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A piece of heaven in the Kootenays

It took a while for New York City native Nick Waggoner to find his way to Whitewater Ski Resort in B.C.'s West Kootenays, but he was evidently destined to discover such an inspiring locale.

Despite being born and raised in a decidedly urban environment, Waggoner says, "When I was a freshman in college, I saw (Nelson, B.C. resident) Bill Heath's Sinners and couldn't believe the soul and the community vibe in that movie. It seemed like a mystical world. I mean really, who doesn't want that?"

Filled with inspiration, Waggoner's film pursuits drew him to mountainous regions around the world. In  Japan, he made his award-winning film Signatures. In the dry, impossibly rugged Andes of South America, he filmed his next movie, Solitaire.

Two years ago, Waggoner decided to move his Sweetgrass Productions team to Nelson, B.C., and nearby Whitewater Ski Resort for his newest documentary film project Valhalla – an homage to his new Kootenay home and reference to the heavenly place in Norse mythology.

"While the skiing and the quality of the snow is really world class, what I came to appreciate was the character of the town itself. Perhaps it comes from the persecuted Doukhobor settlers or the draft dodgers afterwards, but there's this attitude in the Kootenays that anything is possible. Whether you're visiting as a tourist or have been there for two weeks or even 30 years, there's no sense of localism or shutting newcomers out like you might find in other places."

Waggoner adds that people like him, who've moved to the area from bigger cities, have brought an urban sensibility and sophistication that combines with the region's inherent mysticism. "There are artists, filmmakers, photographers, chefs and entrepreneurs – it's just a very special place," he explains.

Whitewater Ski Resort's abundant snowfall and superb terrain are the stuff of legends. The dependable, dry-snow accumulation totals over 12 metres a season, blanketing 632 vertical metres of uncrowded slopes of family-friendly groomers, remarkable steeps, top-of-the-line tree-skiing and endless backcountry, making it one of the only resorts in the world where you still have friends on a powder day.

Some come for the legendary skiing, others for the legendary menus – Whitewater serves up proper Kootenay hospitality with its internationally acclaimed culinary offerings that have inspired three national best-selling cookbooks. Indeed, there is no better way to share the stories of the day than over a fresh, locally inspired meal.

Where does Waggoner like to ski? The aptly named Blast, right underneath the chairlift. "It's pure fall line, and on the morning after a big powder dump, everybody is just bombing down it. Some guy might throw a back flip – other guys are just trying to survive. It doesn't matter what kind of style you've got – everyone catches up at the bottom of the lift, and the smiles are priceless. It's just something you've gotta experience."

There's a reason why this resort was co-awarded the "Best Ski Town in North America" for Powder Magazine's first-ever Ski Town Throwdown competition. Come and see for yourself – and find your own slice of Valhalla.


What to expect:

An average of 1,200 centimetres of annual dry snowfall enable powder skiing with 623 metres of vertical on 1,184 acres of skiable terrain with four chair lifts. Terrain is 10 per cent beginner, 32 per cent intermediate and 58 per cent advanced.

What's new:

The new maintenance shop means better grooming, lift maintenance, snow removal and ultimately an overall better on-mountain experience.


• Whitewater loves food trucks. Ride Whitewater’s famed Backside (what locals call the Glory Ridge area) all day and grab lunch (with heated indoor seating – new this year) at the site of Fresh Tracks Café Express’s food truck. Yes, there are even washrooms back there.

Special highlight:

Bringing Whitewater to the world: Filmed at Whitewater and throughout the Kootenays, Sweetgrass Productions’ Valhalla is on tour through western North America and is available for sale at



Winter Carnival & Snow Ball Apres (Jan. 18-19),
• Smith Optics Junior Freeski Open (Jan. 31 – Feb. 2), • Kootenay Coldsmoke Powder Fest (Feb. 21-23)



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