B.C.'s snowy Powder Highway resorts the stuff of ski holiday dreams

Aaron Theisen

Every winter the Kootenays call, its pull all the stronger farther north as the distances between hamlets get longer and the mountains get taller. It’s the landscape ski trip dreams are made of.

Explore RED or Whitewater this season, Ski & Stay on the Powder Highway

The Powder Highway southeast of British Columbia boasts the world’s most concentrated collection of skiable experiences: eight ski resorts and dozens of heli- and cat-skiing operations and luxury backcountry lodges linked by 677 kilometres of pavement. The names of the epic mountains such as — Whitewater RED Mountain Revelstoke Kicking Horse Fernie — stoke road-trip plans in skiers’ minds.

For many stateside skiers, Whitewater Resort is the first attraction on the Powder Highway.

“Describing Whitewater is difficult, as it’s more of a feeling for me that pulls me back there every year to ski and snowboard,” says Spokane skier and snowboarder Damian-Eachan Dilley.

Photo: Dave Heath

Dilley’s frequent ski-trip companion Brandon Byquist agrees, referring to Whitewater as “a true soul-skiing experience.”

Collecting 40 feet of light, dry powder of every season and capped by Ymir Peak — a name aptly reflecting the peak’s fierce, primeval visage — Whitewater offers steep, snowghost-framed terrain and expansive backcountry access. It also boasts one of the region’s finest ski-hill sunsets.


“The terrain at Whitewater feels raw, almost like inbounds backcountry in places because of the mountain’s unique topography and the resort’s light touch on grooming,” says Byquist. “It makes for the best steep tree skiing I've seen, with perfectly spaced glades.”

Adds Byquist, “the mountain has great snow quality and tends to milk more snow out of each storm than most places in the region.”

But despite its big-mountain bona fides, Whitewater welcomes guests of all ages and abilities, from toddlers to old-timers. It’s a true community ski hill.

Incidentally, if you’re trying to blend in as a local, Coal Oil Johnny’s Pub is a good place to embrace the national cuisine of poutine. “Whitewater has the best quality and most interesting food I've found at a ski area," says Byquist. There’s a reason why the resort collects its recipes in a popular cookbook.

Photo: Dave Heath

“All that Whitewater offers — great tree skiing, unique glades, esthetic views of the Selkirks, excellent, affordable food — it does with a humble, welcoming vibe that keeps me coming back to this skier and snowboarder’s playground," says Dilley,

It doesn’t hurt that Whitewater Ski Resort is only a 20-minute drive from Nelson, the cultural capital of the Kootenays. Scrabbling up a steep hillside on the fjord-like shores of Kootenay Lake, Nelson possesses an open-air mysticism, a mix of hardcore mountain and hippie living that’s represented in events from Renaissance fairs to rave-music festivals.

But it’s the skiing that matters most in this mountain town, and, acre-for-acre, nearby RED Mountain boasts perhaps the most expansive ski terrain in the region. Expert skiers will enjoy the steep rock chutes and a dizzying network of runs; everyone will enjoy the mid-mountain bar and grills. For those looking to blend in with the locals — or at least catch a great meal and a reliable slate of live music — Rafters Lounge is a good place to start.

Watch TGR Sessions At Whitewater Ski Resort on YouTube.

Skiers and snowboarders looking for a longer road trip should continue to Fernie, just under four hours’ drive east of Nelson in the Lizard Range of southeast B.C. The mountains here boast the kind of terrain — steep alpine bowls and cedar-lined alleys — for which serious skiers sleep in their cars. But they don’t have to at Fernie Alpine Resort, which offers plentiful on-mountain accommodations at the base of five snow-collecting cirques. Time your trip right and you might benefit from the “Fernie Factor,” the resort’s tendency to get unexpected dumps of snow.

The best way to increase your odds? Stay a few days. There’s no rush hour on the Powder Highway.

If You Go

Whitewater is waiting along the Powder Highway. Make sure to check out their vacation packages to see what other fun that can be had from your Nelson ski vacation.

Start planning your ski trip to Fernie with these packages.

Start planning your Powder Highway ski holiday here.

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