The southeastern corner of British Columbia is a winter paradise for cross-country skiers with Nordic Ski Centres located in most communities and endless trails available to explore across the Kootenay Rockies. Visitors to the area can easily start a road trip from Calgary, Alta., where you’re only a short three-hour drive from most Nordic Destinations in the East Kootenays.
Fernie is a scenic three-hour drive south of Calgary. Upon arrival, your first stop should be the Elk Valley Nordic Centre where you’ll find 10 kilometres of groomed classic and skate trails for all abilities and a heated warming hut by the parking lot. You’ll also find 14 kilometres of dedicated XC trails at Fernie Alpine Resort, which is ideal if you have downhill skiers in the family and you want to stay in one of the ski-in-ski-out lodges at the hill.
Skiers will also find 12 kilometres of beginner-friendly trails at the Fernie Golf Club groomed for classic and skate skiing. Finally, a visit wouldn’t be complete without exploring the Montane Nordic and multi-use trail network near downtown Fernie. Here you’ll find trails groomed for classic or skate skiing along with multi-use trails for snowshoeing, walking, or fat biking. Follow the groomed Montane Green Trail which leads to a scenic warming hut overlooking the Elk Valley in a pleasant eight-kilometre round-trip outing.
Kimberley is a short 90-minute drive to the west, and you can easily spend a full day exploring the more than 60 kilometres of groomed trails at the Kimberley Nordic Club, the largest XC trail system in the Kootenays. The trails are professionally maintained for both skate and classic skiing and while most trails are wide and double trackset, you’ll also find a great network of easy singletrack trails groomed for classic skiing and ideal for seeking a little more solitude.
The modern facility includes a comfortable day lodge with washrooms, ski rentals, and a lit loop for night skiing. The facility also has some trails specifically constructed to be Paralympic skiing friendly.
A 90-minute drive to the north brings you to Invermere where there are numerous options for Nordic skiers including the Lake Windermere Whiteway, the world’s longest ice skating trail at over 30 kilometres in length. The Toby Creek Nordic Centre also grooms a loop around the lake for classic and skate skiing, and if you start in the community of Windermere, you can actually ski (or skate) to a pub in Invermere for lunch before skiing back to your vehicle.
Just outside Invermere, 20 minutes away, you’ll come to Panorama Mountain Resort. Access to the Panorama Nordic Centre trails is from the Greywolf Golf Course where you’ll find easy parking and be able to pay your trail fees. Here you’ll find more than 20 kilometres of scenic trails along Toby Creek professionally groomed for both classic and skate skiing. We like to ski up to the Hale Hut and back, an intermediate outing that visits two warming huts in an approximate seven-kilometre round trip. The Hale Hut is heated and makes for a great lunch spot.
The Toby Creek Nordic Club also grooms a beginner three-kilometre loop around Lake Lillian located on the road to Panorama. And once you’ve mastered this loop with the kids, head across the road to try the Junior Johnson loop, a double track family mountain bike trail that is groomed for Nordic skiing in winter. Users are asked to pay a $5 day use fee to ski at Lake Lillian.
Nipika Mountain Resort is located 40 minutes east of the village and is a cross-country ski mecca with 50 kilometres of groomed trails for classic and skate skiing. There are trails for all abilities as you ski alongside the Kootenay and Cross Rivers, and you’ll also find three warming huts on the trail system which are very appreciated on cold days.
This is also the only Nordic Centre I’ve found where dogs are allowed and encouraged to run alongside you off-leash while you ski.
Finally we arrive in Golden at the north end of our East Kootenay Rockies tour. Located an hour north of Radium, Golden is home to Dawn Mountain Nordic Centre where you’ll find 33 kilometres of trails groomed for both classic and skate skiing. There are loops for all abilities and the trails get freshly groomed within 24 hours of every snowfall. You can also phone ahead if you’d like to sign up for a lesson while you’re here.
The Nordic Centre is located just down the road from the Kicking Horse Ski Resort as well if you are travelling with a mixed group of downhill and cross-country skiers. Snowshoes can be rented from Dawn Mountain for family members who don’t ski, and there are a couple of short hiking loops located near the Nordic Centre. Dawn Mountain also has a beautiful day lodge where you can warm up between ski loops or have your lunch inside.
For more information on cross-country skiing in the East Kootenay Rockies, visit the Kootenay Nordic website.
Cover photo courtesy of Tourism Golden, Maur Mere Media