(Thanks to Chip for this entertaining report about skiing and eating)
Nelson Ski Fest Dec. 27, 2013-Jan 3, 2014
Hello Powder Hounds, Track Addicts and other lovers of winter snow sport,
First of all, Happy New Year to one and all. As we wait for the mercury to rise a bit, I am warmly settled into my Calgary home after a week of skiing in paradise in the area around Nelson, B.C. As this report is a mixture of styles, I’m not sure where it should be placed. I’ll leave that to Skier Bob’s able decision-making.
This was a Rocky Mountain Ramblers trip organized by Christine after our four-day trip last year left us slavering for more. We set out on the 27th for Salmo, B.C., just a short drive downslope from Kootenay Pass.
The trip went smoothly, with a brief stop in Kimberly where we noshed on Brats and kraut from Chef Bernard’s, highly recommended with the Malagasy green-peppercorn mustard. We arrived at the Reno Hotel in Salmo as dark descended on the valley. Alex, a transplant from the Coast, was a most welcoming host to us, getting us local reports on ski conditions and avalanche ratings (hand-written!). The Reno is a small “auberge” that is simple but nice and great for the price; comfy beds, full kitchen and wireless (unreliable in some units).
“We met a few local parties who begged us to keep this spot a secret”
For the next two days we skied Kootenay Pass, first on the crusty north side to Cornice Ridge and then to Lighting Strike Ridge on the south side of the highway. The snow off LSR was heavenly and even those who were not strong skiers were amazed at the fun they had swooshing through the denser trees near ridge top and descending to mellower glades before skinning up for a second chance. We met a few local parties who begged us to keep this spot a secret, fearing perhaps that hordes of Cowtown city folk would wreck their super slopes. I understand the concern…and this is a bad snow year!
Day 3 was spent at Whitewater, a very nice, family-oriented resort not 10 minutes out of Nelson. What I like about Whitewater is that the lines are never long, the runs vary from newbie-level to downright suicidal, it’s easy to reach backcountry bowls and ridges off the lifts ($21 for a single ride ticket) and the tree skiing is sublime. Even though the clouds often make for flat light on the open slopes, it’s always possible to ski near the trees and have tons o’ fun.
The weather forecast suggested that our best hopes for sunshine were next day so the entire troupe headed for Evening Ridge, a backcountry trail just downhill from the day lodge at Whitewater. We were fortunate indeed, because the morning was fairly “socked in” but the clouds broke at lunchtime and we were able to ski amazing 25 deg slopes on the north side of the ridge. Huge firs collected the wet snow, making for magical, spirit-like shapes and the hoarfrost grew to several centimeters on some of the branches and trunks.
Several of our group headed off in the wrong direction (temporarily) on our descent and we also met a couple that was separated from their group and joined us on the way out, reaching the cars just before dark.
For variety, the next morning was spent walking the streets in Nelson. Nelson is Cool, with a capital ‘C’. The architecture is unlike anything in Alberta and the streets collect every sort of colorful character from Baby Boomer Hippies to hard-core ski bums. Coffee shops abound and it is a haven for foodies. We tried out several local eateries and can recommend Osso Negro for java, The Outer Clove and Main Street Diner for more substantial fare (I recommend the lamb at MSD. It’s to die for!).
In the afternoon, I visited Apex-Busk, the XC facility operated by the Nelson Nordic Ski Club.
The website indicates that they have 25 km of classic and skate trails. I met Rolf, the tracksetter who suggested that it was more extensive. Regardless of distance, it’s an amazing facility with double-tracked trails at all levels and a skating lane wide enough for the Macy’s Thanksgiving parade. Combined with other trails operated by Whitewater, a Nordic nut could easily spend a long weekend exploring this system and never grow tired of the snow.
Our last day in town, many had left already and so Chris and I decided to “play it safe” and return to Evening Ridge. I had laid down GPS waypoints, we knew the route and were both cautious in the backcountry so we made a good team. We manage to get in three runs off the ridge, each following slightly different lines but all ending just below Hummingbird Pass. Again, the snow was absolutely phenomenal. Again we were all smiles and again, a warning about backcountry risk. We ran into two couples, neither having visited the area before, lost or disoriented or both.
The drive back on the 3rd was not so much fun. We had an hour wait at the Pass due to avalanche control, a 30-min wait at Radium for a nasty collision and some nail-biting stretches of HWY 93 to Castle Junction. Still, a lunch stop in Creston yielded a great bowl of chili at Buffalo Trails Coffee House and a few new-used books at Kingfisher Quality Used Books (highly recommended), one block off the main drag. As I approached the city limits, I realized that I could have spent another week in the Nelson area and still have plenty of fun remaining. Time to start planning next year’s trip.
Oh, if you happen to be in the Nelson area, I can recommend the North Shore Inn. Jennifer and Steve Kim are very gracious hosts, serve good coffee and continental breakfasts, accommodate larger groups and need the business. The rooms are spacious and spotless; the prices are great. Take room 301. It’s got a full kitchen.
Another recommendation is Icebreaker 200 base layers. I wore mine for 7 straight days of hard skiing. It didn’t stink a bit (or so I thought!). It’s warm, light, comfy and durable. Buy it in the States, though. It’s half the price of the same product here.
Happy skiing everyone,