How to get yourself used to sleeping in the snow in B.C. provincial parks

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      A provincial news release about expanded camping opportunities caught our eye recently.

      That wasn’t because of where the new campsites were—in popular E. C. Manning Provincial Park, two hours’ drive from Vancouver—but because of when they were open: winter.

      It was also notable because of what it offered those who might normally shrink from the mere mention of winter camping: a comfy way to acclimatize themselves to sleeping outdoors during below-zero weather.

      It is possible to engage in both camping and winter recreational activities like snowshoeing and cross-country skiing in various provincial parks in the South Coast region. But the opportunities are relatively few when compared to balmy-weather options. In Golden Ears Park, for instance, one campground remains open in winter, but its use is contingent upon sometimes-spotty road access, and water may not be available.

      Likewise, Garibaldi Park has one campsite available in winter, with limited facilities, and the much smaller Sasquatch Provincial Park near Harrison Hot Springs normally allows some winter camping, but the park is closed this winter due to wind and flood damage.

      Cultus Lake Park has a few sites available for hardy campers who bring their own drinking water and don’t mind pit toilets, and limited water and toilets are on offer during winter at the postage-stamp-size Porteau Cove site alongside the Sea-to-Sky Highway, albeit with limited recreational activities.

      But the Manning Park announcement offers a transitional opportunity for those who might have always wanted to try winter camping but were just too afraid of, well, being cold.

      That’s because the new Skyview Campground is officially touted as an RV site, and a fully serviced one, to boot—the first such winter site offered by BC Parks. This means that adventurous outdoor aficionados can enjoy relatively luxurious winter amenities like hot showers, a heated modern washroom, guaranteed running potable water, electric and sewer hookups, and more.

      The campground’s 60 sites can be rented on a nightly, weekly, or even monthly rate (electricity is extra for weekly and monthly stays), and there is even a daily shuttle to the park’s popular lodge and ski area, where alpine skiing and snowboarding get the most attention.

      But, conveniently, the park’s main Nordic cross-country ski trail cuts right through the winter-camping site on its way to higher elevations and 60 kilometres of smooth gliding on groomed trails, and the facility’s website envisions that “snowshoeing from this location will be a highlight in the future”.

      So drive your (own or rented) RV or camperized van and dip your toes into the winter, so to speak. Bring along a small tent and an approved winter sleeping bag and see how comfy and warm you can be with just some banked snow and body heat. Try it for just one night; you can always retreat a few metres into your toasty vehicle should you get, um, cold feet.

      Then maybe you will be ready to try some of the other frozen options scattered around this beautiful province.