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Mt Cain

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Of the two ski areas on Vancouver Island in BC, Mt Cain Alpine Park is the one that’s well and truly off the beaten track and a major step back in time (Mt Washington is the other Vancouver Island ski resort). Run as a non-profit ski area that’s evolved from a ski club with mostly volunteer workers, the Mt Cain community has a lot of pride when it comes to their ski hill. Many of the regulars want to keep Mt Cain Ski Area a secret and some of them have bumper stickers on their car with the slogan “Cain Sucks, tell your friends”.

It’s not surprising that they want to keep Mt Cain hush-hush. Mt Cain Alpine Pine has the ideal trio of factors for a powder hound destination: an abundance of snowfall; amazing tree skiing and backcountry; and barely anyone there to take your fresh lines.

Pros and Cons of Mt Cain

Pros

  • Mt Cain scores bucket loads of snow; more than any of the other Canadian ski resorts.
  • The tree skiing is very impressive.
  • The lifts provide access to lovely sidecountry and the backcountry is insane.
  • Lift lines are unheard of.

Cons

  • The area inside the resort boundaries is very small and it only has two T-bars.
  • It’s a major commitment for Vancouver Islanders to get to Mt Cain, let alone for mainland or international powder hounds to travel there.
  • The Mt Cain Ski Resort lifts are only open on weekends, as well as some Mondays for school kids (lower T-bar only). The plus for the weekend warriors is that the snow piles up all week.
  • The lodging on-mountain is primitive and limited, and it sells out early.

Pro or Con Depending On Your Perspective

  • Mt Cain gets a lot of snow, but it’s rather coastal so fresh is best.
  • Mt Cain Alpine Park is rustically no frills and completely off the grid, so you won’t be able to check your Instaglam feed.
  • It’s cheap but you don’t get much infrastructure for your money.

Mt Cain Ski and Snowboard Terrain

The actual Mt Cain ski area is rather small with only 2 T-bars, 457 metres (1,499 feet) of vertical (1,311-1,768m), and 21 trails.

Many of the runs off the lower T-bar are groomed and appropriate for beginners and intermediates, whilst most of the runs off the upper T-bar are left au natural, which includes black runs as well as amazing tree skiing in high alpine old-growth forest.

Mount Cain has easily accessible backcountry (sidecountry) that includes two big alpine bowls that provide options for pillow lines, chutes and cliffs.

Or a short skin above the upper T-bar takes you to a look-out (which is popular for picnics and parties) and access to the backside that offers big mountain terrain and an amazing backcountry playground. Needless to stay, have yourself kitted out with the appropriate backcountry equipment and know-how. Some of the regulars don’t have a high tolerance for any 'Darwin Award' candidates that head out there.

Mt Cain Snow

The Mt Cain ski area receives an average of 15 metres of snow per season. With respect to snow quality, it has elevation on its side and it’s nearly 200m higher than Mt Washington. The aspect of the ski hill is mostly southwest facing, so combined with its proximity to the ocean, the Mt Cain snow is best skied when it’s fresh.

Where is Mt Cain Alpine Park?

Mt Cain is situated towards the north end of Vancouver Island in British Columbia Canada near Schoen Lake Provincial Park. It is about 75km northwest of Sayward, 400km northwest of Victoria, and 287km from Nanaimo where the main ferry from the mainland comes in.

Driving to Mt Cain can be a bit of an adventure. It’s a 16km (30 min) drive from Highway 19 on a road that’s unpaved, full of potholes, and is usually super icy – icy enough to play ice hockey on. Uphill traffic is permitted until 1pm and downhill traffic from 1-6pm. It’s compulsory to have chains on your car and as rental cars don’t provide them (and don’t let you put them on your car) and there is nowhere nearby to rent them, it makes it difficult for out-of-towners to drive up there. Thankfully there is one shuttle bus per day that runs from the bottom parking lot at 8:30am and returns at 4pm.

Mt Cain Accommodation

Mt Cain has an assortment of private cabins that are very rustic and the ski area owns two that can be rented. The primary Mt Cain lodging is in the Main Lodge which offers hostel style accommodation, and it sells out shortly after the bookings open for the season.

Otherwise you could stay in Woss or Sayward and commute from there.

Sayward Hotel Listing

Ski Resort Facilities

Mt Cain isn’t really a ski resort so don’t expect resort facilities. There is a “ski school” that primarily focuses on local school kids, and it’s hoped that if you’re a powder hound making the trek to Mt Cain that you already know how to ski or snowboard really well.

You can buy basic food at the canteen in Main Lodge.
No listings were found for Mt Cain.
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