Charles Helm, Tumbler Ridge Global Geopark
Winter tourism in Tumbler Ridge has enormous potential, but has not yet been developed. Before significant numbers of international Geopark tourists become a reality here in winter, an attractive product needs to be created. Fortunately, a few dedicated Tumbler Ridge residents are busy doing just that. Interestingly, it seems that few other Global Geoparks have really explored the winter theme, and so a potential niche market may exist here.
Consider Flatbed Canyon, just below town. In summer the trails lead to a few exciting destinations such as the dinosaur tracks, Flatbed Falls, and Mini Falls. But in winter one can enjoy the full length of the canyon on cross country skis, and enjoy skiing along the foot of the canyon walls. It turns out that the geological exposures along these walls hold much of interest. A guide in the form of a booklet is being developed that interprets this, providing a stratigraphy lesson on skis (possibly a first in the Global Geoparks Network).
Anyone who has done the snowshoe trip to the Bullmoose Falls (near the old Bullmoose Mine) knows what an amazing scenic experience this is. It is possible for ordinary mortals, when conditions are right, to climb right around the back of the free-standing 80 ft ice column. This is just one of a number of scenic destinations, most of them Geosites, accessible on snowshoes – Boulder Gardens, the Shipyard, Babcock Falls and Quality Falls are others. What is needed is a comprehensive brochure explaining these fantastic features: this has now been created by Wolverine Nordic and Mountain Society (WNMS) volunteers, and is now available in the Visitor Centre and on the WNMS website.
Moving on to cross country skiing attractions, the same thing is being done, and an improved, detailed brochure is being developed which will summarize the most popular skiing options, from the groomed trails to the backcountry Geosites.
Likewise a brochure is being developed on the ice-climbing attractions. There are still a number of first ascents waiting to be made in the region, in addition to the many established climbs such as the Grinch beside Nesbitt’s Knee Falls, and Cowmoose Step Falls. Soon this brochure will complement the others. And at the Visitor Centre an excellent “Ten Things to do In Tumbler Ridge” brochure is being developed, with both winter and summer versions.
Consider what could be offered to a tourist to the Geopark in winter, in addition to these skiing, snowshoeing and climbing themes: the museum attractions with the palaeontology educational programs, curling, skating, tobogganing, visiting the Lost Haven Cabin, snowmobiling to the mountain summits, a sampling of locally caught and collected TR food, and enjoying our auroras and stargazing on clear nights. For international travellers from more southern climes who live in urban centres, this would be a life-altering experience.
In developing the theming of the Tumbler Ridge Global Geopark, we are beginning with a total of eighty-five such brochure and signage projects. We are working on the high-priority items first, and this all takes time. It will likely be a few years before all eighty-five have been completed. The Global Geoparks Network makes it clear that visitors need to be very much aware that they are in a Geopark, and somewhere unique and special. We are working assiduously to turn that requirement into reality as rapidly as is feasible through this brochure and signage project. While we have numerous assets and unique features in Tumbler Ridge, the passion and determination of our volunteers remains arguably the most precious attribute that has got us to where we are today.