Tramping through the February forest, the only sound is the soft whoosh our snowshoes make when they settle into the fresh snow that fell overnight.
“Look, rabbit tracks,” my daughter says, pointing to the distinctive bunny-hop marks just off the trail. Oblivious to the discovery, my son plods along in front of her, establishing a rhythm with the contraptions that are strapped onto his snow boots. It’s his first time snowshoeing and the ease with which he’s picked it up confirms the adage: “If you can walk, you can snowshoe.”
Like many Kelowna families, the winter of our pandemic discontent has been filled with new outdoor adventures in search of contentment. We’ve gone downhill skiing at Big White and Apex, winter hiking in Myra-Bellevue Provincial Park, and now, we’re snowshoeing at the Kelowna Nordic Ski and Snowshoe Club.
Because our teenagers compare snowshoeing to hiking in disguise, I’ve spiced up the outing with an incentive — when we reach the lookout we’ll sit down in the snow for a winter picnic. (I picked up take-out croissant sandwiches and a macaron sampler from Sandrine Pastry on our way out of town.)
The Kelowna Nordic Ski and Snowshoe Club is located just past the turnoff for Big White as you’re driving south on Hwy. 33. For best access to the 75 kms of snowshoe trails, park at the Summit Car Park at the top of Rock Creek Pass. (You can also approach the trails from McCulloch Rd. in southeast Kelowna — the main club cabin is across from Hydraulic Lake.)
There’s a fee to use the trails — for snowshoeing, it’s $6 for adults and $3 for youth aged 8-18 (the maintained cross-country ski trails cost more) — and you can just slip the money into the red collection box in the parking lot.
The maze of pathways that departs this area can seem confusing, so grab a paper map from the stand in the parking lot, or download the Avenza Maps app and search for Kelowna Nordic to follow along on the route from your phone. Snowshoe trails are well marked with orange tape every few trees and trail signs are in red print on a yellow backing, in case you get disoriented or find yourself in the middle of a big snowfall.
Big White Ski Resort view from Kelowna Nordic Centre trails
We set off on the Snowy Memorial trail after buckling into snowshoes we borrowed from friends (rentals are not available at the club, so you need to bring your own or rent them). This easy, rolling, 3-km loop passes rock formations, climbs through stands of lodgepole pine trees, and features a couple of viewpoints where you can see Big White in the distance on a clear day.
By the time we reach the Snowy Memorial Lookout we’re all famished. We sit down atop our snowshoes (makeshift ‘snow seats’) to gobble down the flaky croissant sandwiches and perfect macarons. To warm up there’s hot chocolate, which we brought in a thermos from home.
“This is so fun!” says our daughter, a French-pastry convert.
The winter picnic is just the thing to re-energize us for the downhill snowshoe back to the car. We tromp past rocks topped with snowy caps that resemble dollops of meringue, spot more animals tracks atop the virgin snow blanketing the forest floor, and feel contentment as more fluffy flakes twirl down from the winter sky.
More snowshoe trails
- Telemark Nordic Club in West Kelowna has 60 kms of trails that vary in length and ability; the club also rents snowshoes.
- At SilverStar Mountain Resort, 16 kms of single-track trails weave through the forest and snowshoe rentals are available at the rental shop.
- Big White Ski Resort also has snowshoe trails and rentals are available inside the Village Centre Mall.