Eagle Valley Lodge
Late last March I met up with a few of my Fort Mac buds for a weekend sledding trip at Rene St. Onge’s Eagle Valley Lodge nestled in the heart of Sicamous, British Columbia. In the months previous I had been in contact with good friends Josh Hynes & Justin Janes (a couple Deer Lake boys) ironing out trip details and keeping the stoke high in the days leading up to the trip.
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My itinerary: Deer Lake – Toronto – Vancouver – Kelowna. The rest of the leg I’d be driving solo from Kelowna to Sicamous. I arrived in K-town on time and picked up the keys to the rental car from Enterprise. My first stop was downtown Kelowna to grab supplies for the trip and then hop back on the highway as I was eager to meet up with the guys and get the weekend underway. After a picturesque drive through Kelowna-Vernon-Enderby and then Sicamous, I arrived at Rene’s place and was immediately taken aback by the huge compound he has. The lodge itself is surrounded by massive storage buildings filled with everything from trailers, boats, snowmobiles, dirt bikes, quads, antique cars and the list goes on. It’s clear his storage business is doing well. There’s also an on-site store where he sells sled parts, swag, goggles and I’m sure just about anything else. My observation was – if Rene can’t get it, there’s probably a good chance you don’t need it.
The boys had arrived at the lodge the day before and texted me earlier in the morning saying they were going for a ride. I grabbed my bags out of the rental and made myself at home inside the lodge waiting for them to get back. Rene’s place is the ideal accommodation for a weekend sled trip. It includes ten bedrooms that sleep up to twenty people, a large seating area, a full size pool table, foosball, Big Buck Hunter Pro, a large kitchen, a huge drying room with individual drying racks for wet snowmobile gear, not to mention a hot tub. I cracked a cold beverage and went for a tour on buck hunter while I awaited the boys’ return. Rene showed up shortly thereafter. He had just gotten back from the mountains. We introduced ourselves and immediately started chatting about the riding and avalanche conditions in the surrounding areas. Rene mentioned the avy risk in the area was considerable at the time and that he had seen a couple of very large slides just a few days ago. He showed me a few pictures from the past couple of days riding. I was a little unnerved that the avy conditions were considerable but couldn’t help but be excited about how the next few days would unfold based on the terrain in Rene’s pictures and the riders in our group.
The guys pulled in shortly thereafter in a convoy of jacked-up diesels and sleds. I couldn’t help but laugh when they jumped out of the trucks. We traded high fives and a few hugs. I popped a little joke about “big oil”. No one could argue that one.
The boys got cleaned up and we had a couple of bevys waiting for dinner that evening. Rene had a local couple come in to cater us a delicious roast beef dinner. A few minutes before we sat down to feast, Geoff Kyle showed up. It was pretty cool to finally meet Geoff after watching him in all the early Slednecks videos when the sport was just starting to take off. Both he and Rene are well grounded and don’t talk a big game. They’re much like anyone else you meet sledding. Just a couple guys that love to snowmobile.
We woke early the next morning and got geared up to hit the mountains but not before having a hearty breakfast and a strong cup of joe. Justin had hauled a sled down for me from Fort Mac so I hopped in with him. His truck “IRONHYD” (as it reads on his licence plate) is a spectacle in itself. No corners were cut building this massive sled hauler – a 2500 Dodge Cummins with a 12” BDS lift, Full-Lotus deck, 6-speed tranny, skirting on 22’s. What a rig! We hit the local gas bar that was just up the road from the lodge to gas the sleds and grab a lunch for the day.
Finally it was time to hit the mountains. A 5-truck convoy of diesels yielding sleds pulled out of the gas bar and pointed towards the mountains. The sky was full blue and our stoke levels high.
We twisted and turned up the old logging road to the Eagles Pass offload area in a plume of black smoke. Eagles Pass is a huge sled-friendly zone filled with every sort of riding you can imagine from large, snow-filled meadows to huge open bowls, steep technical trees and even a couple of burn areas. We reached the centrally located Eagles Pass cabin shortly after leaving the trucks. With trails and groomed tracks in all directions Geoff took us up a little further where we dipped off trail and dropped into a huge untracked bowl. Pow-slaying time was on! I’ll never forget that first drop in. It remains the longest downhill descent I’ve done to date. I still have the vivid picture ingrained in my mind as we all descended side by side into the depths of the Monashee Mountains in a sea of white powder. It was definitely one of those moments that’ll stick with me for a long time.
The remainder of the day we followed Geoff through some of the best terrain I’ve ridden, barely seeing another track. It goes to show having an experienced, knowledgeable guide is really worth every penny when you want to ride the best areas and snow conditions. This day was a true testament to that.
We ended the day riding into an orange-cast sunset making our way down the mountain. After loading up all the sleds it was time to head back to the lodge to grab a shower and enjoy a few brewskis before supper. On the menu that night was 1 ½” AAA striploin steaks, baked potatoes and Ryland’s patented Caesar salad. Mark took leadership in the kitchen preppin’ the grub while we watched a couple of go-pro videos, still stoked on the day of riding that had just taken place. Late into the evening we battled it out over pool, foosball and Buck Hunter. Day one was a huge success – a soild crew, great riding, great meals and a lot of laughs. It was time to hit the sack and get ready for day two.
Rene joined us on day two. We’d be riding an area he named Redbull, which I thought afterwards was only fitting as anyone who rides that particular area need–be on Redbull. Rene arrived at the offload area a few minutes before us. We parked the coal-rollers and offloaded the sleds. I ran around back of the truck to take a leak when – BOOM. Rene had set up a pound of tannerite on a stump about 75 feet away. When everyone was least expecting it he shot it with his 30-378. Thankfully I was wearing my Motorfist gear or I would have been wet for the remainder of the day. (*Tannerite is a binary explosive used for target practice. You mix two compounds together and it needs to be shot with a rifle in order to detonate). Before we got anything else ready we blew up another couple of pounds of tannerite and tried out Rene’s 12ga tommy gun – a scene you could most likely expect from a bunch of redneck sledders.
The wind had picked up a little for day two causing the mountains to be socked in with a low cloud layer but that certainly didn’t stop us from having any less fun. Rene & Geoff led the group up through some tangly, mashed-potato snowed treelines where we took turns playing on some steep-treed sidehills and eventually ended up at a little cabin nestled on a pond in the middle of nowhere. It was the perfect setting for a mid-day snack and warm up. The boys lit a fire in the rusty little woodstove and warmed up the cozy A-frame cabin while we sat around and told a few lies. After a quick bite to eat, the gang hopped back on the sleds and eventually broke out on a large ridge overlooking a never-ending British Columbian valley. We traversed up and across another large bowl and dropped into a huge burn area otherwise known as Mustang. Dropping into this burn area was another highlight of the trip for me. Boondocking downhill through huge old-growth, charcoaled cedar trees on crazy steep slopes – what sledder can’t get into that? I remember thinking if only a couple of the boys back home could see this right now. We easily dropped a couple thousand feet of elevation on that one descent. At the bottom we waited for the rest of the gang to show up.
After a little break and some much needed rehydration it was time to start the uphill trek back out of the valley. What ensued over the next 20 minutes was pure torture on those snowmobiles: full-throttle, up-hill side-hilling for nearly 10 minutes straight as we bobbed and weaved our way up and out of Mustang. A couple of us got tangled up about halfway up the ridge. It was a good place to stop and take a breather anyway and let the sleds cool down. I could feel the heat from the engine on my face.
We regrouped shortly thereafter near the top of the mountain and turned back for the trucks. Day two was winding down but not before a little snow-cross style trail riding on the way back to the offload area.
The crew woke early on the third morning to pack our gear and get ready to hit the highway. We all had a few hours to kill before send-off so we decided to end the weekend the right way – by blowing-up a couple of four-pound bags of tannerite. It was a bittersweet departure. Geoff hit the highway for Pemby. Ty and Matt left for a couple of days sledding in Revy. Justin & Chris left for Edmonton. Josh, Mark and I hopped in the little Kia and headed for the airport in Kelowna. A stellar weekend and great memories had by all. Thanks to Rene for the awesome hospitality. Eagle Valley Lodge is one place you should put on your bucket list. It truly is “the best sledding in the west”.
If you’re looking to book a trip to Eagle Valley Lodge make sure to check out www.eaglevalleylodge.com.