I am going to interrupt my Spain series for one post on snowshoeing. This winter has been awesome (if you like snow) and we have been taking advantage of the great conditions on the local mountains. Over the last few weeks, we’ve been up to the Sea to Sky Gondola in Squamish three times. I did lots of great hiking there this summer and am happy to report that the snowshoeing trails are also very nice. The photos in this post are all taken along the Shannon Basin Loop—a 10-12 km trail that works up a hearty appetite/thirst for poutine and craft beer at the beautiful Summit Lodge.
Like most of the trails at the gondola summit, this one starts behind the lodge and travels for a kilometre or so along an access road. There is a junction where you can continue straight or turn right. I prefer to go straight and do the loop in a clockwise direction.
Soon after, the trail turns into a single track with great views to Skypilot and Goat Ridge. There are a number of entertaining creek crossings that vary considerably depending on the weather. On our first outing, most just required a short hop; two days ago, a recent thaw had made the exposed creek beds much larger (luckily, not much water).
One of prettiest scenes, early on in the loop, is at a log crossing. It looks a bit scary, but it’s just one of those mind over matter moments. The creek, a few feet below, has large boulders and a fair amount of water. It wouldn’t be fun to fall in.
As usual in this part of the world, we got all kinds of different weather during a single outing. Sadly, our log crossings on all three occasions were under gloomy skies, hence the dull photos. Only minutes later (the photo below), blue sky started to appear.
Beyond the log crossing is a long section of fun rolling terrain–up one side of a bump, down the other side, over a little creek, and back up another bump.
On our latest outing, we got to experience trailblazing. All too often, we snowshoe on trampled- down snow (you barely need snowshoes). This time, we had about a 5 km section where we were the first ones through.
It was hard work, but also felt somewhat like a Canadian rite of passage—trudging through the virgin snow like a bunch of “coureurs des bois” (runners of the woods: early French-Canadian woodsmen who traveled through the woods to trade European items for furs).
Eventually, the rolling terrain gives way to a long stretch of deeply forested downhill. It’s fun, and easy going, but as we lost more and more elevation, all we could think of was how nasty that uphill would be at the end of the hike.
During the descent, there’s a nice little viewpoint that brings you out of the forest and into a clearing that overlooks the Squamish Valley.
Finally, we bottomed-out and had a bit of flat terrain before pushing on to the last approximately 3 km of uphill to complete the loop. There are a couple of options for the uphill (steeper/shorter and less steep/longer). We’ve done them both and I prefer the steeper route. It is actually part of the Upper Sea to Summit Trail that passes over Wrinkle Rock and has some really dramatic views— good excuse for rest stops.
About four hours later we made it back to the Summit Lodge. This place is a really beautiful spot to end a day of hiking or snowshoeing. It has huge picture windows with killer views. The West Coast design with giant Douglas Fir beams is stunning. We hunker down with a big plate of poutine and frosty beers. For you non-Canadians, poutine is a quintessential Canadian dish (originating in Quebec) that is basically a pile of fries drenched in gravy and sprinkled with cheese curds. Great end to an awesome day!