BC’s Powder Highway draws adventurers

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

World Ski and Snowboard Festival set for April 11-20 in Whistler

What do you call 10 days of out-of-this-world action, both on and off Whistler’s slopes? The World Ski and Snowboard Festival, of course. Set to cause a scene April 11 – 20, this fest has earned its cred as the biggest annual gathering of winter sports, music, arts and culture in North America.

Here, massive vertical and slopestyle contests promise plenty of action: The World Skiing Invitational/AFP World Championship is a heart-thumping, high-flying challenge, while The Monster Energy Shred Show features not one, but two snowboard events. (These snowboard challenges will bring on the oohs and aahs, thanks to The Big Air’s massive kicker andSlopestyle’s array of terrain park tricks.)

And when it’s time to trade the thump of adrenalin for a kaleidoscope of sensory delights, be sure to stroll the village for glimpses of arts and musical presentations on outdoor concert stages and within the resort’s conference centre and nightclubs.

Tip: snag a ticket forIntersection, a celebration of action sport filmmaking at its best, or check out screenings of the winners in the film, action sports, and photography contests during the Best of the Fest finale. Both visual feasts that may be just the inspiration required to wax the skis and boards. wssf.com

British Columbia’s slopes kind to new skiers and boarders

British Columbia’s powder-packed slopes prove ideal for fast-paced runs, cruises through the glades and ventures into the steep and deep. But what about beginner skiers and boarders who have yet to make the move from easy-does it terrain?

It’s good to be a newbie at Sun Peaks Resort, near Kamloops, where skiers can earn their stripes in a setting that offers snow and sunshine in equal measures. Here, Learn to Ski and Snowboard programs promise plenty of gently contoured action — ideal for first-timers eager to build confidence.

Got a budding speedster on your hands? They can put all lessons learned into action with a cruise along the resort’s 5 Mile run, a favoured green pathway that is as expansive as it is crowd free.

Guarantee: a few turns on these slopes and skiers and boarders won’t be rookies for long. sunpeaksresort.com

Bunny hills be gone at Big White Ski Resort, east of Kelowna, where the resort’s Mom, Dad and Me Package proves ideal for youngsters aged three to six years.

These two-hour, semi-private lessons (child and parent) provide on-slope tools for both parties: little ones learn the basics while adults discover games and activities aimed to motivate their young charges along the mountain’s twists and turns.

As a bonus, this package packs it in with two nights accommodation, four two-day lift passes and tube park tickets.bigwhite.com

Further east at Kimberley Alpine Resort, the new beginner slope, Alpine Slide, offers an easier way down to the lower mountain from the top of Northstar Chair.

And while that may encourage newbies to go for the green (run) every time, it might also instill the confidence required to tackle a few of the resort’s 80 tree-lined runs or take on one of North America’s longest illuminated trails after the sun sets. The non-stop fall lines and heart-stopping steeps? Maybe next time. skikimberley.com