Let the mountains move you in Valemount, a quiet mountain town in British Columbia’s North Thompson Valley in the Thompson-Okanagan Region.
A Visit to Cranberry Marsh, Valemount’s Winter Playground
Pairing stunning views with close proximity to the village centre Cranberry Marsh (also known as the Starratt Wildlife Sanctuary) is Valemount’s natural outdoor activity centre.
Early season, before the marsh is frozen enough to skate, we love to take advantage of the warm weather and walk along the 6-km loop. Sometimes we make it the whole way around and other times when I sense little feet dragging along, we opt for a short stroll and then turn back. If you’re adventurous, you can strap on a pair of snowshoes, but the Cranberry Marsh loop trail is usually packed down enough that snowshoes aren’t necessary.
As the chill of winter creeps in and the marsh starts to freeze, it transforms into a playground for a truly Canadian experience: outdoor skating. On any given Sunday, you can find the local kids shooting a puck back and forth, trying to score on mom and dad. Cheers and laughter escaping everyone’s mouths as the puck sails past the net. On the other side of the game, you’ll find figure skaters practicing their twirls, weaving in and out of the natural paths the reeds create.
Since the weather varies when skating outdoors our feet always cool down quickly so warm socks are a must. Sometimes we’ll pack “Hot Hands” hand/toe warmers for cold toes, but a sure way to warm up is a cup of steaming hot cocoa. As we hit the ice again, I take a moment to breathe in the beauty of the surrounding mountain peaks. Canoe Mountain is standing tall in front of us- a giant in our presence.
The marsh is not maintained, so after the first big dump of snow you may come upon a few kind folks shoveling the snow off the ice, or you may find that you need a snow shovel yourself. But no matter, even when covered in snow there are many ways to enjoy this space.
The settled ice is a pleasure to wander across by foot and while there is no set track, we often see people shuffling through the snow on cross-country skis or snowshoes. They wear smiles plastered across their faces, enjoying the chance to create their own trail through the snow.
The marsh has multiple access points, the main one being from beside the Best Western parking lot just 2 km south from the Valemount Visitor Information Centre. This is the optimal starting point for a beautiful walk or cross-country ski around the 6-km loop. A lovely way to wrap up your brisk walk is with an appetizer or a warm drink in the Cranberry Lounge located just inside the Best Western. The fireplace will have you feeling warm again in no time.
There is a secondary access point from McKirdy Road, just off of 13th Avenue/Aspen Road. From this parking lot you can walk down to the marsh and strap on a pair of skates to revel in the glory of being surrounded by gorgeous mountain peaks.
Valemount currently doesn’t have a facility that rents skates for outdoor skating or snowshoes, so don’t forget to bring your own.
As with any outdoor activity, safety should be a top priority. Do not attempt to cross the ice early season, in warm weather, or as spring approaches. Enjoy your time in this natural playground.