Kaslo Experiences: Between A Lake And A High Place

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Kaslo Experiences: Between A Lake And A High Place

Story and photos by Gina Begin, Originally posted on

“I need this every day.”

That’s what I whispered to my neighbour as we sat listening to the notes of a harp float into the forest night. I, along with a handful of others, were taking part in one of the ‘experiences’ hosted by the aptly named Kaslo company, Between a Lake and a High Place.

Let me back up a bit. In case you haven’t noticed, travelling like a local is on the rise. Worlds apart from playing the tourist, travelling asks you to explore places less-travelled and — while doing so — dive into the culture, interact with the locals, and take a hands-on approach to the experience rather than being waited on hand-and-foot.

And that’s what Between a Lake and a High Place asks, too.

Our day began just after noon at Kaslo’s SS Moyie, a national historic landmark and point of pride for the village. It made good sense to meet here, too; we were about to embark on one of the two experiences of the day, and we were starting with a historic re-enactment of Kaslo’s earliest days.

Little did I know, I was going to play a part in that.

After introductions were finished, Dana Blouin — co-founder of Between a Lake and a High Place along with her husband François gave us just a hint of what was store. We loaded into various vehicles and played follow-the-leader toward our stage for the day: the network of forest and wandering paths that make up the Kaslo River Trail system.

This is a recent favourite of mine. The trail system has a choose-your-own-adventure feel to it with different paths leading to different discoveries. This setting mirrored the two entirely different experiences it would play host to this day: the history-charged 'David Kane's Workgang' and the meditative nightcap we’d explore that evening during 'Acoustic Walk, Last Light'.

We unloaded our respective vehicles at the trailhead as Dana unloaded a container. Inside her box was a collection of old-timey caps and suspenders. She invited us to pick one to wear as she passed out bunches of Old Man’s beard — an unruly looking lichen — stuck with double-sided tape. Adhered to our upper lips and paired with our borrowed accessories, we’d transformed ourselves into a crew of late 19th-century workers, newly arrived to clear the land that would become Kaslo.

Our 'training' began just up the trail in camp. A short play drew us in to the history we were about to take part in, and then we were off — foraging for foods, learning about wild medicinals, discovering which plants we could use for twine and which we could use to help sustain fire.

Group fire starter!
Group fire starter!

We were deemed worthy of our workgang status after our education and newly found skills were put to the test: we scattered off to collect and identify the plants that would serve us best, we hustled to build fires the fastest, and we practised our aim in the target range. The reward of our work was a sampling of homemade preserves, thick slices of local sourdough bread, and equally thick slices of beef jerky. We washed our snacks down with raspberry leaf tea and hiked back to reality, ending our part in history’s story.

After a few hours in Kaslo spent talking with the team at Angry Hen Brewery, Kaslo’s new, and only, brewery; we headed to dinner at one of my personal favourite restaurants, Taqueria el Corazon.  Here they serves up handmade tortillas that are the pillowiest you’ve ever sunk your teeth into and we watched the sun beginning to lower its angle, casting golden hues over Kootenay Lake.

We were stuffed with fresh, rich food, happy on conversation, and ready to relax into the promise held in our next experience, Acoustic Walk, Last Light. I’d read the description online beforehand; even the idea it illustrated left me feeling slightly dreamy:

“The evening light that softly filters through the forest is gradually replaced by twilight and near silence. It is now quiet time in the forest…or is it? Let your senses guide you through this experience from start to end; close your eyes, breathe, listen, feel, be silent…..and you will be rewarded with a heightened awareness of the coolness in the air, humidity you can taste, and with natural and musical acoustic sounds near and far.”

Meeting at a second trailhead just outside of town, Dana handed out foam pads, headlamps, and bandanas. Our only instruction was to use the time allotted in the experience to listen, and allow others to do the same.

We moved out from under the open sky and into the canopy of the trees. The light played hide-and-go-seek through the branches, illuminating spots of thick moss carpet and tips of fresh evergreen growth.

Under those trees, in that quiet, we moved through a fairy-land.

Dana and François both worked in the natural sciences before moving to Kaslo to start a new life with Between a Lake and a High Place. As our guides through this forest, their knowledge, spoken in soft words, deepened the appreciation for what our visual senses were taking in. We were shown mushrooms and orchids, told how the network of the forest microbes sustained each other, and were given the identities of songbirds with ethereal voices.

Getting comfortable in the forest.

We came to a relatively flat area and Dana invited us to find a spot to get comfortable. We unfurled our foam pads and laid on our backs in silence. Other than seeing others’ posts on Instagram, I had forgotten what staring up at treetops looked like. I’d forgotten the softness of the spongy ground in forests like these.

I’d forgotten what it was like to be still.

Dana led us through a type of meditation, almost akin to the savasana period at the end of a yoga practise. Staring up at the tree tops, coming together into the centre of my vision, and listening to only Dana’s voice and the forest sounds she asked us to be aware of, my mental state turned to liquid. I heard the birds, I heard her voice, and I heard my heart beating. But other than that, all was still.

I closed my eyes to the canopy and concentrated on just the sounds. I could have stayed there forever.

We travelled on, though, cupping our hands around our ears to amplify sounds the way animals’ ears do. We descended from higher ground, listening to the transition of sounds move from the soft snaps of needles to the song of the thrushes competing with the rush of the Kaslo river. Coyotes joined in a haunting chorus while the sun sunk further still. We struggled to identify their call as the trees bounced their howls from trunk to trunk.

And then, in the midst of those haunting calls, in the midst of that fairyland, a new sight — tiny lights — and a new sound — the striking of harp strings.

The blue of early evening was fading fast, but mason jars, filled with lightning bug-esque strands of lights, guided us to a perch above the main trail. Here, in a concert hall made of trees, stood a woman and her harp.

I placed my foam pad beneath me and let a fallen log support my back. A warm cup of raspberry leaf tea was provided, along with licorice tea, gluten-free turtle brownies, and vegan berry desserts — the latter two both prepared by the woman in front of us.

Forest bathing at twilight with musical notes.

Her name was Dawna McLennan, and not only was she playing a harp in the middle of a twilight forest, not only had she prepared her from-scratch sweets for us, but her voice was also joining the coyotes with both song and poetry.

As soon as she started into her spoken word, I froze. I was in the middle of trying to quietly capture the tiny lights against the darkened harp and forest background when some of the very best poetry I’ve ever heard spoken aloud stopped me in my tracks. It reminded me of how I felt when I first read Pablo Neruda, just hanging onto every word. Her hands, her voice — it all moved together to capture the words in an expression of depth and sincerity.

I moved back to my foam pad after she finished the poem and sat by one of the participants in the experience. Dawna had moved to a song, and coupled with the playing of the harp, her voice took its place with the ethereal voice of the thrushes. Even the coyotes were quiet.

It was then that I whispered, “I need this every day.”

My neighbour nodded her silent agreement, and we listened to the acoustics of the trees accompany Dawna until the light faded entirely into the night.

Words and photos by Gina Bégin.

Finding Pow in the Nelson and Kootenay Lake region

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Finding Pow in the Nelson and Kootenay Lake region

Nelson and Kootenay Lake Tourism print at for Kootenay Mountain Culture magazine. By John Bowden

Amidst a sea of choices, what makes a place unique and worth visiting? As tourism continues to grow rapidly, and is now the world’s largest industry, it seems that just about every city, town, or hamlet is vying for a slice of the action. And no surprise; the industry is worth over 7 trillion dollars per year.

From snazzy photos to catchy taglines, destinations are trying to entice you to visit with a promise of a memorable experience. So what sets a place like Nelson and Kootenay Lake apart from the crowd?

The local tourism organization has moved away from a “Far Out, For Real” campaign to a livelier, and slightly cheekier approach based on “Finding Awesome”. The previous message embraced the area’s remoteness while also celebrating its authenticity. The new campaign is an effort to cut to the chase.


"Let's stop talking around it and just call it what it is, this place is f#@*ing awesome, end of story!"

Nelson & Kootenay Lake Tourism 


Dianna Ducs, Executive Director of Nelson & Kootenay Lake Tourism, recalls what led to the creation of the new approach. "When we [the board] tried to drill down on what makes this place unique, there was hard data collected over the years, and all sorts of descriptors, but none of them really nailed it. Finally, someone just said, let's stop talking around it and just call it what it is, this place is f#@*ing awesome, end of story!"

Perhaps a little too risqué using the “f” word, but from it evolved the “Finding Awesome” campaign. The promotion just kicked off in October, with an emphasis on potential visitors living within a day’s drive. It will focus on some of the people, places, and experiences that makes the Nelson and Kootenay Lake region (Ainsworth Hot Springs, Balfour, Kaslo, Meadow Creek and Lardeau) truly awesome.


“If you’re a snow sports enthusiast, you owe it to yourself to experience it on your own. The Nelson and Kootenay Lake region is more than a snow sports destination; it’s a beautiful part of the world.”

Tom Slazinski, snowboarder


One of the upcoming billboards features an image of snowboarder Tom Slazinski floating atop legendary powder up at Selkirk Snowcat Skiing, near Meadow Creek. I asked Tom for his thoughts on what makes the area worth visiting in the winter.

“The place is blessed with amazing natural beauty, the terrain for skiing and boarding is great, and the people are awesome. Everyone is super down to earth and cool.”

“There’s high alpine, tree skiing, and just so much terrain in one spot. The climate leads to blower pow everywhere and so much snow, coverage and base. I’m hooked. I’ve been coming there for almost 15 years on an annual basis.”

I also asked Tom what he would say to someone thinking about visiting. “If you’re a snow sports enthusiast, you owe it to yourself to experience it on your own. The Nelson and Kootenay Lake region is more than a snow sports destination; it’s a beautiful part of the world.”

Tom has definitely found his happy place in the Kootenays. And although there are no shortage of great places to visit, I guarantee that you’ll Find your Awesome here too.

#findingawesome  |

Kootenay Calling

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Kootenay Calling

By John Bowden

Allow myself to introduce…myself.

  • Mountain dweller since 2011.
  • Local food and drink enthusiast.
  • Avid cyclist and cultural explorer.
  • Part-time writer and storyteller.
  • And passionate about sharing memorable travel experiences with others.

Once upon a time, in a land far far away (yes, Toronto), I was heavily involved in the craft beer industry. Yet I couldn’t shake dreams of snowy summits, glacier lakes, and a life of outdoor adventure. The mountains were calling, and I must go.

So it was that I arrived in Banff on a snowy January day with a vehicle full of all my worldly possessions and a smattering of gear. I landed a gig in the tourism industry and embarked on all sorts of adventures over the following five years, and slowly adjusted to drinking beer for a hobby instead of a job. Old habits die hard I suppose.

Like many others, I hiked, biked, skied, paddled, climbed, and did just about anything that would take me outside. Gradually, I found myself venturing further west to British Columbia. Perhaps the advertising campaign of “super, natural, BC” was creeping into my subconscious.

Whatever it was, I now find myself in Nelson, arguably Canada’s most charming heritage city. Tucked away in the Interior of BC, halfway between Vancouver and Calgary, the remote outpost of civilization is a bustling yet small metropolis. The temperate climate also means I can grow more than a beard for the first time in years. It’s like a backyard food-growing nirvana. But like most mountain communities, tourism is a strong and growing economic industry, and for good reason.

Nelson and the surrounding area boast no shortage of recreational, cultural and relaxing opportunities. From hiking nearby Pulpit Rock to wandering along historic streets in Kaslo or Nelson, to soaking in the Ainsworth Hot Springs to stepping back in time in the SS Moyie sternwheeler in Kaslo, there’s a lot to see and do. A quick look through the Nelson and Kootenay Lake Tourism site, or Google search on any of these popular activities will reveal a laundry list of articles and info.

So, what can I offer you that’s worth a read as you pass a few minutes waiting in line, zoning out at work, or doing your business (you know who you are)? As a fellow traveller who has stayed at rustic lodges, camped on the roadside, and everywhere in between, I’ll try to give you the inside scoop on this little slice of paradise as I explore it for myself.

Join me as I share the stories of some of the hidden gems of Nelson and Kootenay Lake, and the personable locals who make this place a truly unique destination in Canada. Like what I’m sharing? Awesome. Think I’ve missed something worth pointing out? Even better – let me know! Stoked to see it for yourself? Hell yeah - come visit! This place is f _ _ _ing awesome!

Cover photo and inset image taken by Ryan Flett: Nelson sunset from Gyro Park

5 Best Things to do Near Nelson, BC

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5 Best Things to do Near Nelson, BC

Photos and Story by: Leigh McAdam of

Although Nelson, British Columbia is a destination in its own right, the area around Nelson – especially up and down Kootenay Lake is also a great place to visit. In theory you can use Nelson as a base and do day trips but if you’ve got the time, stay in some of the historical small towns like Kaslo and explore at a slower pace.

This is my take on 5 of the best things to do near Nelson.

Soak in the Ainsworth Hot Springs

Who would think that a soak in the hot springs in the height of summer would be a great thing to do? Recently I’d checked out Miette Hot Springs in Jasper National Park – a hopping spot on a warm summer evening. I found the same thing at Ainsworth Hot Springs – lots of happy people of all ages taking in the view of the Purcell Mountains. Located about 50 kms northeast of Nelson right on Kootenay Lake, the hot springs are extremely popular and seemingly the sort of place that families return to year after year judging from the people I spoke with. And yes, even in summer they’re a lovely place for a soak.

The Ainsworth Hot Springs have an added feature I haven’t seen anywhere else. You can swim (I use this term very loosely) through caves found immediately adjacent to the main pool. You’ll feel like you’re in a sauna – because you practically are with the average temperature at 42°C. The humidity is higher, the water hotter and the mineral deposits interesting to see. Keep your time in the caves to a maximum of 10 – 15 minutes and drink lots of water.

Most of your time will be spent in the main pool. Luxuriate in water that naturally changes six times a day. You can have the pool practically to yourself from 8 AM – 10 AM if you’re a hotel guest at Ainsworth Hot Springs Resort. 

If you need a quick bite to eat walk to the yellow school bus just past the edge of the parking lot. You’ll find delicious breakfast and lunch food at Betty-O’s.

The cave at Ainsworth Hot Springs.

Don’t miss a swim through the caves at the Ainsworth Hot Springs – Photo Credit: David Gluns

Ainsworth Hot Springs Pool

The main pool at Ainsworth Hot Springs

Betty O's at Ainsworth Hot Springs

Betty O’s for breakfast, lunch and ice cream

Ride the ferry between Balfour Bay and Kootenay Bay

It wasn’t until I was well into the planning of my Nelson trip that I found out there was even a ferry across Kootenay Lake. It’s the world’s longest FREE ferry and it runs year-round between Kootenay Bay on the east side and Balfour on the west side. When you’re driving from Calgary it’s a beautiful drive up the east shore of Kootenay Lake and then it’s a treat to take a 35 minute break from driving. Once you reach Balfour, it’s only a 30 minute drive on Highway 3A to reach Nelson.

Take the ferry just to see what Kootenay Lake looks like from the water. Once you’re on the Kootenay Bay side drive 5 kms and check out the hamlet of Crawford Bayhome to a variety of artisans including Fireworks Copper and Glass, Barefoot Handweaving and North Woven Broom. All artisans are open every day between May and Labour Day.

The view from the Kootenay Lake ferry.

Ferry across Kootenay Lake

The view from the Kootenay Lake ferry.

Enjoying the view of Kootenay Lake

Stand up paddleboarding or kayaking on Kootenay Lake

Kootenay Lake is a water-lovers dream destination. There are loads of sandy beaches up and down the 144 kilometre lake and lots of places that are great for kayaking or stand up paddleboarding (SUP). John and I were booked for a morning of SUP – and this was to be our second time ever on the boards. My original thought was why not go kayaking instead – and really what’s all the fuss about SUP?

After a few hours exploring the lake and actually covering a reasonable distance I can now see the allure of the sport. You don’t have to stand the entire time. You can kneel, sit and easily jump in the water for a swim. I’m not about to rush out and buy a board but I will say it was a whole lot of fun to see the lake from an upright position – and on a hot day it’s way easier to cool off.

You can rent kayaks and stand up paddleboards on the beach from Kokanee Creek Paddle Sports. You’ll find them at the day use area of Kokanee Creek Provincial Park.

Kokanee Creek beach with the bright sun

Kayaking anyone? Photo credit: Nelson Kootenay Lake Tourism

Paddle boarding on Kootenay Lake

SUP on Kootenay Lake

Paddle boarding on Kootenay Lake

You can also sit on your paddle board

Check out Kaslo

Kaslo is an exceptionally scenic historic mining town situated on a peaceful cove 70 kilometres north of Nelson. Founded in 1893, it has endured a tumultuous history of floods, fires, riches and lost fortunes. Today it is the home of the popular Kaslo Jazz Etc Festival and Logger sports (tree climbing, log rolling, axe throwing and more) one of the most popular events that is part of Kaslo’s May Days over the May long weekend.

In the summer relax on one of its long stretches of beach. Go for a swim. Walk and shop in the well-kept stores along the heritage main street. Grab a bite to eat at the Kaslo Hotel or one of the other small eateries in town. Visit the dry-docked SS Moyie – the world’s oldest intact sternwheller. If you’re looking for adventure explore the network of trails that are on either side of the Kaslo River. Head 20 miles north and hike in the Meadow Creek Wilderness. Or try the Whitewater Canyon Trail that gets you up into the alpine landscape. For an easier alternative walk the Galena Trail and pull yourself over a creek in a cable car. The number of nearby hiking trails could keep you busy for days. For water lovers, rent a kayak in town and poke along the shore, keeping a watchful eye out for the large number of interesting birds.

The main st of Kaslo BC

The main street in Kaslo

Views of Kootenay Lake and mountains from Kaslo

Along the waterfront you get views like this in Kaslo.

Explore the Nelson area on a (mountain) bike

Nelson is a mountain biking mecca and there are trails for all abilities. If you go to Gerick Cycle and Ski in downtown Nelson, they can set you up with a bike and offer all sorts of advice on where to go. John and I spent a few hours – albeit on an electric bike – and took off from the shop up the exceedingly steep hills until we reached the Trans-Canada Trail. From there it was an easy ride on rail-grade all the way to Cottonwood Lake. It was an excellent outing that took just two hours. Even on a regular mountain bike, it would take 2.5 hours tops, but with a lot more huffing and puffing at the start of the ride.

At the top of the town – where we started on the Trans-Canada Trail there are at least a dozen very popular mountain biking loops, all on private land. There’s a map so you can choose the level of difficulty and the length of the trail you want to ride. Be prepared for wildlife as this is bear country.

For other suggestions you can pick up a copy of the Nelson Mountain Bike Guide.

A beautiful section of the Trans-Canada Trail above Nelson

A beautiful section of the Trans-Canada Trail above Nelson

Several bridges to cross en route to Cottonwood Lake

Several bridges to cross en route to Cottonwood Lake

Cottonwood Lake

Cottonwood Lake was our turnaround point.

There’s more than enough to keep you busy for days if not weeks in the Nelson area depending on where your interests lie.

Read the full story and more at

Kaslo Adventure Centre

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Kaslo Adventure Centre

Adventure CentreKaslo, our gem on the banks of Kootenay Lake, offers more adventure than is good for you. The problem is how to find that adventure when part of the allure of Kaslo is its access to the backcountry?

Leave it to an organisational powerhouse like Daphne Hunter to solve this one. She’s in the process of opening the Kaslo Adventure Centre, located in a storefront in downtown Kaslo and ready to book your ideal Kaslo adventure.

Kaslo Kayaking has grown from the day Daphne and her husband Dean took over operations six years ago to the point where now the fleet includes kayaks, SUP boards, windsurf boards, and canoes. With a 5-star Trip Advisor rating, it’s hard (but they manage!) to keep up with demand.

Daphne wants to take that success and multiply is across the other adventure tourism companies in the area. The idea sounds synergistic. As she puts it, in one scenario, say someone phones to enquire about kayaking, but they’d also enjoy some fishing? Well, she could arrange a combo package where kayaks and a day of fishing are combined to create more than the sum of their parts. Picnic included.

Or perhaps someone inquires about enjoying a day in the sun? What about renting a boat, cruising along the lake for the day, going for a swim, and ending by watching the sunset? Fabulous.

The Adventure Centre provides a downtown, central location and storefront for local adventure businesses, but the businesses themselves to the actual booking. The Adventure Centre receives the guest, tailors an adventure package to suit, then hands off the actual booking to the individual suppliers.

There is trust involved. As Daphne is well aware, she’d be the face of these businesses. Her extensive background in marketing and the service industry have given her expert knowledge in the importance of trust.

To that end, with all her involvement in the Kaslo community including having been president of the Kaslo Chamber of Commerce, and involved in community events like May Days, Light Up Kaslo, and Pirate Day on the SS Moyie. It’s hard sometimes to know where Kaslo stops and Daphne begins.

And it’s from that space that the Kaslo Adventure Centre’s infectious energy springs. As she puts it, “Kaslo is one of the last remaining places in the world where you can see magic happen. People fall in love again in Kaslo. Couples come in just from Castlegar to spend the weekend here and reconnect with themselves.”

And, to that end, she wants to give them reasons to stay longer. Visitors will come with the idea that they’d like to experience the natural beauty of Kaslo, see the Adventure Centre, and once they see all that is offered, they’ll wish they had planned to stay even longer...and then they’ll come back again, and again.

At the end of the day, The Kaslo Adventure Centre offers more reasons to love Kaslo. There were great restaurants, great places to stay — and great adventures.

Call 250-353-1925 or email or visit 

Best of Nelson Kootenay Lake Tourism 2015

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Best of Nelson Kootenay Lake Tourism 2015

It's time to say good-bye to 2015, but not before we take some time to look back and reflect on all that happened and take a look at some of our most popular stories and activities.

We Love Our Kootenay Lake

Rafting down part of the Lardeau river and then paddling the length of Kootenay Lake from Lardeau to Nelson was the highlight of 2015. One story that kicked off the event dove into the heart of the lake and what makes it so special to all of us who live here and visit, and who consider Nelson Kootenay Lake remarkable.

With 201 shares on Facebook and the most pageviews for 2015, our story "Kootenay Lake: the heart of our region" was the most popular for 2015. Taking a look at all the many ways we enjoy our lake and introducing the paddle that took place from late June 25  to July 1st, this story captured the many reasons why so many of us are drawn to Kootenay Lake.

Cody Caves — A Personal Caving Adventure

The chance to explore Cody Caves with a trained guide is another highlight of our area. And this story about caving in 2015 is our second most popular story for good reason — full of personal experience but also tons of facts about the caves and cavings, it's a great introduction to what you can expect if you choose to explore the caves next time you visit us.

Take a look at this engaging story and start to think about making the trip yourself!

2015 — A Year of Aurora Borealis 

You can never predict whether the famed "Northern Lights" or aurora borealis will be visible from Nelson. But in 2015, the gods looked favourably on our town and we had several chances to see this beautiful natural wonder. One photographer captured the lights over Nelson, and his images were our third most popular story for 2015. 

Take a look at this gorgeous view of the northern lights. And thank you, Kei Takayama, for sharing your picture with us!

Summer Things to Do in 2015

There is no shortage of things to do in the summer in our area, and this list of the top 14 things you might want to check out is a great introduction to the breadth and depth of what we offer. No wonder it's our fourth most popular story for 2015 — read it over and start to think about what you might want to explore over the summer of 2016 with us! From a stroll along Baker Street to tackling the white water rapids on the Slocan or Lardeau Rivers, there is truly something for everyone.

Switching Over to Winter: Best Ski Town

We won the award that crowned Nelson "The Best Ski Town in North America" a couple years ago, adding to the list of accolades we've garnered over the years. We're the Number One Small Arts Town in Canada as well as being the Best Ski Town, so there's really a wide range of ways our little town stands out. In 2015 major newspapers noticed us, too: from the New York Times to the Globe and Mail, we were featured as a cool travel destination again and again.

Check out the story about why we are the Best Ski Town in North America!

We Love Our Local Organic Beer

Finally, a tour with Nelson Brewing Company's Brewmaster Mike Kelly was also a popular story. Our town is lucky to be home to the second fully certified brewery in British Columbia. The heritage building is also a great place to enjoy a tour and sample the beer.

Read the story to learn more about our local beer and the people who make it.

The Most Popular Things to Do in Nelson Kootenay Lake

In 2015, the most popular things to do, at least according to where people were looking on our website, really shows our diversity:

From Ainsworth Hot Springs to motorcycling to biking and snow sports, the range is fantastic and shows just how much there is to do in our area. Visitors to our website read about Ainsworth Hot Springs the most, followed by checking out campgrounds with hiking spots a close third. Rounding it out, people read about all the events that took place in 2015 and then looked for a place to stay. 

We hope you were one of those people reading about our area in 2015, and that you found what you were looking for! 

The top activities for 2015 were:

Thank you for being part of Nelson Kootenay Lake in 2015 and we look forward to seeing you in 2016!

It's Here: Genuine Community plus Unparalleled Powder

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It's Here: Genuine Community plus Unparalleled Powder

Here's a tip: If you want to understand a destination a bit better, read reviews on Trip Advisor. Don't just look at the star ratings, but read what people say about why they like a certain place. Those words are gold, baby.

Case in point: Our own Meadow Creek. It's a quiet spot at the end of Kootenay Lake, known for grizzly bears, homesteaders and true wilderness aficionados. In the summer and fall, your best bet is camping at nearby Davis Creek and river rafting with Lardeau River Adventures. For those who love alpine hiking, this area proves that wilderness exists and can still challenge you: both with its wonder and unyielding strength.

Winter: Community and Powder 

Monica Meadows hiking In winter months, however, the Meadow Creek community gathers around a 30-year-old tradition in the Selkirk and Purcell mountains, started by Allan and Brenda Drury. In what has become the Cat Ski Capital of the world, people return year after year, on the same week, to rekindle community and test their powder limits (I'm not sure there is a limit to how much powder a person can take, but if you're going to try to find out, the Nelson Kootenay Lake area is the place to do it.)

The people who love the Meadow Creek area, including the surrounding Selkirk and Purcell ranges, say things like this: 

Many of the same skiers return on the same week each year so while I came alone I knew 18 of 24 guests, so its like an annual reunion with great people.

It's that extreme community feeling, coupled with 50 feet of powder, that sets the tone for winter season. Of course, Selkirk Wilderness Skiing is where it all began, but there are now other operators in the area, offering that same combination of an intense community experience combined with the best skiing of your life. Skiing and riding so good that you'll figure out a way to come back every single year. 

How to Get to Meadow Creek 

You don't decide to vacation at Meadow Creek and take a Cat Ski adventure because you are bored and have nothing planned for the weekend. 

This place is intentional, baby. You want to come here, specifically, because it is one of the best places on earth. 

Equidistant between Calgary and Vancouver, and a mere 5 hour drive from Spokane, Meadow Creek defines "pristine wilderness experience". 

Take your time getting here. Sample the surrounding communities including Kaslo (where you should stay at the historic and lovely Kaslo Hotel and receive the “Preferred Selkirk Wilderness” price.) The drive along Kootenay Lake will restore your soul and remind you of all that is good in the world, so take your time along the route and enjoy the journey.

For more detail on how to get here, including crossing borders and exact distances and travel times, see our helpful page on how to get around the Nelson Kootenay Lake area. 

Featured photo by Janneke Guenther
Cat Ski photo by Steve Shannon



Nelson Kootenay Lake region -- Where You Want to Be

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Nelson Kootenay Lake region -- Where You Want to Be

Freeride EntertainmentDerek Westerlund moved to Nelson in 1992 — which means that he lived here during the time that our backyard became the playground for some of North America’s top athletes. Mountain biking in the summer, skiing and boarding in the winter, the action sports mecca that grew up around Baldface, Retallack, Whitewater Ski Resort and other hidden jewels of the Selkirk/Purcell mountain ranges fostered an ideal incubator for upcoming filmmakers.

Derek Westerlund began filming action sports as a teenager and never stopped, only improving and refining his abilities, helping to found Red Bull Rampage in 2001. From there, Freeride Entertainment has become an award winning production company, filming in over 40 countries, working with top brands and agencies. All in Nelson, BC.

The Selkirk and Purcell mountain ranges that surround Kootenay Lake are full of surprises. Our area sports the highest concentration of hand built mountain bike trails in British Columbia, over 40 feet of powder a year, and is the birthplace of Cat Skiing, making it the Cat Ski Capital of the world. This combination creates an unmistakable feeling that you really are in the centre of the universe when you are here, a feeling I believe Derek shares.

“This is my sanctuary; where I want to raise my kids; the environment I want to live in,” he says, speaking of the conscious choice to continue to produce feats of digital magic, specializing in high end film production at the forefront of technology here, in Nelson.

Though Freeride Entertainment has a satellite office in Seattle, its world headquarters are here off Baker Street in downtown Nelson. Keeping, as Derek says, “the DNA in Nelson,” is important and possible because of the talent here. 

Keeping a production company that films in extreme conditions all around the world in Nelson means traveling is a part of the equation. Recently, Derek was running a 60 person production team with Freeride Entertainment in the desert in Utah. They were filming the 10th annual Red Bull Rampage, which was attended by 2000 people and seen by millions. Forty-eight hours later, he was in front of hundreds of people as a keynote speaker at Marketing Magazines, Digital Religion in Toronto, telling a group of marketing industry executives and other professionals how lifestyle marketing is done. Extreme, indeed.

No matter where you go in the action sports world, however, Nelson never seems far away. Case in point: At this year’s Red Bull Rampage, local Kurt Sorge won, making this his second win in ten years. For Derek Westerlund, filming a fellow Nelsonite’s winning run is all part of a solid day’s work. Action is part of our DNA as it were.

Freeride Entertainment’s latest project, “The Unrideables” takes him from big wave surfing (they’ve got a crew in Hawaii right now) to speedriding in Alaska. As part of the project, Derek has said, “Every day someone on this planet does the impossible." True.

And filming the impossible seems to be all part of a day’s work for the crew at Freeride Entertainment. From its roots filming locally to the latest iterations filming in Alaska, Hawaii, and all around the world, this 17-year-old production company is sending the Nelson lifestyle message out into the world and keeping the vibe high as they do it.

Images provided by Freeride Entertainment photographer Bryan Ralph


Kokanee Glacier Cabin - Backcountry Glamping in the Kootenays

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Kokanee Glacier Cabin - Backcountry Glamping in the Kootenays

Kokanee Glacier Cabin — Not Your Average Alpine Cabin

The Alpine Club of Canada looks after and maintains many alpine huts or cabins located across Canada. One of these is Kokanee Glacier Cabin, near Nelson in the Kootenay Lake area. You may be surprised to learn that it costs $25 per night to stay in one of these cabins. Not a bad deal, and the money goes to helping to keep these cabins in good shape for the next group of visitors.

However, when you discover a little more about the Kokanee Glacier Cabin, you'll be absolutely astounded at that price. For $25 per night per guest, you can stay in luxury in the backcountry of British Columbia's Kootenay region. Not bad at all. Some alpine cabins are sparse. Simply a warm place to stay after a gruelling day hiking or skiing in the backcountry. The Kokanee Glacier Cabin is a bit different. 

Near Nelson & A World Away

Located just past Nelson, in the Kokanee Glacier Park, the cabin is just a 3 hour hike with a 400 metre elevation gain. If you're feeling up to it, once you arrive at the cabin, you are in for a treat. You do need to book well in advance if you would like to reserve the entire cabin for a group event (this is a popular idea) but if you do, you have a large, spacious gorgeous cabin to stay in while visiting some of the most remote and beautiful backcountry on the planet.

There are many summer time hikes that you can take from the cabin, to surrounding lakes as well as up to the glacier itself. The Kokanee glacier is your main view, and what a view it is. 

If you visit in winter, you'll need to helicopter in from Nelson (fees are $1000 per person) but from the cabin, you can take advantage of endless skiing terrain in an environment that you won't soon forget. there is a lottery to use the cabin so best is to get your name in asap with the Alpine Club of Canada to get yourself a spot!

In either winter or summer, visiting Kokanee Glacier Cabin is a must do at least once in your lifetime. Put it on your bucket list and start planning to visit. You really will be amazed at what you find in the alpine, and knowing that you can come home to a cabin with a fully functioning kitchen including two large ranges, one electric and one propane, plus oven, large counter space, restaurant-style deep sinks, and all the amenities you'll need: pots and pans, cutlery, full service for large meals, everything to make tea and coffee — honestly, when you think "fully stocked kitchen" this one is that plus more!

Dine in Style — Family Style

Dinner is eaten around large comfortable tables that encourage loud and robust conversation and lots of passing of dishes while you talk about your day. It's a true community feeling in the dining area of the cabin, where you eat and relax with the other guests as you look out windows right at the glacier and surrounding wilderness. The balcony patio offers lovely morning sunlight and is a great place to sip your coffee as you contemplate your day in the alpine. 

Sleeping upstairs in the bunk beds is comfortable and quiet. You'll bring your own sleeping bag, but you'll be very comfortable on the mattresses provided. It's a tucked away feeling in the sleeping area, perfect after a long day of hiking or skiing. 

The entire cabin is heated, but there is also a wood burning stove with wood available to use. It creates a cozy atmosphere in the sitting area, with large comfortable couches and chairs arranged with the stove as centrepiece. The feeling is cozy but also luxurious, as you sit there among the exposed beams and polished wood. You really feel that you are at a remote resort, rather than a simple alpine hut. 

Trails Used by Miners Hauling Ore

The park was created in 1922, making it one of the oldest. Many of the trails were originally meant for hauling ore, and you can consider that as you hike in during the summer months, and as you explore the park from the cabin base. Those guys back then were tough!

The Kokanee Glacier Cabin was rebuilt following a tragedy. Pierre Trudeau's son actually plunged to his death along the trail to the cabin. One section of the trail follows a steep slope that lies just above a very cold lake. That day it avalanched, taking Pierre's son into the lake where he was last seen before he died. Wow. That horrible tragedy created the impetus needed to give back to the alpine community in the form of a world class cabin for everyone to enjoy. 

One of the most forward thinking aspects of the cabin is its environmental stewardship. The electricity is provided by mini-hydro powering hot water tanks, floorboard heaters, and all other electrical stuff. The flush toilets link into the basement septic system. The system is set up to clean and purify the water using UV light, so that it can be deposited back into Kaslo Lake. You pack out everything you pack in (including all food waste). You'll really be impressed by the environmental standard set at the cabin.

Wildlife Near the Kokanee Glacier Cabin

One of the many reasons to visit the cabin include the wildlife you'll see while there. Birds, including the blue grouse and Franklin grouse, ptarmigan and golden eagles are a common sight. You'll also see hoary marmot, pika, ground squirrels (is there anywhere these guys don't live?) and marten.  You'll also be living among mountain goat, mule deer and black bear as well as the occasional grizzly bear. Make sure you learn what you need to know about being in grizzly country before you go, and don't forget your camera!

Zip (Line) Through the Kootenays at 100 KPH

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Zip (Line) Through the Kootenays at 100 KPH

The adrenaline rush is real. You're 300 feet off the ground, travelling at speeds up to 100 kilometres per hour for up to 2400 feet at a time. That'll get your blood coursing through your veins and remind you of all the reasons you really, actually, when all is said and done enjoy having your feet firmly planted on the ground most of the time.

Surrounded by Awesome

But hey — Ziplines exist that are well over 7,000 feet long. There are ziplines that take you many more feet above ground. What's so special about Kokanee Mountain Zipline? Well, if we have to spell it out for you: It's the Kootenays, actually. You are doing this in our backyard. You're flying through the air, staring down the Purcell Mountain range as the zipline takes you through the valley four times. Four times you cross the canyon with the views up the valley and lake, "surrounded by awesome," as head guide Allen Rollin told me. 

The Kootenay Lake area is home to many who fully appreciate adventure sports. For those of us who live here, it's nothing to go ski touring in the winter, rock climbing or backcountry hiking or kayaking all summer long. We regularly do triathlons, downhill mountain biking is part of our morning warm up routine and for many of us, the idea of a mud room sans gear that spills out into our living room would make us feel unbalanced.

Kokanee Mountain Zipline — Ready, Set, Go!

However, think about it: How many family-friendly adventure tourism outfits are there?  According to Allen Rollins, we could use more. And that is where owners Todd and Jay Manton come in. They have been considering this area for a zipline adventure for over three years now, carefully considering the best way to bring sustainable eco adventure tourism of this kind to the Kootenay Lake area. With a few successful ziplines under his belt, Todd joined forces with local design firm FD Design and Construction to design the zipline and, as of mid-July, Kokanee Mountain Zipline was ready.

Here's a taste of the zipline experience in our recent video. 


Happy Campers 

With happy campers all around, the ziplines have been full of really satisfied flyers so far. People are taken by the wilderness, by the enormous Ponderosa pines, by the sheer gorgeousness of the surroundings. On top of that, of course, they're taken by the adrenaline rush they get, flying across our backyard faster than they drove along the highway to get out here. And, on top of that, it's perfectly safe. It's a nearly all ages activity, with kids as young as 6 years old allowed to go, and the minimum weight only 50 pounds. The harnesses keep you safely tucked in as you traverse, and, of the 6 ziplines, the first two are considered "practice lines" — you do have a chance to try things out, and then gently opt out if you decide this isn't for you. Not that that happens often. Still. You can opt out easily after the first two lines. 

Zipline This Summer — Open Until October 

Kokanee Mountain Zipline is open this season until October, and plans to run 7 days a week. So take a drive a bit past Kokanee Creek Campground, up the Kokanee Glacier Service Road for about 2 kilometres and try it out this summer and/or fall. It's just one more way to see the Kootenay Lake area...and in this case, do so while trying not to alternately scream with joy, a tiny bit of oh-my-god-what-am-I-doing-yikes, and a large dose of exhilaration.

See you in the trees.

Lots of places to stay and other things to do in the area - visit our tourism website and enjoy!


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