A winter weekend when you stay at home can feel like work: shovelling snow, hibernating, increasing the humidity in your house and wondering why it’s dark all of the time.
A winter getaway, however, feels like a Christmas card and holiday movie rolled into one, with the added feeling of being a kid again. A weekend in a sparkly Winter Wonderland is just what the Doctor ordered to get you out of your winter rut.
Quesnel is the perfect place for a sweet little get-away, simply for the sheer variety of activities that are all so accessible and affordable. Add to that the variety of comfy accommodation options to relax in at the end of your snow-filled day.
What to Do?
Linger over a hearty and caffeine-filled breakfast as you watch the late sunrise over fields and forests and get ready for your day. Dress in layers and pack some extra hats and mittens to change out yours as the day warms up and your start moving your body.
Start by catching some glide at the Hallis Lake. Rent some skis and purchase a day pass at the lodge. Download the trail map at https://caribooski.ca/trail-maps/ to help with navigation and choosing a route. Don’t worry, there are plenty of signs at trail junctions too. For a gentle route (that is also dog-friendly) we love Canis Lupus, but if you’d like more hills and challenge, the 7.5 km route (with the exciting ‘Ronski’s Revenge’) will get your heart-rate up (in more than one way!). With 75 km of ski routes, the possibilities can seem endless.
Not into skiing? There are 2 dedicated snowshoe trails here, so rent some snowshoes and get out on THOSE trails instead.
Once you’ve had your fill, return your rental gear and head into the lodge to snuggle up next to the fireplace and enjoy a lunch of hot soup and treats from the concession. From the lodge’s expansive windows you’ll have a great spot to watch gaggles of children practice their skills at Saturday morning Jackrabbit sessions or just to meet and chat with other friendly skiers.
Eventually, tear yourself away, because there is still more to do. If you are lucky enough to visit Quesnel early in the winter of a dry year, the lakes may have frozen to a glistening sheen before the snow fell. In this case, strap on skates at the Dragon Lake public boat launch on Hydraulic Rd and skate anywhere you like. Be sure to ask some locals for current conditions. Stay safe out there.
If there isn’t any safe lake skating to be had, head to Lewis Drive Rink or Bouchie Lake Hall to skate on their outdoor community rink.
Now that your cheeks are rosy and the daylight is coming to an end, let’s go inside for Après at Barkerville Brewing Co. Sample some of the award-winning local craft beer or BC ciders and wines. Find spots at the enormous communal table (designed by the Timber Kings) or corral a small table for some cozy conversation.
Once your appetite has been awakened, choose a dinner location close to where you’ll sleep. After the big day of activity in the fresh Cariboo air, you’ll be ready for sleep as soon as your belly is full and you’ve warmed up.
If you’re still fired up about your incredible day and still want more, bundle up and head outdoors to admire the stars on a clear night. It’s possible to watch the Aurora Borealis, that seemingly magical explosion of stardust in the sky, from Quesnel too, even in the city itself! It’s so special to spend time somewhere with minimal light pollution!
After a great night's sleep, you’ll wake up rested and ready to see what more you can do, so fill up on a great breakfast and drive east on Highway 26 to Troll Ski Resort. This place is special. It’s my winter home and visitors have told me that there is no place in North America like this little hill. The rustic lodge and its smells of homemade cinnamon buns may tempt you to stay next to the stone fireplace all day and meet new friends, but to experience the other special surprise, you’ve got to clip into some downhill skis and check out the variety of runs.
Get ready to ride the T-bar (if this is a new experience for you, don’t be shy, just ask your friendly lifty for some tips). This mountain is bigger than it looks with 527 m (1729 ft) of vertical and 3 T-bars to help you explore the variety of skiable terrain: from wide beginner-friendly runs to black diamond runs, glades and a new open bowl. When there is fresh snow, Troll has the best “powder to person ratio” ever, but the groomed runs are always excellent, smooth buttery corduroy.
You’ll love the welcoming family-friendly feel of the lodge and when it’s time for lunch, you’ll appreciate that all of the food is made from scratch with prices that might leave you wondering if you’ve got into a time machine to the ‘80s. Grab some take-out and snuggle with your bubble around one of their warming outdoor fire pits as you watch other skiers float down the ski runs above you.
When the day is done (lifts run from 9 am - 3:20 pm, except late in the season when they run from 10 am - 4:19 pm) take off your boots and order a round of creamy or cold drinks from the T-Bar Lounge (you can’t go wrong with a ‘Hildur’s Hug’) and tell all of the near-miss and embarrassing crashes of the day. Head back outside to a fire pit to get as much outdoor time as possible. If you want more action, grab an inner tube beside the lodge and take a couple of runs down the tube run before your day is done.
Drive back to town safely as you’ll be exhausted and elated from the two great days in Quesnel. My regular stop on the way home from Sunday ski days is for dinner at the Himalayan Kitchen where Sunday take-out is the perfect après. The food will refuel and warm you up and the hospitality of the owner will either have you booking a trip back to Quesnel or you’ll pack your bags to move here.
Once you’re full, perhaps too full, head back to your hotel room or cabin for one last sweet sleep, or perhaps another evening walk under a starry sky. Share the stories that you’ve written together this weekend or just savour the silence together.
Where to Stay?
The dreamiest spot is a cute little cabin west of town at Petty Catwater (airbnb.com). Locals know this spot for their gourmet dinner parties, yoga brunches and Jam Stand and may salivate spontaneously upon hearing where you’re staying.
Closer to town, there is a huge variety of chain and independent hotels that are walkable from the downtown core. Check out the Biily Barker Casino Hotel, or the Sandman Hotel or the Ramada Inn for the option of an indoor pool to soak in after your days of play.
By Brenda Beatty