WE LOVE KOOTENAY POWDER ADVENTURES FOR THE SUNSHINE, THE QUALITIES OF WINTER LIGHT, THE FEEL OF BRISK AIR, AND THE JOY OF BEING IN MOTION.
On a clear day, the serrated edge of a snowy mountain ridge backed by a bluebird sky appears as sharp as a knife edge to the eye.
On the days when it snows the light is soft and the edges blend. The colours are muted like the sounds, and the seasonal palette ranges from the brightest of whites through grey, blue, and green, highlighted with the rusts and golds of last year’s growth. Each view is so extraordinarily beautiful in a quiet unassuming way, you just know that the possibilities are infinite.
THE DELIGHTS OF WINTER TAKE MANY FORMS.
The world famous Red Mountain Resort in Rossland, and Nelson’s Whitewater Ski Resort were honoured to share the title of ‘Top Ski Town in North America’ by Powder Magazine in 2012. These larger well developed ski areas offer more runs with greater variety… from the beginner greens, to the leg torching moguls on the double black diamonds that appeal to the many amazingly talented skiers that make their way here every winter.
Summit Lake and Salmo are smaller community ski hills which provide accessible, and less expensive terrain to practice your basic skiing skills. You can rent everything you need and book lessons if you want them.
Is a quieter, and more independent way to access the backcountry. Whether you are going for a few hours, a day or overnight, make sure you and your buddies are prepared with the avalanche knowledge and the tools necessary to keep each other safe. Visiting the area? Research the zone and talk to local clubs before setting out, and leave your game plan at home.
Daytime destinations…The Bonnington Range, Stagleap and Kokanee Glacier Park draw the more experienced telemarkers. There the cabins are equipped for overnight stays. Reserve your cabins online at
Learn more about the opportunities in these communities here:
Heli, Snowcat, Backcountry
The Powder Highway calls! Red Mountain and Whitewater are a part of this big snowy loop that circles the East and West Kootenay. Within that loop is what we call the Powder Playground. It’s made up of numerous small operators who provide boutique-style custom snow experiences for intermediate and expert skiers on world class pow! Your Best Day Ever will be spent with one of these mountain men or women, miles from any city or town, sinking and cresting the powder of your dreams.
You will be transported from the valley bottom to the best high mountain playground within their tenure that day, ‘cause the operators and guides know all the nooks and crannies of these hills intimately. They will feed you, guide you and tuck you in at night…They are the explorers of today, continuously prospecting new slopes and ridgelines – seeking the best terrain for your ultimate pleasure. See page 4 for powder playground directory.
is also hugely popular. With their trusty steeds beneath them, sledders can travel many miles into the backcountry. Their machines become an extension of their daredevil selves. Skilled riders can cut through deep powder, climb steep slopes, cat-walk and launch themselves over obstacles. You’ve got to be fit to play this hard. All. Day. Long.
Often remote cabins are the destination for a sledding weekend. Bring some friends, load up on supplies and head up the mountain for a sleepover.
Meadow Mountain or Crusader Creek Cabins: Book with www.nelsonsnogoers.ca, Castlegar/Beaver Valley: book through Castlegar Snowmobile Association www.csasled.org or visit Barrett Motorsports in Fruitvale for information and recommendations.
The mountains are calling and I must go.
John Muir (1838-1914)
In the West Kootenay of BC, winters are real.
The delights of winter take many forms. We love powder adventures for the sunshine, the quality of the winter light, the feel of the air, the joy of motion… At high altitude, winter light can be knife sharp on a clear day, the bluest blue sky against the serrated edge of the peak. On the snowing days the light is soft and the edges are smooth. The colours are muted like the sounds, the palette of the snow and the forest a range of greys just tinged with greens – even the birds are monochromatic. The muted colour scheme of our wintertime mountains enhances our sense of the three dimensionality of the spaces through which we pass. We play IN the snow, not on top of it. Those of us who live for winter are not immune to the cold. We just know a few things about how to stay safe and warm, and how to be happy in the season of short days. We wear hats, we wear long underwear, we wear layers. We tell people exactly where we are going and when we expect to be back. And we always enjoy the day with a buddy. Find your joy in the hills. The rewards are many… the forest and the deep snow will draw you in. It is easy to get started with snowshoeing and Nordic skiing. Some basic equipment is all you need and you can rent almost everything required for a day’s adventure at ski shops in Nelson, Kaslo, Nakusp, Trail or Rossland. Some of your best winter days will start with a drive to a widening in the road, where you will join other roof-racked vehicles parked at the trailhead. Every West Kootenay community now has snowshoe and/or cross-country ski trails and a crew of enthusiastic and hardworking volunteers to maintain them. Unless you are heading out with a local who is familiar with the terrain, your best bet is to take advantage of the more formal club facilities. In the Nordic skiing areas, the trails are marked and you are likely to meet others, so there is that safety factor (usually in the backwoods, your cell phone will not work, except as a camera to record your experience.) The day-use fee at most areas that are groomed for skiing is around $10 or less, payable by the honour system at the trailhead. Snowshoeing is the least expensive way to get into the deep snow. With snowshoes you can trek along more serpentine tracks that, in the summertime, are easier to hike up on foot than bike up on wheels. Once you’re on cross country skis, the slighter grades of the many West Kootenay rails-to-trails options are best for a two hour outing or if you are with (or are) a first timer. Many powder adventures branch off from downhill and Nordic skiing. Downhill ski areas like Summit Lake and Ski Salmo provide inexpensive, and patrolled venues to practice your basic telemark or downhill turn skills.
Areas like these are a great way to get the whole family out having fun in the winter, with heated lodges, hot chocolate, and downhill fun. With the exception of tree wells, ski areas manage most snow risk for customers. The most basic rule – to always ski with a partner – applies, even at ski areas, especially so if you are skiing off-piste. It is not hard to get into a tree well, it is just hard to get out of one. Learning to ski well enough to tour is an easy bar to attain. Basic Nordic or alpine touring skills can help you access the forest or even get you out to do some winter camping. The delight of being in the winter forest is one of immense quiet, as if the earth were asleep. Sledding is hugely popular in the West Kootenay. For some it’s all about the sport of riding. With the new snowmobiles, skilled riders can serpentine through the powder, challenge steep slopes, and play all day long. For some sledders, the draw is the access to the sunny skies of the alpine, high above the clouds cloaking the valleys below. The rule of thumb for sledding is the same as for any machine-aided sport; the faster you can go, the faster you can get into trouble. Go with a partner, go prepared to be stuck, and be responsible for your own snow safety education. Alpine or telemark touring provides a quieter, and more independent way to access the backcountry. Cat skiing and helicopter skiing typically offer total powder packages, with lodging, meals, guides, and ‘tailgunners’ to keep the group together. In the Kootenays, the businesses that can get you out into the backcountry were all started because of a passion for winter and these mountains. Many of those businesses advertise in these pages. Connect with them and catch the spirit!
Experience lake fishing in winter! Plan your arrival to Woodbury so you can get your gear and boat rentals all figured out for the next day. Meet the locals in the pub in the evening, and soak up a few fish tales along with your bevvies. Fishing is at its best on Kootenay Lake in fall and winter. What’s the catch? Some of the biggest rainbow trout, the Gerrard rainbows, which reach phenomenal sizes of over 20 lbs, as well as Dolly Varden (bull trout) and kokanee, a land-locked salmon.
Fat Tire Bike is alright.
How many different ways can there be to fly through and across mountain snowscapes without using any fuel but your own high energy? It’s been quite a while since snowboards were the brash new powder pushers. Yes, there is a new kid on the block – or you could say that now your mountain bike has a cool cousin – the fat tire snowbike. If mountain biking has gotten under your skin, it’s a sad November day when you realize, after one or two slideouts, that it’s time to park your wheels. To see one of these new sticky traction puppies is to want one. Fat tire bikes are mountain bikes with a few modifications – most obvious of these is the slightly under-inflated big bouncy tires. It’s the bounce that makes fat tire biking addictive. Once you’re hooked on that bounce, you’ll want to test your snowbike on all kinds of terrain. They’re wicked in sand and mud as well as snow. Really, when you think about it, fat tire bikes are the perfect solution for at least three of our Kootenay seasons. A path that is boggy down at the trailhead progresses more and more icily till you’re traversing wind-blown powder at the top of a ridge. But no worries – you’re a on a three-season bike and it just got you there and it will swoop you back down. Rent one before you buy. In Nelson, go to Gerick Cycle & Ski on Baker Street or you can rent bikes at Whitewater Ski Resort. In Rossland, you can rent snowbikes at Red Mountain or at Revolution Cycles on Columbia Avenue. Kootenay Gateway, also on Columbia Avenue, is an outfit that gives guided fat bike tours. Call Natasha at 250-362-0080 to book a spot.
Cabin Fever- Ski, Snowshoe or Sled
Ski or snowshoe your way through the forest to one of the ten warm-up huts in the Rossland Range. Some of the huts, like the Red Dog Cabin, are only an hour or so from the highway. Below is a good selection of our rustic backcountry cabins.
Daylight Destinations In Nakusp, the Jackrabbit Interpretive trail has a warm-up hut. South of Nakusp off Hwy 6 at Box Lake, there is a warming shelter at the midpoint of the 6 mile (9 km) network called the Wensley Creek Cross-Country Ski Trails. Learn more about the extensive trail network in the Nakusp/Hills/New Denver area at www.nakusptrails.ca In Kaslo, there are warm-up cabins in the Buchanan Recreation Area. www.korsbc.blogspot.ca Nelson Area: www.nordicski.ca and Rossland ski areas, www.skiblackjack.ca (ski only) have warm-up huts on their trails. In the Castlegar/Paulson Area:
www.castlegarnordic.ca Rossland www.rosslandrange.org/RRRS/shelters.html Overnighters The Bonnington Range, Stagleap and Kokanee Glacier Park draw the more experienced telemarkers. There the cabins are equipped for overnight stays. Reserve your cabins in advance through www.kootenaymountaineeringclub.ca, www.alpineclubofcanada.ca, or www.rippleridge.ca
If there is snow on the mountain,
there ARE sleds in the hills.
Sledding A sled that’s just right for you – quick and responsive and just the weight you can handle – is a beautiful thing. Free-riding in the alpine, winding through tight trees, popping out into a mountain meadow, into the sunshine and above the layer of clouds shrouding the valleys… your heart is pounding and there is a big smile stuck on your face. Moto-cross with skis. The track behind you is the track you made, and nobody else. But…! Getting to those high elevation forests and powder bowls can be jarring on the kidneys. A groomed trail to the alpine is your friend. And you can ride groomed trails with company, kids and novices too. Learn where to go by contacting area clubs: The Castlegar Snowmobiling Association (find them on Facebook), the Nelson Sno-goers (www.nelsonsnogoers.ca), and the Beaver Valley Snowmobiling Association, www.bvrmntn.webs.com
Betties – Empowered By Power
Who’s a Bettie? The definition is “a female power sports enthusiast of any size, shape, age and ability.” The Betties are a non-profit organization that promotes power sports and brings women together to learn and refine skills, and share adventures. Its aim is to foster an environment in which women can both be an inspiration and be inspired. www.facebook.com/BettiePower
Sledding Destinations: Meadow Mountain and Crusader Creek Cabins: Book through the Nelson Sno-Goers. https://www.nelsonsnogoers.ca/events Castlegar Beaver Valley: Contact the Castlegar Snowmobile Association on Facebook or visit Barrett Motorsports in Fruitvale.