B.C.’s cosy winter cabins provide sanctuary

Tofino’s Crystal Cove Beach Resort is a great place to relax and take in some storm watching while visiting Pacific Rim National Park. - Courtesy of Christopher Pouget
Tofino’s Crystal Cove Beach Resort is a great place to relax and take in some storm watching while visiting Pacific Rim National Park.
— image credit: Courtesy of Christopher Pouget

It’s not just bears that like to hibernate in winter.

When temperatures and snowflakes start to tumble we humans also crave a cosy off-the-beaten-track retreat to curl up in front of a blazing wood fire, tuck into hearty comfort food and sink into a steaming hot tub. While a rustic log cabin nestled in a snowy forest with wisps of smoke from a stone chimney first comes to mind, in British Columbia winter getaway cottages can be as diverse as the landscapes.

Choose a luxury cedar and glass outpost perched seaside or above a mountain lake. Pick a vintage cabin on wide-open ranch country or alongside a natural hot spring. Pop a champagne cork and make it romantic or bundle up the kids or friends for a lively group getaway where cottage kitchens allow you to create your own private feasts. When Europeans dream of an idyllic Canadian winter, their vision just might be of escaping to a heritage cedar log cabin from the 1930s at Nakiska Ranch, a working farm where you can horseback ride in snow and dogsled alongside pristine Wells Gray Provincial Park.

Adventure, with or without the torque, abounds in the newly created Hankin-Evelyn Backcountry Recreation Area near Smithers. While staying at a charming three-bedroom cottage called Stonesthrow Guest House, enjoy all things ski, from beginners’ cross-country at Bulkley Valley Nordic to snowshoe trails and powder downhill without crowds at Hudson Bay Mountain. There’s even an opportunity to spend a day in the backcountry with the folks at Skeena Cat Skiing, or hop on a helicopter to hit high alpine bowls for a multi-day excursion in the region’s Coast Mountains with Bear Mountaineering. Should you prefer your adrenalin rush aboard a sled, forgo the skis and make an afternoon of it with the snowmobile pros from Harvey Mountain Adventures Ltd.

Powder snow is also the Kootenay Rockies region’s signature offering and that’s where Nipika Mountain Resort has eight unique log cottages with spectacular views of the surrounding peaks. Bonus: there’s also a historic 1920s trapper’s cabin converted into an interpretive centre with a telescope for stargazing. Watch for elk strolling up from the river, skate or chuck a puck across Nipika Pond, or head out for 50 kilometres (31 miles) of groomed cross-country ski trails that boast warming huts. Finish the day in the wood-fired hot tub and sauna or drive 32 kilometres (20 miles) to immerse yourself in the soothing hot mineral pools of Radium Hot Springs.

If ski boots and parkas aren’t your first choice for winter apparel, try slipping into a wetsuit and tackle surfing in Tofino on Vancouver Island’s west coast where winter storms that bring in epic rollers are celebrated with gusto. Here, you can beachcomb along wild, wide stretches of strand before warming yourself in a modern log cabin at Crystal Cove Beach Resort. An added bonus? Watching waves pound MacKenzie Beach from your hot tub.

Wetsuits are also de rigueur when you submerge into waters of the Sunshine Coast north of Vancouver, a stretch of oceanfront that lives up to its name with a surprisingly balmy climate. Some of the country’s best scuba diving takes place on this coast, especially in winter when the waters are clearest for communing with octopus and poking around wrecks off Powell River.  The eco-friendly Stillwater Beach House is nestled right on the shore amid towering evergreens with views across Malaspina Strait to Texada Island. For over 25 years, this was Christine and Jock McLauchlan’s summer hideaway, until they retired recently and upgraded the two-bedroom cottage.

“At Stillwater, you can hike and cycle year-round,” said Christine. “We also have a wonderful bay for kayaking and canoeing, and the beach is just outside your door.”

That same roll call of activities can be enjoyed year-round on Galiano Island in the Gulf Islands where the Cliff House cottage is romantically — and dramatically — perched above the ocean with spectacular sea views from the deck, solarium and bedroom hot tub. A more rustic atmosphere characteristic of funky Galiano is the theme of the nearby Treehouse, a second cottage among the trees: both share a quaint Hobbit house-like wood-heated sauna near the ocean.

From the high alpine meadows of the Kootenay Rockies where the only sound is the shushing of your skis to the jingle of bells on a sleigh ride to the mini-Mediterranean oasis of the coastal southwest there’s a perfect cottage out there for everyone, a place where you can close the door on the rest of the world and live a winter dream.

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