A Stunning BC Beauty

Check out Manning Park. Just don't tell anyone about it.

By David Gladish April 12, 2024

Mountain view of Manning Provincial Park.

This article originally appeared in the March/April 2024 issue of Seattle magazine.

During early spring, when the snowpack is deep in the Northwest, and the ski resorts are still buzzing with enthusiasts getting their last turns in before the season runs out, my wife, Kristy, and I like to head further north to Canada.

Surprisingly close to Seattle, without the crowds, and minus the lines of traffic snaking through the mountains, many small ski resorts in British Columbia offer cheap, down-to-earth experiences and mind-boggling scenery.

Manning Park Resort ski area, one of these hidden gems, has been operating ski lifts since 1967. Less than a four-hour drive from Seattle, this alpine riding paradise and resort is set within Manning Provincial Park, an 80,000-plus hectare (that’s almost 310 square miles) government-run park.

To get there from Seattle means bypassing the busy Peace Arch border leading to Vancouver in favor of the farmland surrounding the Sumas/Abbotsford border that leads further east. After winding through the urban sprawling cities along Highway 1 (the main highway leading into Vancouver), you turn off on Highway 3, which leads you into Hope, a sleepy town marking the entrance to what feels like an old logging route, with truckers, tourists, and weary road trippers fueling up on petrol and filling up on Tim Horton’s coffee.

As the road leads further inland, the temperature starts to drop and the coastal climate becomes drier, meaning rain quickly turns to snow. You’ll pass signs that warn you’re in an avalanche area as you head over Allison Pass, and then Manning Park Resort comes into view. This 3-star resort is a four season getaway, perfect for families, dog owners, and adventure lovers. With room for 450 guests, the resort offers cabins, chalets, and standard rooms at reasonable rates.

Five campsites are nearby, four managed by Manning Park Resort on behalf of BC Parks, and one directly run by the resort. Accessible year round for just $35 a night, this is a perfect option for “dirtbag” skiers like Kristy and me who want a quiet experience without a dent in our wallets. The last time we camped out there, it was frigid, but we braved a night out in the cold in hopes of scoring some fresh backcountry powder we could access just outside of the ski area boundary.

The snow ended up being so deep, and the avalanche danger high enough, that we chose to pick our way along mellow trails more suited for cross-country skiing than alpine touring. Even though we never linked epic powder turns on that day, simply being in the backcountry together, away from the crowded ski resorts near our home outside of Seattle, felt like a gift.

Previously, we had ventured out toward more committing and sublime wilderness areas within Manning Park, ski touring up Three Brothers Mountain and then toward Frosty Mountain. The latter zone is adjacent to the terminus of the Pacific Crest Trail, the infamous hiking trail that runs from Mexico to Canada, which Kristy had completed back in 2010.

With memories of endless hiking miles, Kristy and I skied through patches of old larch trees caked in windblown ice and snow, trying to catch glimpses of jagged Hozomeen Mountain in Washington, just over the international border.

For those looking for less of a backcountry commitment, Manning Park Resort’s cross-country trail network covers 64 kilometers (around 40 miles) of groomed terrain. There’s snow tubing, ice skating, and tobogganing, and in warmer months, hiking, biking, boating, and horseback riding. A full-day ski pass is just $59 ($43.75 for us Yankees), a fraction of what you might pay at the bigger ski resorts.

Every trip to Manning Park must end at Home restaurant back in Hope. There are four locations in British Columbia, and true to its name, eating here feels like eating at home. Meatloaf, burgers, and liver and onions come in heaping proportions, at old-fashioned prices, but the reason to come back is the pie. Displayed in a glass case as you enter the building, you can choose from lemon meringue, chocolate cream, apple, and strawberry rhubarb (to name a few).

Despite it being only 150 miles from Hope to our house, after skiing and adventuring, and a belly full of pie topped with whipped cream, the challenge of the weekend is getting home without falling asleep at the wheel. Luckily, the border crossing is never too long, there’s good music on the radio, and we are riding high from the feeling that we had just gotten away with being a part of a special area not yet discovered by many south of the border.

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