Ready to dig out your toque and goggles and head to the epicentre of winter-time fun? The West Kootenays, an off the beaten track area located in southeast British Columbia renowned for its record snowfalls and mild winter temperatures, is a wonderful winter experience.
Located on the “Kootenay Powder Highway,” just up from the U.S. border, is the picturesque little mountain-culture town of Rossland. You won’t find any fast food chains here, but be prepared for excellent dining experiences with a surprising choice of cuisine, like pizza and sushi, or try authentic, fresh Thai dishes at Mook Thai Cuisine.
According to Kristi Calder, marketing manager for Rossland Tourism, “When it comes to winter adventure, locals have their priorities straight—for example, it’s not unusual to see a sign on a business door saying ‘closed for 30 cm’ when there’s been a powder dump overnight.”
Follow the locals five minutes out of town to Red Mountain Ski Resort, where with its 7.5 metres of annual snowfall and 890 metres of vertical, it’s not going to be B.C.’s best kept secret for long. In fact, Skiing magazine recently called it the “Most Underrated Resort,” and in 2013, the New York Times named Red Mountain and Rossland as the 8th Best Place in the World to Visit.
At Red another 1,000 acres of terrain was just opened up with a brand new ski lift, offering plenty of groomed and powder runs for all abilities, putting Red in the Top 20 of all North American resorts with respect to terrain size.
You can also sign up with Big Red Cats, the world’s largest cat skiing operation, and the only one in B.C. to include excursions for intermediate abilities (most offer advanced/expert levels only). If laying fresh tracks in pristine deep powder is your dream, booking a single or multi-day trip with their expert guides should be on your list.
Down the road you can find excellent cross-country skiing at Black Jack, or drive a half hour out of Rossland towards the Paulson Pass to the Castlegar Nordic Club where, for $10 a day, you can cross country ski your heart out on 45 kilometers of tracked trails. If snowshoeing is more your style, at nearby Strawberry Pass there is a network of huts to hike to where you can light a fire and eat your lunch (don’t forget the hot chocolate).
For accommodation, stay up at Red Mountain, or book at the Prestige Mountain Resort in Rossland, and soak in the hot tub or cozy up at the lounge with a glass of beer crafted by the Rossland Beer Company.
Only an hour away is Nelson, the little city with bohemian personality and vintage looks. Get a suite with a fireplace to snuggle up to at the centrally-located Hume Hotel, where historical ambiance and modern luxury mesh perfectly.
With 50 restaurants in town (that’s more per capita than New York) there are lots of dining options, but put the All Seasons Cafe at the top of your list. They offer a sensational seasonal menu using local and sustainable ingredients, and their “boozy lattes” are a winter staple.
Just a 15-minute drive south of Nelson is the Whitewater Ski Resort which attracts world-wide attention for the up to 12 metres of dry powder snow it receives and its 623 metres of runs, chutes, bowls, and back-country skiing. Lift lines are rarely longer than 15 minutes, and most weekdays lines are nil. They also have a Nordic centre with 15 kilometres of set track cross-country ski trails, 10 kilometres of snowshoe trails, or you can rent a fat bike and head out on the multi-use trails.
Don’t bother packing a lunch, because you will want to eat at the Fresh Tracks Café in the lodge. Not your typical cafeteria food, you can enjoy mouth-watering favorites such as the Wildhorse Curry Bowl and the Upcountry Panini (made with apple butter pulled pork).
Of course, no winter stay in Nelson is complete without a visit to Ainsworth Hot Springs. A 45-minute drive away on a scenic, winding route along the edge of the Kootenay Lake, here you can explore the unique 150-foot natural limestone cave while enjoying your soak.
Like the naturalist, John Muir said: “The mountains are calling, and I must go” –the West Kootenays are hollering.
Travel Planner: Fly via Air Canada into Castlegar, located in between Rossland and Nelson, then rent a car. Hume Hotel offers a Whitewater Shred & Bed package and Prestige Mountain Resort Rossland offers a Ski RED and Stay package.
For more info go to: http://www.nelsonkootenaylake.com/ or http://www.tourismrossland.com/
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