincial is in a similar situation, said Sleep. 

The Tetrahedron Outdoor Club manages a trail network and cabins, which are popular spots for snowshoeing and winter hiking.

Traditionally winter hikers are able to cross the frozen lakes such as Edwards and Bachelor.

This year, however, it has not been cold enough to thoroughly freeze the lakes and trail users must go the long way around, said Sleep. “It just makes the hike a little bit longer, but it doesn’t make it impossible.”

Gerry Marcotte, president of the Tetrahedron Outdoor Club confirmed that the park has received poor snow coverage this year, and explained that he had to carry his skis the last 500 meters to the parking lot because the snow had melted down to the roadway in mid December. 

Marcotte said that Tetrahedron sees its highest usage in the winter, and that usually the park is in full swing by now. 

While the lakes may be covered in snow or ice, that does not mean they are safe to cross.

“It definitely could be a hazard at this point in time,” Marcotte said. “So I’d be doing some serious ice checking if I was to go across a lake.” 

Sleep said his biggest concern right now is how the lack of snowpack will affect the amount of available water this coming summer. 

“If that snowpack is not there, we don’t have a water source,” he said.

Top image credit: Dakota Ridge as of Jan. 4. Warm temperatures mean the small amount of snow that does fall often melts. – Steve Sleep

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