Reviewed by Mark Lesh
Dec 04, 2008
Who wants to talk shop when there’s 8,000 acres of world-class terrain, from high-alpine glaciers to giant hemlock forests, spread across two mountains plastered by a stable maritime snowpack?
Just a decade old and still growing, Kicking Horse has been called “mini-Alaska” for good reason.
The ridgelines are ragged. The runs are long and unbroken.
The style of Whitewater, located in British Columbia’s Selkirk Mountain range, is undeniably pure, simple, and truthful. That’s what has kept the mountain a simple gem of a ski hill, untarnished by development. It’s quality over quantity (there are only have two chairlifts) at Whitewater and the focus is undeniably on the skiing. Because it’s so small, it can get skied out quickly inbounds. But real skiers know the true beauty of Whitewater is in its backcountry access. At the end of the valley above Whitewater sits 7,867-foot Ymir Peak, which offers everything from the quick sidecountry lap to longer tours and scary big-mountain lines.
Start Here: Head left off the Summit Chair and traverse out under Powder Keg Bowl. Drop into Galena and then open it up on Paydirt back to the Summit Chair.
Quick Tip: With a base elevation of 5,400 feet, it rains quite a bit on the lower half of the mountain. Check the freezing levels if it’s storming and avoid a soggy day.
Must Hit: If Catch Basin is open, get to it quick. Pass underneath Powder Keg Bowl skier’s right of the Summit Chair and head all the way out. Skin up to the ridge for a little more vertical.
The Stash: Head right off of the Summit Chair onto Bonanza. Immediately duck off into the trees to the left. Pick a lane and follow it fall line into the Terra Ratta trees. The fall line trees are tight but worth it.
Powder Day: If it’s a big snow day, head straight for Diamond Drill and Dynamite, skier’s left off Gold Pan. Head right off the Summit Chair. When the goods are chewed up, move off these trails into the trees.
Three Days Later: Truthfully, there isn’t going to be a whole lot left after three days inbounds. There are trees way far out in the Kuba’s Corners glades that hold a few scraps, but you’ll probably want to grab a knowledgeable partner and head into the backcountry.
Park and Pipe: Whitewater has a very modest park on Jackpot just skier’s left of the Silver King Chair. No halfpipe.
Backcountry Access: Whitewater’s backcountry access is as good as it gets. There are access points from the top of both lifts. Whitewater also offers customized backcountry touring groups with Whitewater Snow Safety Instructors. A full day course starts at $135 and you must book at least 2 days in advance with a three-person minimum.
Weather: The best time to hit Whitewater is in February and March. An average of 40 feet of snow piles up here annually. Plus, it’s not crazy cold with an average winter temperature around 18 degrees.
Après: Throw back a few organic Faceplant Winter Ales from the Nelson Brewing Company at Last Run at Coal Oil Johnny’s Pub in the lodge. Just try not to faceplant on your way out of the bar.
Fuel: The food at the Whitewater lodge’s Fresh Tracks Café is hands down the best ski lodge food ever (it won Best Cafeteria in our 2009 Resort Awards). They even have their own cookbook. Try the Ymir Bowl, a spicy curry dish, for lunch. It won’t drag you down.
Up All Night: Downtown Nelson has a lot to offer at night. A locals’ watering hole is Mike’s Place Pub below the Hume Hotel. They usually have ski movies on the tube. The Fluid Lounge gets a wide range of decent live music.
Digs: All lodging is 15 minutes down the road from Whitewater in the town of Nelson. The historic Hume Hotel has rooms starting at $89 for a single including a full breakfast in the morning. For the hostel experience try the Dancing Bear Inn. Private single rooms are $50 and dorms for $25 per night.
Elevation: 5,400 feet Vertical Drop: 1,300 feet Snowfall: 470 inches Acres: 1,180 Info: skiwhitewater.com