Ski Northern BC this Winter
For a dusting of powder and charm.
You are looking for a ski adventure. You want it snowy, you want it picturesque, and you want it to yourself.
Well, at least, you want a few powder lines to yourself. No more of this sharing business; you want to escape the hordes of skiers who are chomping at the bit for first chair on a powder day.
You’re asking for a tall order, my friend. That is, unless you head out to a particular corner of BC’s Powder Highway, a singular spot located only a few kilometres from a town of 10,000. This is a region where the snow falls deep and light, where locals are the name of the game, and where you’ll feel like one after spending a day or two on the chair with them.
Belly up to the bar and place your tall order; it’s happily served at Whitewater Ski Resort.
I found Whitewater by accident, the result of following a journey of three pro skiers as they toured North America in a tiny cabin towed by a rusted diesel truck. Along the way, the trio broke down in Nelson, hometown of Whitewater. Instead of moving on in a hurry, the crew took advantage of the location, getting to know the area’s skiing, the town and its people.
They ended up staying for two weeks — and loving it.
Everything from the local vibe to the terrain to the quality of snow made it one of the road-tripping crew’s favorite ski areas they’d visited. If these three skiers, who had skied all over the world, gave it a gold star rating, I wanted to know more.
So I followed suit and hit the road to Nelson two years ago. For a girl who loves hidden adventure, unique culture, and intense beauty, I haven’t regretted it for a second. What I got for my trade was untracked lines, local eclecticism, and mom-and-pop simplicity.
Real folks, real food, real skiing. I mean, real. The people here aren’t trying to impress with flashy clothes and techy gear. They’re skiing Whitewater to have smiles plastered on their faces — which they all do. Then the food: made daily by legitimate chefs, this food is so good that the creations are in demand year-round. It’s the kind that gets its own cookbook — and Whitewater has four of ‘em. The menu is stuffed with servings like the Ymir Wrap: roasted tofu or chicken, candied yam, spinach, tomato, red curry hummus, cilantro crème fraiche — all homemade.
But we all come for the skiing.
Yet, what can be said to describe a place so complex and simultaneously simple? Yes, there are groomers for families and beginners. The coverage is excellent on them (and everywhere), and it’s all 100% natural — no snow guns needed here.
But Whitewater’s groomers are simply avenues for those who want to dive into a choose-your-own-adventure ski experience. The locals are explorers, and the resort’s humble three-lift-access serves up a feast: a surprisingly wide-spread, off-piste, and untracked powder picnic.
Yup, I said untracked. There are a few reasons why Whitewater tends to stay this way. First, Nelson is just far enough off the main artery through Canada to shelter it from powder-seeking crowds — all the better for those willing to go the extra mile since there’s hardly a spot on the mountain that isn’t a powder trove. Steep trees, pillow lines — it’s all here.
Second, locals use their skis as naturally as they use their feet, so there’s no need for them to pile up on the easily-accessed powder stashes. If one area looks saturated, they move along to any number of the other open lines.
Finally, unlike most other places I’ve skied, locals won’t snatch a fresh line out from underneath you. They understand that powder karma goes a long way.
So now you’ve got the secret of this mountain’s untracked hectares (and hectares) of off-piste, sidecountry, and backcountry lines; ready to benefit?
If you come: Whitewater is celebrating its 40th year this season and its regular festivities, such as the famed “Coldsmoke Festival” (which is celebrating 10 years itself), will benefit from an extra layer of fun because of it. Check out the calendar of events before heading up!
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