Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Snowshoe Adventures - To REUSE and find REPURPOSE

It seems odd to build chair lifts, t-bars, ski chalets, roads, and clear ski runs on mountains only to see them shut down, forgotten about and deteriorate from vandals and the elements.  I have recently been to two abandoned ski hills on Vancouver Island, BC; Green Mt and Forbidden Plateau, that years ago were well used. Without researching the true cause of there demise, I suspect lack of snow was a contributing factor.  Or perhaps it was the roads accessing them.  How vehicles drove up to Green Mt in the winter I will never know.  It’s not for the light hearted!  

One ski hill on Vancouver Island, Mt. Cain, has survived closure with passionate people contributing whatever they can to keep the t- bar running.  Mt. Cain thrives today and operates as a society run by a board of hard working dedicated volunteers.  It could have easily been abandoned and forgotten about like Green Mt and Forbidden Plateau.  Then of course there's Mt Washington, Vancouver Island’s skiing destination.  A thriving ski resort we Islanders call our own.

Forbidden Plateau, or what was called Wood Mountain Ski Hill, was not as lucky as Mt Cain.  It has been out of operation for over a decade now.  Today the chair lift stands quiet and hangs in the skyline. The once warm and inviting chalets are now piles of concrete and wooden rubble.  It does not, however, lack people.  When we rounded the last bend in the road and arrived at the parking lot, we could barely find a place to park.  

If I did not know better I would have thought it was a functioning ski hill.  Forbidden Plateau is a perfect example of reuse and repurpose.  Locals and outdoor enthusiasts are rediscovering these hills. Everything from snowshoeing, hike and ski/snowboard to good old fashioned tobogganing.  It helps that the hill is easily accessible, just minutes north of Courtenay, BC on a well maintained mountain road (Forbidden Plateau Rd) and boom your there. 

The whole reuse and repurpose idea became the theme for our family adventure.  Not only were we going to explore an old ski hill, we were doing so with our “new to us” snowshoes.  The four of us, outfitted in our regular old snow gear, packed lunch, plenty of snacks and slapped on our gently used snowshoes.  We also brought along our sleds knowing that Ben and Liv would be itching to make use of the snowy hillsides.  (They are snow deprived children, robbed of a snowy Alberta upbringing)  

When I was preparing for this adventure, I had my heart set on snowshoeing to Mt Becher.  From Forbidden Plateau, it is 6km one way following the chair lift up the mountain and continuing across the plateau, past Boston Lake and Boston Falls and finally arriving at the summit of Mt Becher.  The photos I saw online look absolutely amazing but I knew this was not in the cards for us.  Ben (6) and Liv (4) can handle that distance in the summer no problem.  But add snowshoes and the distraction of snow to the equation; the distance decreases significantly.  It is equally important to make some adventures fun for them so we can drag them along further other times.  We settled on snowshoeing to the top of the chair lift. (The view is amazing!)   The dangling carrot was riding the sled all the way back down the hill.  It turned out to be the perfect combination. 

I was encouraged by what I saw at Forbidden Plateau.  People heading up the hill on snowshoes, some with snowboards tied on their pack.  Families having fun speeding down the hill on their sleds.  Dogs running around in some snow crazed trance.  It was a continuous flow of people (and dogs) up and down the mountain.  Proof we can reuse and find repurpose on an old ski hill!   It’s the not new thing to do!


  1. Hey Jill - any signs of skidoos up at the top of the ski hill and heading into the backcountry?


    1. Are skidoos not allowed. We just bought property there and are thinking of getting one.

    2. Hey Morris, Strathcona Prov. Park boundary is close to the top of the old ski hill and know snowmobiles are not allowed there. Maybe check with local skidoo clubs as I am sure there are places to ride. Enjoy!

  2. Hey Dave, I do not recall seeing any tracks or vehicles parked at the lot with trailers or skidoo lifts. Never heard any noise either. Is there an issue with sledders in the area? Good to be able to follow you again, missed you on Facebook.