Addicted to POWDER
ROSSLAND, B.C. — For many in the skiing world, the resorts of Canada’s Powder Highway in British Columbia’s Kootenay region are secrets they’d rather not share with the public.
The circuit links eight mountain resorts and many times more Nordic, heli- and cat-ski operations across 677 kilometres.
“There’s very little out there that can rival the quality and terrain in the Kootenays,” says Ian Johnston, a Vancouver transplant to Rossland, where he skis at Red Mountain.
“If you want powder, you go to the Kootenays,” he says. “If you go to party, you go to Whistler,” referring to the better-known and massive ski resort that hosted the 2010 Winter Olympics, a nine-hour drive from Rossland.
Like most locals, Johnston grudgingly agrees those along the Powder Highway need to share their light, airy powder bonanza with the world.
The laid-back resorts offer kilometres of trails, massive quantities of vertical feet, heli-skiing and communities where skiing is a passion passed from generation to generation by friendly locals.
The gems along the highway through the pristine valleys of the western slope of the Rockies and the Purcell and Selkirk mountain ranges are, starting in the East Kootenay, Fernie Alpine Resort near the mining town of Fernie; Kicking Horse Mountain Resort west of the entrance to Yoho National Park; Kimberley Alpine Resort outside the picturesque city of Kimberley; Panorama Mountain Resort outside Invermere; and Revelstoke Mountain Resort west of Kicking Horse.
Moving into the West Kootenay region, Red Mountain Resort is minutes from the cities of Rossland and Trail, and Whitewater Ski sits above the trendy lakeside city of Nelson.
Fernie averages 37 feet (11 metres) of snow a year and boasts a season from December through April, as do most area mountains. With a vertical rise of 3,550 feet (1,082 metres), it offers 142 runs including five Alpine bowls and tree skiing.
At 4,133 feet (1,260 metres), Kicking Horse boasts the fourth-highest vertical drop in North America. It boasts 120 runs, 60 per cent of which are rated at advanced or expert. Right at the edge of the Rockies, the resort offers some of the most stunning mountains views in North America.
For hardcore powder aficionados looking for rides through hefty powder fields, Kicking Horse — a.k.a. “The Champagne Powder Capital of Canada” — and Revelstoke are the destinations of choice. Located outside the charming Alpine-themed former mining town from which it takes its name, Kimberley offers 2,465 vertical feet (751 metres) of skiing served by five lifts.
Panorama offers 2,847 acres (1,152 hectares) of terrain covering the spectrum from wideopen fall line cruisers to powder-filled tree lines. The area’s Taynton Bowl, once a heliskiing
Ice- and snow-covered trees turned into delicate winter sculptures at Red Mountain in Rossland. At left, skiers on a snowy landscape.