Birch Ski Area is one of the premier outdoor adventure areas in Manitoba, and outside of Riding Mountain National Park, you’d be hard-pressed to find a place with more elevation change. As Greg McNeill describes it; “It’s like a meteor hit in the middle, and it’s hilly terrain all around and a rolling meadow in the middle with a river.” This area is known for its well-groomed and challenging cross-country ski trails in winter and world class mountain bike trails in summer. In fact, this was the location for mountain biking in the 1999 Pan Am Games.
Driving to the trailhead takes about an hour from Oak Bluff. To get there, take Highway 3 to Carman, then continue west toward Roseisle. Just past Roseisle you’ll see signs for Birch Ski Area. Turn south on the gravel road, and continue until you see another sign for Birch. Turn west again, and follow the road to the parking lot. You’ll be greeted by two large dogs, who, though bark loudly, I’ve never had any problem with.
Birch Ski Area is located on private property, so please be respectful of the land and trails. In the parking lot you’ll see the chalet. Unless the water is turned on, the toilets won’t work, so don’t rely on this building for bathrooms/water. There are outhouses located in the lower bowl/parking area. To mountain bike in the area, I know you need a Manitoba Cycling Association membership, as well as a Birch Pass. For trail running, I don’t believe there are any regulations, however, I’m sure leaving a few bucks in the donation box in the chalet would be appreciated.
As mentioned above, this is a premier area for all sorts of adventure. The trails are a mix of wide XC ski trails and piles of single track. It seems like the options are limitless (see map in pictures below), and you’ll always find a hill to climb. “Cardiac Arrest” is a favourite hill, but I also saw a hill on the map called “Long Ignorant Climb”, that I’ll have to check out next time.
Current Conditions – April 9, 2017
The trails are pretty much totally clear of snow and are largely dry. I ran the south 5k XC ski trail which did have some snow and a section of mud. I then ran random single-track on the north trails and didn’t run into snow until the far end of the trails. Some single track also had some brush over the trail, but overall in really good shape. There were two river crossings, both of which had a bridge-type structure for crossing.
Items of Note
- If heading out to these trails for the first time, I would recommend going with someone who has some knowledge of the area. If you lack a sense of direction, you could certainly get turned around.
- A favourite place to stop on the way back to Winnipeg, if that’s where you’re coming from, is Syl’s Drive Inn, in Carman. I’d recommend the poutine, or for that matter, really anything on the menu.
- Well over a decade ago I participated in a cross-country run at Birch hosted by Doug Keith, one of the land owners who passed away December 2015. It was one of my first times running trails, and with the significant hill climb of the route, I felt like I was going to hack up a lung. That was probably one of my first times really running a trail so I have very fond memories of both Birch and Doug Keith.