There’s something compelling about British Columbia’s Kootenay Rockies. The nature here is big — monumental, in fact — but amidst this imposing landscape adventurous communities thrive, small but hardy.
Prospectors originally mined this area for gold; now something else beckons, a rush of adrenalin that requires skis and boards, and a GPS to map the way.
The outdoor-adventure action here is concentrated along the Powder Highway in southeastern BC, where eight full-service alpine resorts mingle with more than 10 Nordic ski destinations, nearly two dozen snowcat and heli-ski operators, plus a complement of 23 backcountry lodges.
Heli- and cat-skiing were born here, and it’s where winter resorts offer remarkable, and varied, mountain experiences, chock full of warmth and charm.
Case in point: Fernie, a historic mining town that is now a ski mecca whose population nearly doubles during the winter season.
Here, adventurists can make tracks in Fernie Alpine Resort’s legendary powder, a playground that includes 1,000 skiable hectares (2,471 acres), 142 runs and five alpine bowls. As a bonus, après-ski, Fernie-style, is easily achieved with a pint of Glacier Fresh Kokanee at The Griz Bar.
And that’s just a taste of what’s on offer along BC’s Powder Highway. Die-hards could, for example, explore whole new realms of possibility at RED Mountain Resort, where the addition of nearly 81 hectares (200 acres) of gladed tree skiing on three newly cut runs on Mt. Kirkup’s south side promise to redefine steep and deep.
A venture to nearby Whitewater Ski Resort offers equal challenge — thanks to a wintry landscape that boasts an annual 12-metre (40-foot) snowfall — that is blissfully rewarded at nearby Ainsworth Hot Springs. (Both the resort and the springs are just a short drive from Nelson, one of BC’s quirkiest and most beloved towns.)
Powder addictions will be further sated at Kicking Horse Mountain Resort near Golden, “The Champagne Powder Capital of Canada,” or at Revelstoke Mountain Resort, home to North America’s longest vertical.
For those eager for some high-flying action (a.k.a. an opportunity to perfect their Double McTwist), Panorama Mountain Resort’s terrain park is just the ticket.
There are down-to-earth options along this road trip, too: grown-ups can leave the aerials to the pros, enrol the kiddies at Kimberley Alpine Resort’s Owl Learning Area, and make tracks along open glades and heart-thumping steeps. (Planting poles and warming up with a steaming cup of hot buttered rum at the Stemwinder Bar & Grill is an equally tempting alternative.)
Bottom line: along BC’s adventurous Powder Highway, options for powdery play are seemingly endless. And the locals are pretty friendly, too. PowderHighway.com