The Kootenay Rockies legendary Powder Highway isn’t just a snowy playground for downhill skiers and boarders. Nordic skiers increasingly want a part of the winter action too. They love the genuine ski towns and the laidback vibe as much as any skier. And while they’re a little more forgiving when it comes to snow conditions, they still relish a fresh dump of the powdery stuff and the thrill of an expertly groomed trail. Backcountry skiers will find plenty to make them smile too.
Why not set aside a week or two and head out on a Nordic skiing road trip? There’s so much to discover in the Kootenay Rockies – with eight ski towns to visit, numerous Nordic ski clubs and ski resorts with Nordic trails, backcountry terrain galore, along with some hidden gems – like Nipika Mountain Resort and the Arrow Slocan region north of Castlegar. In some locations, there are opportunities to finish the day with a soak in one of BC’s fabulous hot springs.
Where should you start your Nordic-skiing road-trip? It‘s a tough question, that depends to a large degree on your point of entry. There is no right or wrong answer, especially since it can be done as a loop. Choose Rossland if you want to start in a playground for adventure lovers. Or Fernie if you love a classic mountain town. Perhaps Kimberley, with its Bavarian vibe or Nelson, with its colorful charming heritage houses. Wherever you start, be sure to visit the Kootenay Nordic website for detailed, up to date information.
Golden is an outdoor lover’s town – situated between the Columbia and Rocky Mountains at the northern end of the Powder Highway. Many people arrive in Golden via a drive through gorgeous Yoho National Park. Stop to ski the area around Emerald Lake or try the 22 km round-trip to stunning Lake O’Hara. Continuing, head to the Dawn Mountain Nordic Centre, just a kilometre from Kicking Horse Mountain Resort to enjoy spectacular mountain views on 33 km of groomed trails. Prefer to make your own trails? The Cedar Lakes Recreation Site is ideal. And if it’s convenience you’re after, the Golden Golf Course is perfect with 6 km of easy trails.
More information on Nordic skiing in Golden is available here.
Radium Hot Springs & Nipika
Include your furry friend on your Nordic skiing adventure when you head to Nipika Mountain Resort, whether it be for a day of skiing or an overnight stay in one of their charming cabins. The resort is located at the boundary of Kootenay National Park, just 30 minutes from Radium Hot Springs. Every level of skier can be accommodated on 50 km of skillfully groomed, very scenic trails, especially the one along the turquoise-coloured Kootenay River. Other options in the park are the self-guided trails to Dog and Cobb Lakes. Finish the day with a soak in Radium Hot Springs.
Check out Radium Hot Springs for information on Nordic adventures.
Drive 15 minutes south of Radium to reach the Whiteway in Invermere. It holds the Guinness World record for the longest naturally frozen skating trail in the world, great news if you’re a Nordic skier. The snow removed for skaters is repurposed as 31 km of track-set ski trails – enough to keep skiers happy for hours. But, if you’re after a traditional experience, head for altitude and check out the 20 km of groomed trails at Panorama Ski Resort. Aim for Hale Hut, a fantastic half-day option. For a short easy outing, the 3 km Lake Lillian loop off the road to Panorama is ideal.
Visit the Invermere Panorama website for more information on Nordic skiing.
If you commit to skiing all the Nordic trails in the Kimberley area, you’ll need upwards of a week. This charming Bavarian themed ski town is home to the Kimberley Nordic Club, featuring 30 km of track-set trails in a beautiful forest setting. There’s also a massive Nature Park, twice the size of Stanley Park with more than 50 km of trails where experienced skiers should try the 20 km Round the Mountain Trail. Beginner and intermediate skiers can head to the Lois Creek Trails and for those who love a backcountry experience, the Grey Creek Road over a 6800-foot pass to Kootenay Lake is a solid choice.
For further information on Nordic skiing in Kimberley visit Tourism Kimberley.
With epic snowfalls, a cool small-town vibe and stunning mountain scenery, make time to stop and check out Fernie’s four distinct Nordic ski areas (50 km). The town is easily accessible from Calgary, and ideally situated to access both directions of the Powder Highway. Two areas beckon close to historic downtown Fernie, the Elk Valley Nordic Centre and the Montane area. At Elk Valley, 10 km of groomed trails are perfect for all abilities. The Montane area, with its sweeping views of the Lizard Range, offers 10 km of easy, low-lying trails for the beginner along with more difficult sections in the forest for advanced skiers.
For extra information on Nordic skiing, visit the Tourism Fernie website.
Nelson – Kaslo
Both Nelson and Kaslo offer superb Nordic skiing experiences in spectacular mountain settings. The Nelson Nordic Ski Club, 10 minutes from town, boasts 25 km of trails for all types and level of skier along with warming huts and a night skiing loop. On the Great Northern Rail Trail above downtown Nelson, you can ski approximately 8 km over refurbished trestle bridges on an easy grade through beautiful forests to Cottonwood Lake. Love hills? Head to White Mountain Resort and ski 5 km of trails with breathtaking views of Ymir Peak. In Kaslo, visit the Kaslo Nordic Club with its 12 km of groomed trails for classic skiing and 30 acres of beginner alpine touring.
The Nelson Kootenay Lake website is loaded with helpful information about Nordic skiing.
Locals know what a hidden gem the Arrow Slocan region is with more kilometres of Nordic ski trails than anywhere else but Kimberley. Bonus points go for its proximity to several hot springs in Nakusp. All told there are four areas within the corridor to explore: 1) the gloriously flat 52 km Slocan Valley Rail Trail that travels up a river valley with seven access points 2) the Valhalla Hills Nordic Ski Club with its 12 km of groomed trails plus another 5 km on the nearby Hills Rail Trail 3) 7.4 km on the Wensley Creek Trails near Nakusp and 4) 6 km on the K&S Historical Trail and Cody Spur combination.
For more information on the Nordic ski trails visit the Arrow Slocan website.
Nordic skiing in Castlegar pairs well with a road trip to Nelson and Rossland if you’re short for time and can’t fit all of the Powder Highway in on one trip. The prime spot with the longest season for Nordic skiing is the Paulson Recreation Area, 32 km west of Castlegar. Here you can enjoy superb skiing on 45 km of trails, mainly groomed for classic skiers. Enjoy landscapes that include old growth forest, frozen lakes and scenic ridgelines. Skiers that are fine with non-groomed trails can explore the Columbia and Western Trail that stretches from Castlegar to Christina Lake.
Visit Destination Castlegar for additional information on Nordic skiing.
When one out in six people in Rossland are members of the local Black Jack Cross Country Ski Club, you know something amazing is up. For starters, the Nordic Centre is just 3 km out of town in an area known for its long season and consistently great snow. As one of the premiere Nordic ski areas in western Canada, it is home to 45 km of beautiful, expertly groomed trails, many with gorgeous mountain vistas, three warming cabins and a short night-skiing loop. If backcountry trails are your preference, the Rossland Range Recreation site, 19 km from town, delivers kilometres of unspoiled mountain beauty.
Further information on Nordic skiing in Rossland can be found on the Tourism Rossland website.