Troll Ski Resort, British Columbia

A Man, a Dream and a Local Treasure

Ski Hill: Troll Mountain
Map: Location
Vertical: 527 m (1,729 ft)
Snowfall: 2 m (6-7 ft)

Most ski areas were created by passionate dreamers, visionaries or entrepreneurs whose commitment to skiing was so great that they somehow got everyone – their club, community, government, peers or preferred financial institution – involved in helping them. And then there was Lars Fossberg.

Community Ski Areas: Stories from The Heartland of Canadian Skiing is an on-going series that looks at the often small and remote ski areas where most Canadians learned to ski and are now sharing their passion for the sport with their children and grandchildren. || Creative Director: Gordie Bowles | Writer: Dave Fonda

The local newspaper, the Cariboo Observer, published this photo of Lars Fossberg standing in front of Troll in 1987. Photo courtesy of Quesnel Museum & Archives.

One Man. One Family. One Vision.

In 1960, Norwegian newlyweds Lars and Astrid Fossberg spent their honeymoon in the area of Quesnel and Wells, British Columbia. They loved the region and the people so much that, four years later, they returned with their children to stay. A skilled and tireless worker, Lars recognized an opportunity when he saw one. Says daughter Hildur, “he could look at something and see what needed to be done.” 

In 1970, Lars spotted a south-facing slope for sale on Pinegrove Mountain between Wells and Quesnel. Noting that over 10 feet of snow fell there annually, Lars figured he’d found his dream ski hill. He convinced Astrid they should buy the land and then, almost single handedly, he cut the trails, harvested the trees, and used the wood to build the base chalet, all the tables and benches, the lift towers and the outbuildings. 

A Ski Hill is Born

Essentially educated on the family farm, Lars knew he could still use some help. Enter Doug Mervin, a friend and fellow entrepreneur who’d opened Big White in Kelowna. Doug suggested Lars buy a T-bar. Which he did, using his own money. Then he put his kids to work salvaging the wood and the nails from the packing crates to build some outhouses.

Says Hildur, “he didn’t waste a thing.”

Troll Mountain opened for the 1971-72 ski season with five trails, a new Doppelmayr T-bar and a fully functioning base area with some pretty nifty outbuildings. And virtually everything was either handbuilt. Or assembled by Lars.

Troll’s first snowcat. Photo courtesy of Quesnel Museum & Archives.

The first log cabin lodge (no hydro) during the 1971-72 season. Photo courtesy of Quesnel Museum & Archives.

Word Quickly Spreads

Skiers and skiing newcomers from nearby Quesnel and Wells immediately embraced their new hill. They would soon be joined by others from Williams Lake and as far away as Prince George. 

They were drawn by the bountiful snow, the variety of glades and trails and the affordable lift tickets. But above all, they came for the warm and friendly atmosphere. It seemed everyone knew everyone at Troll. 

On powder days, when the Fossbergs were heading up to the hill in their old beater, Lars would stop speeding powder hounds and hand them the keys to the lodge so they could open it and get the central wood burning stove going.

“To me, a community ski area is a ski resort where the majority of its customers come from the nearest town and surrounding community. Troll exists because of the community that surrounds us.” 

– Hildur (Fossberg) Sinclair, Owner & General Manager 

A Lifetime of Innovation

In 1973, Lars bought a new BR 501 snowcat, which he used to groom the trails and introduce the locals to cat skiing. He also built a few tiny homes some 40 years before they made their HGTV debut and then rented them out to folks. In the early 1980s, Lars built a campground with dreams of filling it with more tiny homes and winter campers.

His dream has become Troll’s tiny home trailer town, and it’s brimming with families. He also built one of the first Terrain parks and a halfpipe to accommodate the enthusiastic young people he always loved to have around. And if all that wasn’t enough, Lars also developed and made expansion plans for Troll that Ecosign put on paper. Troll management is still working with his masterplan today.  

The early days of “cat skiing”. A newly acquired Bombardier snowcat was outfitted with seats to transport skiers up the mountain. Photo courtesy Hildur (Fossberg) Sinclair.

Astrid and Lars Fossberg. Photo courtesy of Hildur (Fossberg) Sinclair.

The Death of a Legend

In 2001, Lars Fossberg unexpectedly passed away. In his loving memory, his family created the Lars Fossberg Excellence Award.

The Canada West Ski Areas Association presents it annually to a ski area manager or supervisor who has demonstrated exceptional initiative, creativity and improvisational skills when handling unforeseen situations or circumstances. The list of past winners reads like a who’s who of Canada’s best and brightest ski industry stars.

Passing the Torch

At her children’s insistence, Lars’ eldest daughter Hildur and her husband Len Sinclair bought the base area and maintained the lease on the Crown land.

Says Hildur, “times changed and we needed to adapt. That’s what we’ve tried to do while staying true to our values. We’re a community hill, so we’re not trying to act like a destination resort. We serve a lot of families. We have an amazing school ski program because we believe that kids belong outside and that everybody needs something to do in the winter. So we focus on making skiing fun and affordable. That means running T-bars.” 

Hildur estimates that almost, “every single kid that goes to school in Wells and Quesnel has come through Troll’s school ski program.” 

Hildur (Fossberg) Sinclair with her husband Len Sinclair. 

Pro Skier Emily Childs (@wiildchilds), daughter of Hildur (Fossberg) Sinclair. 

Troll Mountain Alumni

Besides instilling a love of playing outdoors in winter, the program has produced world-class skiers. Quesnel’s Brian Bennett is a former Pontiac GMC Cup champion and national team member who helped build a world championship ski cross team, alongside Chris Del Bosco, Dave Duncan and Ashleigh McIvor. 

Hildur’s youngest daughter, Emily Childs, is one of the legendary Blondes (Matchstick Productions). Winners of the 2018 People’s Choice Award, the three hard-charging, free-riding gals love hucking, hitting and stomping everything in sight, both for fun and the cameras.

That sums up our whole philosophy. We just try to maintain a fairly large area for people to enjoy winter, by making everything as efficient [and affordable] as possible.

– Hildur (Fossberg) Sinclair, Owner & General Manager 

A Community Effort

Though privately owned, Troll still operates like a co-operative. Volunteers still step up to the plate whenever and wherever needed. Says Hildur, “It’s very nice, as it makes it easier to get things done.” And done well. The all-volunteer run Lightning Creek Ski Club is the third largest racing club in Northern B.C. It has developed one of the best junior racing programs for five to 16-year olds in the province. Last year, the club welcomed BC’s top junior racers when they hosted the Teck U12 through U18 Zone races. 

Today, Hildur, Len and their General Manager Scott Zacharias are implementing Lars’ expansion plan. Upon completion, 19 new trails will open on the Pinegrove area’s northeast face, bringing the total at Troll to over 60 runs, not counting its massive glades. And everything will be served by T-bars. What else?

The BC Alpine North Zone Teck ski race in 2022, hosted by the Lightning Creek  Ski Club at Troll. Photo by Falko Kadenbach.

Troll Mountain over the Years

Lars Fossberg (in coonskin hat) loading Ts for a mountain ski patrol sweep in 1971. Photo courtesy Hildur (Fossberg) Sinclair.
Denis Wood keeps track of the scoreboard during a downhill skiing competition at Troll on February 16, 1994 .
Local skiers riding the T-Bar in 1989.
Skiers looking out over the landscape from the top of a run at Troll in 1989.
The Lightning Creek Ski Club hosting a provincial ski race in 1993.

If you have any photos, videos or anectdotes that you’d like us to add to this story or if you have a story about any other ski area is your province or territory that you’d like us to add to this collection, please contact: [email protected]

Troll Ski Resort