Castlegar offers a lot of cross-country skiing opportunities and we’ve listed all of them in our article “Where To Nordic Skiing In Castlegar.” In this article, we’ll describe the best ski loops on the Paulson Pass, which can be found at the Castlegar Nordic Ski Club trails. This 45-kilometre-long system of groomed trails are located 32 kilometres west of Castlegar on Highway #3, just west of the Highway #3B junction. There are two access points: the first is called the Glenmerry Trailhead and is just past Nancy Greene Lake; the second is 10 minutes down the road and is called the Mud Lake Trailhead. At both are pay stations where those who do not have an annual pass must leave payment. (For more information about club fees and memberships, visit its website.) There is also a visitor’s centre at the Glenmerry Trailhead and three other warming huts located throughout the trails., which are all marked with excellent signage: easy trails are green, intermediate are blue and advanced are black.
Whether you’re a beginner, intermediate or advanced nordic skier, we’ve listed two loops for each skill level depending on the amount of time you have: if you only have an hour or so to dedicate to a ski, take the short trail. But if you have more time or are a faster skier, take a longer loop. Here are the best cross-country ski loops on the Paulson Pass. (Click on all images to enlarge.)
Beginner Loop – Short
This is the best and most scenic route for beginners who are new to cross-country skiing. The terrain is flat, it’s double-tracked so you can ski beside a partner, and it’s only 1.7-kilometres long. From the Mud Lake Trailhead veer east (back towards Castlegar) towards Mud Lake. At the Winterberry trail junction go right (south) and at the Roller Coaster junction continue straight (west). Keep right at the Zigzag junction and follow the signs back to the Trailhead.
Elevation gain: 0m
Facilities: The loop is near the Viking Centre at the Mud Lake Trailhead
Beginner Loop – Long
This loop incorporates all the green trails that are mainly located on flat terrain with the exception of a few rolling hills. The best part is there are two short cuts, that allow you to shorten your ski should you need to. The full loop is about 7 kilometres long and can be skied in any direction: either start on Booty’s Trail (which is always first to have a track put in after a snowfall) and finish on the Ben Shaw Trail or do it in reverse. The Ben Shaw shelter is located at the mid-point of the full loop and is an excellent place to picnic and warm up.
Elevation gain: 0m
Facilities: Ben Shaw cabin is located at the end of the trail where you’ll find a wood stove, seating, first aid kit, maps and emergency information.
Intermediate Loop – Short
The majority of trails at this Paulson Pass area are intermediate (marked as blue trails). Therefore you can pick and choose from a variety of excellent trails but our favourite short loop is less than 10 kilometres long and circumnavigates an old-growth management area. Note there is about 150 metres of elevation gain on this loop, though, so if you don’t like climbing, stick to a shorter version of the “Intermediate – Long” trails listed below. Start at the Glenmerry Trailhead and ski to the first junction, turning left (east) onto Winterberry Trail. Follow this around to Gloryview and then turn right (north) onto Norwegian Trail. Take this to Glenmerry Road and veer right (north) to return to the trailhead.
Facilities: Near the Glenmerry Trailhead is a well-maintained outhouse and at the junction of Paulson and Glenmerry is a first-aid station. The Nordic Cabin is located 0.4km off the Norwegian Trail as you head back towards Glenmerry and there you’ll find a wood stove, seating, maps, first aid kit, emergency information and outhouse.
Intermediate Loop – Long
Most of the trails in the eastern and western sections of the Paulson ski area are mostly intermediate so you can conceivable go anywhere but our favourite, longer intermediate starts at the Mud Lake Trailhead and veers east towards Mud Lake. Continue straight onto Winterberry Trail until Glenmerry Road. Turn right (south). At Pine Trial turn right (west), pass the Snowberry Shelter (an excellent mid-point rest stop) and continue to the trail’s terminus at Shaw. Turn right (north) and follow this back to the trailhead.
Facilities: Aside from the Viking Centre at the start of the trail you’ll find three first-aid stations throughout the loop, an outhouse at the junction of Winterberry and Glenmerry, and the recently constructed Snowberry shelter in the middle of loop which offers beautiful views, a wood stove, seating, maps, first aid kit, emergency information and outhouse.
Expert Loop – Short
This loop allows you to warm up quickly on an easy green trail and then tackle the only groomed black diamond run on Paulson before completing the 10-kilometre loop on intermediate trails. Start at the Mud Lake Trailhead and follow the Ben Shaw Trail. Pass the shelter and then get ready for the steep climb up the black diamond Ridge Trail. Take this for half a kilometre before turning left (east) onto the Old Growth Trail. The trail is aptly named as there’s a beautiful old growth forest on your right (south). Follow this onto the Snowberry Trail and pass the shelter. Turn left (west) on Pine Trail and right (north) on Huckleberry. Veer left (west) onto Rossland Trail and then take Ben Shaw back to the Trailhead.
Facilities: This loop takes you path both the Ben Shaw Shelter and the Snowberry Shelter. Each offers a wood stove, seating, maps, and first-aid equipment.
Expert Loop – Long
Up for an extra-long ski? This loop incorporates 20 kilometres of intermediate trails and 200 metres of elevation gain. Start at the Glenmerry Trailhead and ski to the Winterberry Trail. Follow this to Gloryview, then to Norwegian and stay left (south). Eventually you’ll pass the Glenmerry Shelter which is a great mid-point for a picnic and rest. From there take Glenmerry Road to Pine Trail to Huckleberry. Turn right (east) on Paulson for 0.4 of a kilometre then left (north) onto Connector. Turn right (east) and finish on Winterberry.
Facilities: The loop takes you past two shelters: the Snowberry and the Glenmerry. Both offer wood stoves, seating, maps, first-aid supplies and outhouses.