Your Guide to Dakota Ridge: the Secret Vancouver-area Ski Resort

The how-to’s of Dakota Ridge, a groomed cross-country and snowshoe recreational area on the Sunshine Coast (plus where to get beer).

Seymour. Cypress. Grouse. Whistler. Repeat. I am so spoiled here in Vancouver, with three ski resorts less than an hour drive from my front door, and one world-class resort only a mere two hours away. But if you’re like me – you hate lines, dislike crowds, abhor traffic, and like to constantly try something new – how about I let you in on the newest ski area I crossed off my list, one that side-steps the above pitfalls. Dakota Ridge is a 1500 acre plateau looking out over the Sunshine Coast, a short ferry ride from West Vancouver. In the winter, it becomes a winter wonderland, a snow-covered recreational area for a number of snow-related pursuits. It features 20km of groomed cross-country trails, suitable for both classic and skate-ski, as well as 8km of snowshoe trails, and a sledding area. A cozy warming hut, complete with brightly burning woodstove and picnic tables for lunch, sits in its centre.

A blizzardy day on the cross-country track.
The hut at Dakota Ridge. Spacious and warm, with a wood stove.

Now, I know what you downhill-junkies are thinking: cross-country? I had never done it either, but the lure of an undiscovered ski area drew me in, so I decided to try my hand at skate-skiing. As a self-professed cardio nut, I figured this highly aerobic sport would be right up my alley. There’s definitely a learning curve, but once you accept that those razor thin skis will not behave like your downhill skis, you start to get the hang of it. I was feeling mostly competent on the flat stretches after a couple hours. Hills are still another story. And a word of warning: Dakota Ridge is hilly! Even the green runs, the supposedly easy ones, were pretty challenging with the hills. But there’s a few flat spots you can work out your technique before getting your sweat-on!

Me, taking a photo break because I needed a breather! There is no such thing as a ‘moderate effort’ in skate-skiing. All or none.

Intrigued by this mysterious ski hill? I know some pretty dedicated skiers (I might call them obsessed even), and none of them had ever heard of this place! Read on for the low-down!

Getting there:

To get to Dakota Ridge, you’ll have to start by getting on a ferry in Horseshoe Bay. You’ll head to Langdale, which is about a 40 minute ride. The best part, unlike the more traveled island routes, is that you only pay for one way, meaning that this ferry is literally half-price.

Once on the Coast, you’ll cruise on up the main highway to Wilson Creek, just before the town of Sechelt (something like 30 min from the ferries). Turn right onto Field Rd, and from here, you’ll follow the signs for Dakota Ridge, which is pretty much straight up the road with a right turn onto the logging road that will take you to the park. Note that this is an active logging road, so pay attention. If your companion is a radio-geek like mine, who took a special joy in cheerfully announcing periodically into his handset “silver pickup truck, 2 km, up” (such is the radio protocol), then you’re ahead of the game. Gold star. The road ends in a large parking lot, and you’re there!

The radio channel info posted at the start of the road.

Note that, while the road is periodically plowed, winter conditions still exist up there. A 4×4 with chains is required for access. It honestly wasn’t bad at all when we went, but better safe than sorry.

The blustery parking lot. Well plowed and roomy. Sparse when we got up, but getting pretty busy when we left!

Rentals and passes:

Note that you will need to purchase a day pass for Dakota Ridge. While not technically a ‘resort’, this money helps to cover the cost of park maintenance, such as grooming the trails, cleaning the outhouse and warming hut, and plowing the road. Passes, which run about $15 as of December 2019, can be purchased at Alpha Adventures, an outdoor store conveniently located at the junction of the highway and Field Road (which you’re heading up anyway).

Should you need some rental gear also, such as classic or skate skis, you can also grab these from Alpha Adventures. And, if you don’t have a 4×4/chains, Alpha runs up a shuttle up the mountain. Too easy!

Post game:

I love a good beer after a workout, and the Sunshine Coast has some of my favourite craft breweries. Settle in one, or tour them all! The 101 Brewhouse and Distillery makes beer and small batch spirits, and has a great kitchen to boot. If you’re up in Sechelt, check out Bricker’s Cidery, where you can get cider flights on an apple farm. On your way back to the ferries, check out Gibsons Tapworks (especially their sweet outdoor patio, conveniently heated in winter) right in the heart of the colourful downtown. And of course, less than five minutes from the ferries is my personal favourite, the quaint Persephone farm, where they grow their own hops.

The ‘ol 101 distillery. The only place I’ve had a ceasar that I’ve actually liked…
No trip to the Sunshine Coast is complete without a trip to Tapworks’ heated patio with a view of the ocean.

So, the verdict? Maybe not the best beginner area, but lovely and quiet, with plenty of room on the trails, a cozy hut, and a road that was much better than some others I’ve been on in the winter. Certainly worth a stop, and, coupled with a tour of the Sunshine Coast, it makes for a fun weekend trip.

Taking a break with some hot drinks in the hut.

Tell me you’re the first person to have heard of Dakota Ridge! Even better, tell me that you’ve been there! Brighten my day in the comments below.

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