Small hill with potential, let down by management

A Review On: Hemlock Valley

Hemlock Valley

Rated # 13 in British Columbia
See all 3 reviews
Review Details:
Downhill Terrain
Family Friendly
Terrain Park
Purchased on:
Price paid: $55.00
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Pros: Lots of snow, great terrain on red chair, incredible "bowl" on green chair

Cons: Slow lifts, lifts stop often, small total area, 335m vertical

My girlfriend and I spent 6-7 hours on a Saturday skiing Hemlock, several days after a storm.


The snow conditions were surprisingly soft, apart from a few faces that were windswept and firm, especially the more prominent lines, such as Pete's Pass and The Face off of the red chair / "Skyline Double."


We are based in Vancouver, BC, and found the snow conditions to be drier than Whistler or Cypress, but wetter than Manning Park.


There are on-hill ski-in, ski-out accommodations, and the food at the on-mountain bar is not-bad but expensive for such a small hill ($13 for buffalo wings). We didn't try the cafeteria, which looked pretty bleak.


On the green chair / "Sasquatch Triple," the terrain is fairly mellow and generally not challenging. Intermediates will have a blast here, but expert terrain is limited.


However, "Baby Bowl" contained an incredible amount of stashed powder, and a good variety of undulating terrain and trees. By far, this was the hidden gem of the mountain.


Outside of Baby Bowl, experts will want to head off trail and poke around, but don't expect anything too "extreme" on this chair.

One other surprise: terrain park is great, though, featuring large jumps and a big variety of rails and ramps. It's much better than most if not all parks on Cypress Mountain, and seemed somewhat out of place with the generally mellow runs on the green chair.

If we were to return Hemlock, we'd session Baby Bowl again and again, then head over to the red chair.


On the red chair / "Skyline Double," you'll find a traverse heading in either direction that forks off into a good variety of black runs, streaking down the face of the mountain. The runs closer to the chair tend to be steeper and more challenging, while the runs further away tended to hold softer snow and more mellow terrain, especially "Surprise" and the other tree-lined runs.


"The Face" felt straight out of Whistler mountain, as a steep run with some exposed rock faces. Great training for skiers looking to practice on more extreme terrain.


"Heaven" was a soft mogul field when we came, and a deeply enjoyable run. We hit this one at least three times in between laps of exploring the rest of the runs.


Unfortunately, several of the runs from "The Face" rightward on the trail map were fairly windswept when we arrived, and most of the snow had piled up on other runs. We spent a few laps on these trails but ended up spending the rest of the day in softer conditions.


Overall, the trails/terrain had a decent variety and we enjoyed our time here. The steepest runs were steeper than than anything we have at Cypress Mountain, and the softness of the snow, even days after a storm, was very surprising to us. Baby Bowl was an absolute treat and a good training ground for pow days in "real" alpine bowls such as at Whistler-Blackcomb. The groomers were in good shape, and the whole mountain is very wide-open and connected. It's easy to jump off trail and explore. The vertical is indeed limited, but this just means that your runs will be shorter before you get back on the chair.


The real downside to Hemlock is that the staff / management don't seem to take the lifts very seriously. We experienced two incidents where staff stopped the lifts for 5-10 minutes, leaving us dangling on the long, slow chair in the howling winds. Not fun.

Before this, we had witnessed a liftee hitting the "stop" button in order to take a break from work to give a ski patroller a big hug and say hello. While I acknowledge it's great to reconnect with friends, the liftee seemed completely oblivious to the fact that many skiers would be left stranded on the lift during his social time.


This experience, plus reading other reviews online which cited Hemlock's tendency to stop the lifts without cause, led me to think that this is a serious downside of this small hill.


They have the makings of a good little ski destination in this part of BC, but until management starts taking the lift issue more seriously, I can only recommend this hill either as a local hill or for day tripping on serious dump days.


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