Skip to main content
a special information feature brought to you by canada west ski areas association

Plan your stops along B.C.'s fabled Powder Highway

A key stop along B.C.'s legendary Powder Highway, the Kootenay Region offers "abundant, dry snow," making it a popular and reliable winter sports destination, says David Lynn, president and CEO of the Canada West Ski Areas Association.

Adding to the region's inherent appeal is a collection of "unique resorts with lots of personality and charm, and some very cool and fun ski towns, like Nelson and Fernie."

Known as a place where people say "hello" when they pass one another in the streets, Nelson's friendly vibe – paired with rich cultural offerings and great skiing nearby – often inspires visitors to peruse local real estate listings and join the tight-knit community. This city of 9,000 is located on the west arm of Kootenay Lake in the rugged Selkirk Mountains that are part of the West Kootenay region. The closest airports are the West Kootenay Regional Airport in Castlegar, a 40-minute drive away, and the Trail Regional Airport that can be reached in just over an hour by car.

Sitting high above Nelson, Whitewater Ski Resort offers an impressive variety of terrain with more than 1,184 acres of skiing and boarding – from gentle groomed runs to steep and deep slopes.

"Whitewater has a very cool, local, retro vibe, great tree skiing, outstanding food, lots of snow," said Lynn, adding that the opening of Whitewater's Glory Ridge Chair in 2010 added over 741 acres of new terrain to the resort.

Situated on the western slope of Crowsnest Pass and surrounded by snowcapped peaks, the town of Fernie has a timeless charm, instantly recognizable in the heritage buildings that line its main street.

People come to Fernie for the feather-light powder – an average winter will dump almost nine metres of snow on nearby Fernie Alpine Resort, which attracts big mountain skiers eager to challenge its giant bowls of off-piste terrain. Two years ago, Fernie Alpine Resort celebrated 50 years of operation with the addition of its new Polar Peak chairlift, giving the ski resort a whopping 1,082 metres of legendary vertical and adding new trails. Fernie now boasts 142 runs – the highest number of ski runs in the area.

Meanwhile, Kimberley Alpine Resort's consistent snow conditions and reputation for sunny skies are part of its draw. The resort offers everything from wide-open groomed runs to wilderness skiing, including North America's largest gladed terrain: the Black Forest. And what would you find near the Black Forest if not a Bavarian-themed village? The town of Kimberley's quaint architecture and laid-back charm add to this community's appeal – it even has a freestanding cuckoo clock that greets visitors with a yodel.

The Canadian Rockies International Airport is located about 20 kilometres south of Kimberley, making access a breeze.

Another popular ski destination in the area is Red Mountain Resort, known for diverse terrain on uncrowded slopes.

Nelson, Fernie and Kimberley are easily accessible by road, and scenic drives make exploring the area a worthwhile adventure. "Each [resort] has its own character; it is great to visit multiple resorts on a road trip," Lynn suggests.

Interact with The Globe