Banner image: Kim Lefebvre photo
Snow capped mountains, crisp wild air, shorter days and starry nights. It’s winter on Vancouver Island North. One of our star winter attractions is Mount Cain Ski Hill. Such a closely guarded secret that they don’t even make the list of “best kept secret ski resorts”. Cheeky locals have bumper stickers that say, “Cain sucks, tell your friends.” No, uh uh, nope, that’s a total fabrication. The truth is completely the opposite. This mountain gem boasts Vancouver Island’s BEST powder.
Open only 3 days a week, weekends and select Mondays, allows that glorious powder to accumulate for optimal skiing conditions. The ski hill has 21 runs and an incredible 1499 vertical feet of terrain. That’s plenty of backcountry for the truly adventurous. For beginners or those wanting to improve their skills sign up for skiing and snowboarding clinics and camps. Skis, poles, boots and helmet rentals are all available at the ski shop. If you’d rather go for a snowy stroll, rent a pair of snowshoes and head for the well beaten trail towards the West Bowl which is rated simply fantastic.
Rhiannon Poupard photo
Listening to people that that return again and again to Mount Cain it’s evident there’s a genuine sense of community. Back in 1971 it started with a few avid skiers which morphed into the non-profit Mount Cain Alpine Park Society. Board members, ski patrol, maintenance staff and road graders are all volunteers as well as a huge crew working behind the scenes to keep machinery and buildings ship shape. Mount Cain is the largest employer of youth on the NI as ski lift operators “lifties,” working in the ski shop and ticket booth.
This is not a resort style ski hill. There are ski in, ski out accommodation options available including a hostel and rustic cabins. Kapitany Lodge & suites utilize solar panels & battery banks for a few more amenities. Not all accommodation has electricity or running water, fireplaces provide heat and you may have to carry drinking water from the day lodge. You’ll also have to bring your own bedding and towels. Alternate accommodation is also available in nearby Woss, Sayward and Port McNeill.
An onsite cafe serves up hearty meals for breakfast and lunch at very reasonable prices for a small hill. If you’re staying the weekend make sure to sign up in advance for Saturday dinner. There’s no flashy nightlife here but more of an organic apres ski. After an epic day of skiing soft fluff swap stories with campers in the parking lot or go into the lodge where quite often guests are treated to an impromptu music jam.
Things you won’t find here are high speed gondolas or hordes of people. The trade off is few line-ups, peak elevation second only to Whistler and skiing that is absolutely amazing. You’ll be surrounded by happy people, instant camaraderie, amazing terrain and powder blessed. The forecast this winter is snow, snow and more snow!!
Steven Fines photo
How to get to Mount Cain
It’s located 10 km south of Woss and 130 km northwest of Campbell River. Tire chains are compulsory. You’re traveling 15 km on a snow topped gravel logging road. Driving protocol is posted on a sign at the bottom. Saturday and Sunday it’s uphill traffic in the morning and downhill traffic in the afternoon. Essential to keep everyone safe traveling a one lane road.
A few events coming up at Mount Cain include Kids Fest on March 17th and Cypress Cup Dual Slalom Race March 30-April 1. And for those preferring indoor pursuits there are plenty of events and activities happening in all Vancouver Island North communities during the students Spring Break March 18-26.