Life is Better on the Slopes

You are here

Life is Better on the Slopes

by: Prestige Hotels & Resortsclick to read the full story...

A Winter Wonderland

The roads were, thankfully, pretty clear sailing all the way from our starting point in Kelowna, BC to Nelson, in the southern part of the province. I was headed for a few days of 'ski-cation', about to spend four days in the famed Selkirk and Monashee mountains of British Columbia, and I was pumped to see dry pavement, until the last hour of my trip. When the snow did hit, I not only expected it, but relished in the fact that the hills would be carpeted with fresh powder. Unfortunately, I was on the road before the sanders or plows were out. Still, the ride wasn't too bad, considering we were still having a very, long Canadian winter. I kept my eyes focused on the road ahead and only when I checked in, opened the door to my suite, did I finally breathe a sigh of relief and had a great, happy surprise at my room at the Prestige Lakeside Resort in Nelson.

Prestige Lakeside Resort bedroom     Prestige Lakeside Resort living room

Whitewater is Actually Snow

A short 15-minute drive from downtown Nelson, Whitewater Ski Resort is situated in Ymir bowl, beneath the 2,400 m high Ymir Mountain, in the Selkirk Mountains. The Selkirks receive plentiful, dry snow, and the location in a high alpine bowl provides an annual snowfall average of approximately 12 meters. The day I drove up to the lodge, the sun was beating down on the road, melting snow and ice, and the air was clear and blue. Ski Canada has rated Whitewater to have the Best Deeps, Best Bowls and Best Glades. When I arrived, the hill was dotted with an array of skiers - a raft of kids lining up to get on one of the mountain's three lifts; 'oldsters' who appeared to embrace the 'hippy lifestyle' and others wearing the latest ski styles; families - all mingling together, with smiles on their faces obviously enjoying what lay before them and having a great time getting up and down the hill.

During my online research before making this trip, I was surprised to read a story in the Globe and Mail, which stated Whitewater remains a veritable secret to many skiers and snowboarders. When I asked a couple of 'locals' on the trail, they said it was probably because of its location - away from major airline centers, like Kelowna and Vancouver - and that they didn't mind it remaining a secret. As they swooshed away on skiis, they looked back and playfully said: "Don't tell anyone anything good that we've got going here!" When you've got something all to yourself, it's sometimes hard to share ... I get that. Still, I can't imagine the secret of Whitewater continuing for much longer when people discover its almost 1200 acres of skiable terrain and the absence of lift lines - with a great menu to nosh on when you get tired on the hill. 

Whitewater Ski Resort in the snow

Skier close up at Whitewater Ski Resort

Foodie Heaven

Nelson, in a lot of ways, reminds me of San Francisco - the way the streets climb from the shore of Kootenay Lake - to the vibrant restaurant scene. Downtown is a small, constrained couple of restaurant-filled blocks, with Baker Street the main draw. The architecture, similar to San Fran's consists of Victorian heritage buildings and cozy bars. Not wanting to venture out into the night (except to grab a picture), I decided to spend my night in the Prestige Lakeside Resort's restaurant (West Coast Grill) knowing that after downing a few calories, I could easily retire to my warm, puffy bed. I wasn't disappointed in the food selections, as this comfy restaurant fits right into the 'food heaven' that is Nelson.

I started off with the tuna tower, accompanied with crisp won tons and a small side salad. My traveling companion, Miss A, decided to begin her meal with a warm bowl of soup, the clam chowder. Both were stellar starts to the meal. The chowder was packed with seafood and the tuna tower felt refreshing. I continued my seafood theme with the steamer pot while Miss A ordered flat bread. To finish we couldn't resist the cheesecake, a raspberry concoction in a small mason jar.

Clam chowder at the West Coast Grill     Tuna tower at the West Coast Grill

Flat bread at the West Coast Grill

For more photos and the full story visit the Prestige Hotels and Resorts blog...

Go Off the Grid in Whitewater, BC

You are here

Go Off the Grid in Whitewater, BC

Photos and Story Courtesy of: Brian Meier -

No Cell Phones, Killer Food, and Deep Pow

Nestled in the Southern reaches of British Columbia's Selkirk Mountains, Whitewater is the ski resort that time forgot.

There’s no WIFI or cell reception. No ski-in ski-out-condos. No village with overpriced, pretentious shops. The chairlifts are old-school, and the undersized lodge could fit inside a jewelry store in Aspen.

And yet Whitewater may just be one of the best resorts you’ll ever visit.

Snow, deep snow, is the first reason. With an average snowfall of 40 feet per season (you read that right), a powder day at Whitewater causes skiers to speak in hushed and reverent tones. There’s a reason Powder Magazine calls Whitewater “One of the best powder mountains on the continent.” Actually, 40 good reasons.

Skier at Whitewater Ski resort.  Backside of Whitewater Ski Resort in Nelson, BC

You’ll find big resort terrain at Whitewater—steep and sprawling—but in a small resort package. Ymir peak, fittingly named after the Norse frost giant, looms over Ymir bowl—a perfect horseshoe of chutes and glades. The bowl is serviced by two double chairlifts (no heated gondolas here), while a triple chair on the backside provides access to tree skiing that seems too good to be true.

But Whitewater’s merits aren’t limited to snow and terrain. Its little lodge serves up shockingly good food and may be the only ski resort cafeteria with a world-class cookbook series. Once you’ve tasted the signature Glory Bowl, the menus at every other resort will forever disappoint. It’s that good.

Glory Bowl from Whitewater cafeteria

No doubt, Whitewater’s magic is due partly to nearby Nelson, a quirky town that oozes a laid-back vibe. Long known as an escape for draft dodgers and counter-culture misfits, Nelson is now known for its amazing food, friendly b&bs, and prolific arts scene. Browse for old books. Shop for records. Enjoy elk bourguignon at BiBo—a big city restaurant with a small town charm.

Downtown Nelson, BC street  Oso Negro Cafe metal sign in Nelson, BC

Recently voted by Powder Magazine as the “Best Ski Town in North America,” Nelson is clearly no longer a secret.  But industry praise doesn’t seem to faze the locals.

And why should it? Up at Whitewater, there’s more than enough snow for everyone.

Read this story and more on

“Souper” Nordic Skiing in Nelson

You are here

“Souper” Nordic Skiing in Nelson

By John Bowden

What do you get when you cross a friendly local Nordic ski area with a community that loves fresh, wholesome food? The first annual “Tour de Soup”.

Located just ten minutes south of Nelson at the turnoff for Whitewater Ski Resort, the Nelson Nordic Ski Club (NNSC) offers more than 25 kilometers of groomed trails. And for one day this past January, a variety of fresh soups to keep skiers going and give back to the community. Skiers were asked to make a donation in exchange for soupy goodness. 

The club partnered with a number of local restaurants to support the Nelson Food Cupboard. Event organizer Marilyn Lee looked to the past for inspiration.

“My concept behind the Tour de Soup was based on the story “Stone Soup”. Travellers come to a village looking for support. They boil a big pot of water to make soup and add a stone. The villagers, being curious, ask the travellers, what are you making?”

“The travellers reply soup, but it could use a little more seasoning or ingredients. Essentially the whole village comes together to add ingredients to the soup; and in turn the whole village is fed and nourished from the community.”

The Kootenay Co-Op, Yellow Deli, Yum Son, Kootenay Bakery, Farm Fresh Cafe and Falls Lounge all pitched in for the event. Volunteers ladled out their signature creations at one of three warming huts, encouraging skiers to explore different trails.

As a first-timer to the NNSC, I was caught between wanting to savour the soups and the views. Trails wind their way through towering cedars, imposing rock faces, and bubbling streams, with snowy mountain vistas in every direction. The huts each have their own rustic charm and make for an ideal stop to warm up and refuel.  

The NNSC’s relatively high elevation (approximately 1000 meters) results in great ski conditions. Plus, it’s hard not to notice the passion for this place among the staff. A grooming sled passed by us twice in less than an hour. The trails were in immaculate condition for classic and skate.

Although the official “Tour de Soup” may have come and gone, you can create your very own version. Simply fill up your trusty thermos with a steamy serving in town (the Kootenay Co-op usually has 3 daily varieties) then head up the road to get your skiing on. Don’t forget to wave at the friendly locals along the way!

To see a little more of the trails view our "Why Do It? - Nordic Skiing" video.

Peak Experiences on the Powder Highway

You are here

Peak Experiences on the Powder Highway

Whitewater – Community love

Nelson, B.C., might be the coolest town along the Powder Highway. With 350 heritage buildings, Nelson retains its historic charm amid an artsy, welcoming population that values good food.

“We have more restaurants per capita than San Francisco,” says Dianna Ducs, executive director of Nelson Kootenay Lake Tourism.

That love of food is apparent at Whitewater Ski Resort, where local, organic ingredients are found on creative lodge menus that go well beyond the burgers and fries of most ski resorts. The menus even sport a number of vegan and vegetarian options.

Whitewater is a small resort, with three chairlifts serving a vertical drop of 2,044 feet and 1,184 acres of terrain, but it feels much bigger. Hikeable backcountry abounds at Whitewater, with powder drops falling off nearby Ymir Peak (7,874 feet) and in Five Mile Basin to name two popular destinations.

Most of all, Whitewater has a friendly vibe you won’t find at most ski resorts.

“People say this place is like going home,” says Rebeckah Hornung, sales and marketing director for Whitewater.

“We are a community based-resort,” she says while sitting in the popular Coal Oil Johnny’s Pub inside the funky Whitewater base lodge. “This whole lodge we’re sitting in was built by volunteers.”

John Nelson is a freelance outdoors writer based in Seattle. Follow his blog at

This article was pulled from the Spokane-Review, January 20, 2017

Top photo by Sean Cameron

Whitewater photo by Fiona Beutel

Queen City Shuttle - First Class

You are here

Queen City Shuttle - First Class

We’ve all heard the famous post office motto “Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds.” Well, the same can be said of the Queen City Shuttle drivers and their daily winter shuttle from Spokane to Nelson and Rossland.

snowIt’s winter here. Snow falling, blinding sun, wind gusts, and sometimes sleet. The roads can be challenging, not only due to the weather, but the mountainous terrain. Under these conditions I definitely prefer having a safe winterized vehicle and a professional driver take me safely to my destination, rather than rent an unfamiliar car on unfamiliar roads, that may not have the safest of winter tires.

My first contact with the Shuttle driver was seeing him walking around the airport waiting area with a Queen City Shuttle sign, right on schedule. Perfect, no more looking out the wintery window wondering when it would pull up to the pickup location. David Tocher, our well-humoured driver greeted us, had us fill out the border crossing form correctly, loaded us and our gear into the van, and once on the road shared with us some interesting trivia about the area. “What is Spokane famous for?” Bing Crosby. Who knew! And in 2006 an old theatre was renovated and renamed the Bing Crosby Theatre in his honour. 

David is about the journey not just the destination. Rather than driving on busy Highway 2 he took a more scenic route, meandering by the river and past old historic buildings, which was actually a shortcut out of town.

Our Shuttle was filled with Americans from Cape Cod (the entire ski club was exploring the Powder Highway, one resort per year); two young exuberant Québécois taking their first ski trip from home to explore the mystical Kootenays and the famous powder of Whitewater Ski Resort; and myself, a local Nelsonite making my way home after some time vacationing in the USA.

A perk, or perhaps hazard, when driving in this area is wildlife. You may see bears, deer, moose, eagles, coyotes, wolves, crows, etc. But on this trip, we saw a Crane catching a fish, right in the middle of a blizzard. What the heck?  Sorry, but I didn’t get my camera out fast enough to catch a photo. David commented on my reaction time – a little Canadian sarcastic humour of course.

This was my first time on the Shuttle and I will be taking it again. I think the others on the shuttle felt the same. We had a very pleasant ride, and all chatted and shared stories about skiing, and of course David and I informed them about the awesome bowls and tree skiing at Whitewater, and the food at the lodge – not to be missed.

It's easy to book. Just register online through the Queen City Shuttle booking platform. Enjoy the ride!

Written by happy passenger Dianna Ducs



In Search of Powder at Whitewater

You are here

In Search of Powder at Whitewater

By John Bowden

Who needs snow? I do. You do. We all do. And lots of it.

Even if you don’t ski or board and prefer to remain bundled up inside for the winter, those magical little snowflakes are critical to our most important resource. Water.

So it’s fitting that the appropriately named Whitewater Ski Resort in Nelson, BC gets all kinds of the white stuff each winter. Like, 40 feet annually.

It’s early December and it’s already snowed more than 10 feet. 10 feet! Sure, the fluffy stuff settles a bit, but still, that’s more than some ski resorts get in a year. And the chairlifts haven’t even opened yet.


"Let it snow"

Rebeckah Hornung, Whitewater Ski Resort


That doesn’t mean there’s no skiing to be had. You’d be hard pressed to find a ski town with a higher percentage of alpine touring fanatics than Nelson. There have been more than a few diehards heading up to the hill to scout out the early season conditions. Word on the street is it’s going to be another killer ski season ahead.

Although a predicted La Nina weather system may not be quite as intense as first expected, it still seems that cooler temperatures and more snow than usual is headed our way. That’s good news for skiers and our friends in increasingly arid places like California.

Whitewater’s Sales and Marketing Manager Rebeckah Hornung is particularly pumped. I could sense her excitement even before she gave me the details on the Kootenay Coldsmoke Fest in late February. It promises to be an awesome event, with clinics, live music, demo village, and more contests and events than you could do in an entire season.

As for the start of the season? "Let it snow" she said with a huge grin. 

The ski season at Whitewater opens December 9th. A new website just launched in anticipation, cutting to the chase with an emphasis on the snow, the food, and the vibe. Don’t miss the great video “40 Years Young”, celebrating their recent anniversary and a look back at the past. The site has everything you need to plan your getaway to this skiing paradise.

Opened last season, the "Summit Shack" café will be up and running again this winter at the top of Summit. The café builds on Whitewater's well-deserved reputation for serving up the finest ski resort food in the country.

Or saddle up to Fresh Tracks Café or Coal Oil Johnny's Pub for legendary eats, and top it off with a pint of Bent Pole IPA from the Nelson Brewing Company. Deelish. 

It all adds up to a recipe for skiing nirvana. Let's hope that snow keeps falling to nourish us in more ways than one!



Kootenay Coldsmoke Powder Fest

You are here

Kootenay Coldsmoke Powder Fest

Author: Gina Bégin

All good mountain towns have their winter festivities. Nelson’s might be just about the best of them all.

Just like the culture that created it, The Kootenay Coldsmoke Powder Festival is equal parts of silly and intense. It mixes just-for-the-fun-of-it events, like the Poker Run where entrants are given points not only for course checkpoints along the way but also on the merit of their costumes, with clinics like “Steeps and Stashes” where freeski coaches guide participants through some of Whitewater’s gnarliest terrain.

All aspects of winter life are celebrated in the three-day festival, both on the mountain and off. Friday kicks things off in town with the Coldsmoke Opener Film Fest, a cultural dive into the sights and sounds captured by local adventure photographers and filmmakers. Whitewater will see a transformation with the addition of “The Coldsmoke Village”, the central spot for demoing gear, meeting industry reps, and rubbing shoulders with other winter lovers from around the Kootenays and beyond.

If you’re the kind who needs a pile of food to dig into after a hard day on the hill, there’s something for you, too. The Buff-EH at Nelson’s historic Hume Hotel is the feature of the “Mountain Mingler” social event. Nelson is known for its deep love of good food; and the Hume culinary team will be serving it up alongside live jazz music.

But it’s the after party that may very well be one of the most memorable in-town events of the weekend. Elliott Brood, who also graced last year’s Coldsmoke lineup, is coming back for an encore performance. If flannel shirts, stomping feet, and raising bit of a ruckus in a packed venue sound like your idea of a good night out on the town, you need to be at the Spirit Bar Saturday night.

For those who are looking for everlasting fame (or at least a title they can boast about for a year) as well as a bit of physical abuse, there’s the crowning event — literally. The King & Queen of Coldsmoke requires participants participate in four events during the weekend, rack up points, and give their best as they go head to head with local legends and out-of-towners under the shadow of Ymir Peak. Though the crowns are coveted, only two will be chosen to represent Coldsmoke Royalty for the year (and win heliskiing passes to boot!).

Ready to play?

Coldsmoke Powder Fest starts this weekend with a full list of events and activities for those seeking intense fun and a lot of silly on the side. 

Additional activities, dining, shopping and accommodation are here too!

Whitewater Grows Garden Fresh Freeride Skiers by the Bushel

You are here

Whitewater Grows Garden Fresh Freeride Skiers by the Bushel

Cover Photo: Tristan Martin-Preney

At the 2016, fifth annual Smith Optics Whitewater Junior Freeride Championship, as the World Cup results rolled in and we learned that three of the best junior freeride skiers in the world come from Whitewater Ski Resort, talk on the chairlift centered around all the theories of how this was possible. The local team, coached by skiing legends Dano Slater, Pete Velesik, Pete Then, and Moss Patterson, has skied gnarly terrain since they could walk. They may not have matching uniforms, but they produce more of the world's best freeride skiers than any other hill in North America. 

The championships happen each year in Andorra, and take the best of the junior freeride skiers from around the world to compete for the title. Of the kids who went over from Canada, 5 of the 7 came from Whitewater Freeride Team.

Let me repeat that, because I am not sure it has all absorbed yet: 

  • Five of the seven junior freeride skiers representing Canada in the World championships came from Whitewater Freeride Team.
  • Nigel Zeigler, Sam Kuch, Jeff Ashton, Hayley Cooke, and Savanah Leishman represented Whitewater, while Jackson Bathgate and Tom Pieffer represented Whistler. 
  • And, at the end of the day, Nigel Zeigler placed second, while Sam Kuch placed fourth. Haley Cooke placed seventh in the women's category.

Funnily enough, though seriously proud to represent and happy about killing it, one thread that runs through this team and the sport in general is an emphasis on rewarding a good showing, sometimes over the top score of the day. There's also a seriously blurry line between teams and a camaraderie between skiers that spans geography, team allegiance and age categories.

So while there is some well-deserved hometown pride for the kids who came from Whitewater, those same kids also root for, support and encourage Jackson Bathgate and Tom Pieffer from Whistler. In fact, you can often hear the kids generally cheering for any skier giving a run their best shot.

Part of the reason for this attitude comes from a top-down leadership. Jeff Holden, head judge for the IFSA (International Freeride Skiers and Snowboarders Association) has chosen to live here, and embodies the sport with a combination of soul, spoken word poetry, tight judging standards and a calm demeanor that notices and calls out kids who show the true spirit of the sport, whether they garner top score during an event or not.

Over the weekend, for example, prizes were handed out for kids who bailed but tried hard, for kids who showed the spirit of the sport in some way above and beyond what you would expect. And throughout the weekend, it was hard not to notice that all the kids cheered for each other in a way that genuinely came from a place of "we're all in this together" rather than a forced showing of sportsmanship.

At the end of the day, it's hard to know how Whitewater Ski Resort and the Whitewater Freeride Team grow such world-class skiers. The fact is, though, that any weekend day during the winter months, just by visiting the hill you can see some of the best skiing in the world and experience it for yourself.  Follow our experience on our facebook page or watch our video.

Let it snow!

*A previous version of this article mentioned that Savannah Leishman came in 7th. She actually placed 12th. Haley Cooke came in 7th in the women's division.

10 Stellar Ways to Get Pumped for Snow Season!

You are here

10 Stellar Ways to Get Pumped for Snow Season!

It's coming. right now we're in full-on fall glory, with gorgeous leaves of yellow, gold, orange and red providing couverture for our streets and trails. Mushrooms are growing underfoot on mossy trails, the air is crisp and clear, and our local biking and hiking trails are almost crowded with locals and visitors alike taking in every last breath of fall.

But soon, winter will come. And with it another epic season in this, the Cat Ski Capital of the World. It's here that the sport began, and here that it remains the crowned monarch of powder. At around 50 feet of that white fluffy stuff per year, there's good reason that we're considered within the best in the world by the Lonely Planet, Powder Magazine, Ski Canada and more.

How to prepare for such awesomeness? Good question. There are many ways, and I'll admit to being swayed by our neighbour to the west, Whistler, for inspiration. Local writer Feet Banks' recent post for Tourism Whistler on preparing for the season had me thinking about how one could prepare for snow in the Nelson Kootenay Lake area in a similar fashion. 

Similar but different, of course. Because though Whistler and Nelson Kootenay Lake both have incredible ski seasons, we're very different resorts with very different vibes (both good — just different). So, with a nod and hat tip to Feet Banks, I'd like to offer ten stellar ways to get completely psyched for the upcoming snow season:

1. Catch the Nelson Kootenay Lake Winter Vibe 

We've got a lot going on in the Nelson Kootenay Lake area when the snow falls — there's a vibe you can feel. Family friendly, casual, deep and simple, the snow falls prolifically and we play in joyfully. Watch and learn: 


2. Stockpile Your Gear

It's time to take note of what you've got and what you'll need. Take advantage of sales, swap with friends, and start saving for those important downy items you'll be glad you splurged for later. We've got lots of places on historic Baker Street to help you shop local, so get started now and get your gear in order!

3. Check Out the Deals

There are always great offers being made to try to lure you to the Nelson Kootenay Lake area — Check out our travel deals and see if anything whets your appetite. And while you're at it, enter contests, too! 

4. Become Your Friends' Worst Nightmare/Best Meteorologist  

After going down what Feet Banks termed the "Weather Wormhole" last week, I highly recommend this activity in case you're suffering from the endless fortune telling that can be predicting winter weather. Luckily, Nelson Kootenay Lake is in that sweet spot where we're right in the eye of lots of winter storms and, protected as we are by being surrounded by lots of mountain ranges, those storms stay with us. 

Still, people love to guess what the winter will bring, and while guessing is good, knowing is better. Learn from our history and from the weather channel to find out what this year will bring weather-wise. Then go educate your friends.

5. Let Our Glaciers and Protected Wilderness Inspire You

Between Sweetgrass Productions latest wonder Jumbo Wild and last year's gorgeous Requiem for a Glacier by Paul Walde, our area has got some incredible, pristine wilderness to inspire you for the upcoming season. 


6. Find Your Full Bucket List

By watching an epic snowboarding video from Transworld Snowboard featuring our own Baldface. As they put it, "Bucket List is a five-part series about leaving the excuses behind and checking those shred missions off the list."

7. Bike till You Drop 

Get ready for the hills by training on your bike. Nelson, Kaslo and the area has got more great downhill mountain bike terrain than we know what to do with. Ride till you drop, then wake up and go again. Gericks Cycle and Ski or Whitewater Ski Resort will set you up with some great rental options. Ride with a friend, get familiar with the terrain, and have a blast warming up (literally) to winter. 

8. Hike the Area While You Still Can

Whether you take a quick jaunt up Pulpit, go a bit farther to the Flag Pole, or head out of town to the old growth cedar trails, there are lots of trails ready to teach you a thing or two about appreciating nature and her beauty. Take an afternoon, duck into the woods, and prepare your body and soul for some mountain time ahead.

9. Buy Your Pass/Book Your Trip

Do we have to mention this? In case you haven't already, take care of the pesky details! Buy your season's pass for Whitewater Ski Resort, book your trip with one of our incredible Cat Skiing/Heli Skiing providers, and book your rooms too. Nelson, Ainsworth Hot Springs and Kaslo (as well as all the Cat/Heli Ski operators) get incredibly busy in the winter, so it's important to plan ahead. Don't be disappointed. Make this winter one you'll remember for a long time to come.

10. Get in Shape!

Come on, you know you want to. Getting in shape for the upcoming snow season now is going to make you very happy come winter time. Whether you need to book an appointment with a physiotherapist, join a Crossfit class, or start jogging, get out there and do it. There are specialized programs to get you in shape just for skiing or snowboarding, too. Just do it; you'll be able to thank yourself later :)

Header image by Nick Diamond Photography

What a Godzilla El Nino Means to Nelson Kootenay Lake

You are here

What a Godzilla El Nino Means to Nelson Kootenay Lake

El Niño

Named by a Peruvian fisherman in the 1800s, it describes a season following detection of warmer-than-usual water in the Pacific near the equator. When temperatures rise by more than .5 degrees centigrade, we’ve got an El Niño. More than 3 degrees and it’s an extreme El Niño.

Right now, we’re at 1.5 degrees warmer than normal.

Bring it, Little Boy

The Godzilla of El Niños. As if that makes any sense at all. I guess if you’re going to mythologize a popular weather system, you should try to get all the multicultural pop references. And that is exactly what scientists are calling this year’s event, according to Vox. So, like an apocalyptic zombie, I’ll sally forth and bluntly wreak havoc on the predictions and tell you why science says you should ski in the Nelson Kootenay Lake area (or at Mount Fidelity, but that’s not super realistic).

Named for The Christ Child

It’s got a fairly ridiculous name, made more ridiculous by its counterpart, La Niña. El Niño refers to the Christ Child...but if you are not a Catholic person from a latin heritage, this may be lost on you, and you may simply think it means “the boy”. But an El Niño, whether a "Godzilla El Niño" or not, is not something to take lightly.

A strong El Niño, like the one in 1982 - 1983, or the one from 1997 - 1998 (which inspired Chris Farley in this SNL skit) can do major damage around the world. From drought in Australia, to mud slides in California to wildfires in the south Pacific, it's not really something to ignore.

So, certainly, the upcoming 2015 - 2016 season is going to set records around the world. But what about the Nelson Kootenay region? 

The Valhalla Effect

If you're already referencing Godzilla and El Niño in one breath, and you're a scientist, then gosh darn it all, I'm bringing my full-mythological game to this story. Enter Valhalla. Which is, really, where we live.

Since it's not much of a stretch to say that we live in the Nordic version of heaven (okay, it's a small stretch), I'm invoking Skadi and, sure, Ullr, as I explain why the Nelson Kootenay region is the place to be this winter.

We exist surrounded by the Selkirk and Purcell mountain ranges, with large lakes that are the birthplace of stormy cold precipitation. Snow. Mixed with the dry interior air, the proximity to some very large glaciers and the lack of serious wind issues, we exist in perfect conditions for epic powder. We have a mountain range named Valhalla nearby. 

The counter effect of our awesome mythologically-based geography on the El Niño means, basically, that we live in a sheltered area almost immune to its effects.

Epic Stability

Since I've just invoked epic Nordic/Germanic mythology, it would be great if I could follow that up with more cold, hard, scientific reasons to show how we're totally protected from all harm by the long arm of Thor and the ancient something-or-other that symbolically protects us from bad weather.

I can't do that. After the solid geographically-based reasoning for why we are not going to be super affected by this year's El Niño, I can offer statistic after statistic that categorically proves that this is undeniably the best place to ski in any year, but especially in a year of such volatility and unpredictable outcomes.

Whenever someone references our area, whether it's for the epic Cat skiing, heli skiing, backcountry skiing or downhill, they reference the numbers:

Baldface is 32,000 acres of terrain, 50 degree pitches, 3,000 vertical foot runs and 20,000 foot days. 

Whitewater Ski Resort notes that we average 42 feet of snow per season.

Retallack mentions elevations of 7000 to 8200 feet with 800 year old cedars on runs that can be as long as 4200 feet. 

Selkirk Wilderness notes that the terrain is larger than Vail and Whistler Blackcomb combined.

White Grizzly ensures that over 50% of the runs are super steep tree runs, on top of the stats already mentioned.

Bottom line, we're the birthplace of Cat skiing and the Cat Ski Capital for good reason. 

What About This Year, Though?

Well, I'll tell you. I've read those statistics year after year, but recently (after hours of digging) came across a few gems: Of all the resorts in the Rockies and the Interior of British Columbia, Whitewater Ski Resort has the highest percentage of epic powder days. Your chances of skiing one of those powder days that people write home about, skip work for, and devote their lives to this downhill affliction are so much higher at Whitewater Ski Resort than anywhere else in what many call the best snow region in the world. 

Add to that this gem. It begins on a sober note. The Tyee wrote a great piece asking whether we're at "peak snow". There's a great call to join a non-profit group called POW (stands for Protect Our Winters), and some really good information about how and why we should care about climate change. However, we should maybe also note that, for all the dire predictions in the article, they don't really affect Whitewater much at all. In fact, the predictions for snowfall in our area remain pretty constant for the next 50 or so years.

I'll add in one more set of stats: Whitewater has the highest (by far) chance of 90+ inches of snowfall during winter months (over an 18 year period). It also has (again, by far) the lowest chance of a crappy year (less than 30 inches). 

Why is our snow just so good? It has to do with the combination of storms fuelled by Kootenay Lake, bumping up against our mountains, creating serious amounts of snow chilled by some of BC's largest glaciers, and dried by our interior weather. We just can't help it.

Add in the Culture

Finally, I'll reference our culture. We're not much for hyping up something that's not already self evident. The snow report for Whitewater is known for being understated. Culturally, we're an area that attracts and keeps hardy people who really would rather play in the snow. It's my opinion that most people here feel as though if it's not completely obvious to you why you should be here, then perhaps, well, perhaps it's not meant to be.

Sure, we smile a bit more broadly when we reach the New York Times or the LA Times travel sections. Sure, we acknowledge as self evident that we live here because it is a literal slice of heaven on earth. But do we need to spend any extra time hyping it? I would say that pretty much everyone here agrees that this is a negative. 

Finally, for the Californians...

True, this year may be a pretty good snow year for you all. As someone whose heart still feels Californian and who sometimes awkwardly straddles both cultures, I will say that some of the best skiing I've ever experienced has been in California.

However, I'll just turn the screws here a little bit: Sure, you can ski Mammoth this year. And then there's Heavenly, which also may get some good snow. And you could easily travel over to New Mexico to Taos and put in a few good runs...but...the US dollar is currently trading at 1.33 Canadian dollars. So, um...there's that as well.

All in all, this is truly the year to ski our area. Whether this is the year you finally stop putting off that Cat skiing adventure you've been saying you'll do every year, or whether you come here to ski Whitewater. We're pretty much ready for an epic year with the best snow conditions imaginable couple with an American exchange rate that makes it all look almost silly it's so perfect. 

We hope to see you soon in the cat skiing powder capital of the world. 


Subscribe to RSS - Winter



facebook twitter Google
Instagram Youtube Pinterest