View of downtown Fernie's main street at dusk in the winter | Dave Heath

BC’s Best Mountain Towns

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Downtown Fernie  | Dave Heath

Mountains? That’s British Columbia. Straddling the Canadian Rockies, much of BC’s nearly 400,000 square miles is wilderness—including lush rainforest, mountain ranges, and glacial peaks. It’s also dotted with delightful, laid-back mountain towns. Some are ski villages or outdoor adventure basecamps; others are reinvented mining and logging towns. But all are big on charm, quirky characters, and local color. Get to know the very best.

Fernie Alpine Resort | Dave Heath

Fernie: Big mountains, big adventure   

Low-key Fernie feels a bit frozen in time. There’s downtown’s turn-of-the-century 2nd Avenue, lined with historic brick storefronts that resemble a Wild West outpost. Then there’s the setting: Towering mountains on four sides cut by the Elk River, accented with handsome log cabins and alpine chalets. No wonder movie producers like to use it as a film set. A former coal mining and logging camp, today Fernie is a youthful, unpolished, unpretentious ski town for adventurous powderhounds. Though it gets hammered with 29 feet of light, fluffy snow each year, the place somehow manages never to be too crowded, attracting avid downhillers, boarders, and cat skiiers to Fernie Alpine Resort just three miles away. There’s hiking, biking, rafting, and fly fishing, too, and autumn is nothing short of spectacular with the trees below the Lizard Range all ablaze. Don’t leave town without sampling a honeycomb milk chocolate bar at Beanpod.

Downtown Nelson | Keri Medig

Nelson: Culture meets nature

Artsy Nelson is an appealing mix of hearty locals, salt of the earth characters, and urban escapees. Often called one of Canada’s prettiest, it’s set on the West Arm of sapphire-blue Kootenay Lake in southeastern BC’s Selkirk Mountains—an ex logging/mining town that’s culturally-minded and outdoorsy, friendly and bohemian. People-watch at a funky café, dine or overnight at the historic Hume Hotel & Spa, and peruse the eclectic collection of  shops set in Gold Rush-era buildings lining the forested hillside.  Nearby, Whitewater Ski Resort is renowned for not only it’s soft snow but also it’s delicious on-mountain menu of fresh housemade ingredients.

Whistler Mountain | Andrew Strain

Whistler: Energy and excitement

The world knows Whistler Blackcomb, just north of Vancouver, as a top global ski destination. It’s stylish, glam, and high-end with a youthful, high-energy vibe. It’s also a year-round playground, famed for its ski-in-the-morning-golf-in-the-afternoon proposition. The Euro-style pedestrian Village boasts critically acclaimed dining and designer shopping, and is party central once the sun goes down. Get your adrenaline pumping outside all day—skiing vertical, riding gravity-fed mountain bike trails, hiking among glaciers, and ziplining across canyons—then dine out and dance the night away.

Hudson Bay Mountain Resort Northern BC Tourism/Andrew Strain

Smithers: Backcountry blast

Alpine-style Smithers is where you go to get away from it all, get into outdoor adventure. In northwestern BC off the Yellowhead Highway, it’s tucked into a scenic valley next to towering Hudson Bay Mountain, home to the local ski hill. The area also features the Hankin-Evelyn Backcountry Recreation Area, popular with backcountry skiers for its extensive trails and terrain, above and below treeline. This northern community, a former railway hub, is authentic, fun-loving, and rough around the edges. Enviro-minded “Smithereens” adore their festivals and fishing (steelhead), hiking and skiing. There’s a surprising amount of cultural activity, too: Jazz and folk music showcases, field-to-table feasts, theatre, and quality restaurants. Take up residence in a rustic cabin and plan your getaway.

Rossland | Steve Ogle

Rossland: Old-school vibe with a modern twist

The southern BC town is high up in the Monashee Mountains at 3,400 feet, just over the U.S. border, an 1800s mining boomtown turned outdoor hub. Fans go to downhill through powder at RED Mountain Resort in winter and ride mountain bike trails summer, lured by the hardcore sports and low-key free time mix. Refreshingly old-style with no traffic lights or malls, the town has an impressive number of cute, idiosyncratic indie boutiques. Sample the local craft brew and stick around for the Rossland Winter Carnival, with events like snowman competition, learn to luge, and the Carnival Parade through town.

Point Holmes near Comox | Experience Comox Valley/Peter O'Hara

Comox: Mountain getaway on an island

This pretty oceanside community on the east coast of Vancouver Island sits 45 minutes from some of BC’s most noteworthy powder. Mt. Washington Alpine Resort boasts views of the Strait of Georgia and some of the best Nordic skiing on the continent, located on the edge of Strathcona Provincial Park, BC’s oldest. In town, search for a unique and meaningful memento from one of the area’s spectacular Indigenous galleries, and explore the Comox Valley’s vibrant culinary scene. Dine on creative meals prepared with the freshest local ingredients, and pair with local wine and spirits.

Harrison Hot Springs Resort | Tourism Harrison River Valley/Andrew Beaumont

Harrison Hot Springs: Ski and soak

Any time is a good time to relax in mineral hot springs, but the appeal is intensified when the weather turns cold. Less than an hour away, Sasquatch Mountain Resort is the place to embrace the cold. Ski, snowshoe, or slide in the tube park, then soak your muscles in the healing hot springs. The springs here can be experienced three ways: stroll along a scenic trail to see the steaming source; don your swimsuit and head to the public pool; or stay at the Harrison Hot Springs Resort for access to the hotel’s manicured indoor and outdoor hot springs pools. Another must-do? Visit the Sasquatch Museum to learn about the legendary creature rumoured to live in these mountains. You may even have your own sighting.


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