I have truly arrived. Most of this sunny Kootenay winter day had been spent sessioning Kimberley Alpine Resort’s marquee kids run, known as the Mascot Trail. After a half dozen laps, I had become intimately familiar with every twist, turn, banked corner, camel bump and kicker that the little Mascot could throw at us. Now late in the afternoon, photographer Steve Ogle and I settle into deck chairs outside the Trickle Creek Lodge lounge in the sunshine, order some cold pints and watch our oldest kids Casey, 6, and Zola, 7, happily lapping the Owl T-Bar without direct parental support. The timeless ski resort classic rock soundtrack that seems perpetually trapped in the 80s – Joe Jackson, Talking Heads, Men at Work, etcetera – sets the après ski mood. I’ll speak for both generations and say that both generations are enjoying this newfound, mutually enjoyable liberty.
I’ll be honest, I had up until now given Kimberley Alpine Resort a pass in my ski travel plans, even though it’s a hill with an interesting past, built by millwrights and other trades people employed at the nearby massive Sullivan underground lead, zinc, silver and tin mine that ran for 92 years until its closure in 2001. My loss as I was to discover during a week in March, when Ogle and I traveled to the East Kootenays with our families to sample Kimberley’s skiing riches. What the resort lacks in bowls, chutes and alpine faces, it makes up for with a respectable vertical drop of 750 metres, long runs (like the 6.4 km long Ridgeway), steep fall line groomers, bump runs and glades that have produced more than its fair share of national level skiers and athletes. This fact is reinforced when we park our entourage of eight one afternoon at Kootenay Haus, a bring-your-own-bag lunch chalet, with a self-serve, pay-by-donation coffee pot, tucked on a knoll between a pair of blue runs and sporting a deck with a jaw dropping view of the Columbia Valley. Displayed on one of the inside walls are the mugs of the many Kimberley characters who have left their mark on the race courses and mountains of the world – Gerry Sorensen, Stan Hayer, Paralympian Josh Dueck, Seven Sumitteer, Pat Morrow, and telemark skier extraordinaire Monte Paynter, to name a handful.
Later that same day we connect with another local Heidi Korven and her skiing family to explore more of the hill. Korven is proud of her town and ski hill; for good reason. Kimberley’s heritage village core has traded in its Bavarian motif for something a little more contemporary with a bevy of new businesses that includes the awesome family friendly Spirit Rock Climbing Centre, a craft brewery, and popular eateries like the Pedal and Tap and Stonefire Pizzeria, all minutes away from the chairlifts. Heidi’s daughters, Sawyer,7, and Noa, 4, make the run call, and we navigate our way to Vortex, a black diamond that funnels down through the Black Forest glades and requires our kids to step up their game from the Mascot Trail. We lay siege to this narrow run, six kids seven and under getting it done. By the time we’re riding the fixed grip Easter Triple back to the summit, après is calling. We finish with – you guessed it – the Mascot Trail and half an hour later are commandeering the outdoor Jacuzzi at the Mountain Spirit Resort and I’m wondering why it took me so long to pencil in a trip to this East Kootenay treasure.
When my husband and I were younger, back in the days before children, we’d leave our home in Calgary after work on Friday, drive out to Kimberley or Fernie for the weekend, and grab the cheapest hotel room we could find. I remember eating instant oatmeal in the morning with water that we’d heated from the in-room coffee maker and remember trying to squeeze at least 4 adults into a room to split costs. These were our “dirt bag ski days” and they worked for us – as adults without kids.
Insert a child into our family dynamic, an injury that has left me unable to ski long days back to back anymore, and changing times – and our ski style has changed just a tad. (For the better!)
Key factors we take into account when planning a successful family ski weekend
- Staying off hill is not an option for us anymore. We look for lodging on the ski hill so that each member of the family can choose how long he or she wants to ski for. At least one of us usually runs out of energy early afternoon or needs to take an extended lunch break to rest and chill.
- Having a kitchen in our suite or condo is imperative to affordable ski weekends. I’m done with coffee-maker-oatmeal and want to have
“nice breakfasts.” (Think bacon and pancakes to fuel the family for the day.) Staying at one of the ski in/out condos on the Kimberley Alpine Resort property allows us to make our own breakfasts, lunches, and dinners (even if it’s as simple as a couple of frozen pizzas when we arrive Friday night.)
- One room hotel suites just don’t cut it with kids. Anybody else ever spend the evening sitting on the bathroom floor of their hotel room with a book and a glass of wine just so that the kids can fall asleep in the main room with no lights on? Or have you ever had to sit in the hallway outside your hotel room while the kids fell asleep? I’ve done both and I’m done with those days. Now we always look for a one or two bedroom condo. The kids go to sleep in the bedrooms while us adults can stay up and talk, play a game of cards, and share a few beers. I call this “successful après-ski parenting.”
- Every successful ski day ends at the resort swimming pool. We shared a condo with friends at Kimberley this month and the kids spent as much time in the swimming pool as they did on the ski hill. They were in the pool within an hour of arriving Friday night, were back in the pool Saturday afternoon after skiing, and spent at least 2 hours in the pool again Sunday afternoon before driving home.
- A ski resort has to offer more than just skiing. When we used to visit ski resorts in our younger days, we came for the skiing and that was it. Get up, ski hard until the hill closes, drink, eat, and socialize with friends, go to bed, repeat. Things have changed now and we actually look for a variety of entertainment/leisure options when we go away for a weekend. On our recent trip to Kimberley, my girlfriend and I brought cross country skis and enjoyed some night skiing at the Kimberley Nordic Club Friday night while the kids were at the swimming pool with the dads. Other activities we could have tried would have included fat biking, ice skating and snowshoeing – all right at the same resort. While we usually only go away for a two-day weekend, we’d appreciate all of these activities if we were to spend a longer amount of time in Kimberley. My body isn’t what it used to be and I’d never be able to spend multiple days downhill skiing without rest breaks to enjoy some other outdoor activities.
A winter resort for every member of the family
On our recent visit to Kimberley, our group included three kids ages eight and under, three adults who could have closed the ski hill each day, and then me, a mom who enjoys skiing until early afternoon each day before retreating to the hot tub or slopeside pub.
Fortunately for our group, Kimberley was the perfect location for mixed interests and we’re now thinking we might plan a future trip with extended family. My mother would love the resort’s snowshoe tour and I’d like to return for the fat biking tour.
Below are some of the many activities a family can enjoy in Kimberley:
- Downhill resort skiing from a ski in/out condo at the base of the ski resort (with night skiing available on the main run – a great option if you spent the afternoon in the swimming pool with the kids and want to get back out on the slopes later)
- Cross country skiing at the Kimberley Nordic Club, a short 2 minute drive away from the Kimberley Alpine Resort base area. We enjoyed night skiing on a 3 km lit loop but next time I return to Kimberley I want to check the trails out in the daylight.
- Resort snowshoe tours including the Kootenay Haus Chocolate Fondue Tour which is perfect for the whole family.
- Resort fat bike tours including the Trickle Creek S’mores Fat Bike Tour (and yes, it includes a fire and s’mores along the easy ride through the golf course below the ski resort)
- Ice skating on the resort rink, conveniently located outside the Trickle Creek Lodge and beside the Stemwinder Bar and Grill. Between skating, the swimming pool that we enjoyed at the Mountain Spirit Resort where we stayed, and the live entertainment at the Stemwinder, we had plenty to do in the après-ski hours on hill.
- Dinner, shopping, and rock climbing in the Kimberley Platzl. The Bavarian-themed plaza downtown is home to several amazing restaurants including our favourite, the Pedal and Tap. (Seriously, try the mucked up fries and then tell me it’s not your favourite restaurant too!) There’s also a super-cool indoor climbing gym, The Spirit Rock Climbing Centre, in the Platzl that we keep meaning to visit. It’s on the list for the next time we visit when we have more than 2 days to play and explore!
And just in case you still think you could ever be bored on your winter trip to Kimberley, the Hello BC website has even more fun suggestions for ways to discover Kimberley year round.
The Tourism Kimberley website is also a great resource for accommodations, activities, and things to do in Kimberley.
To read more about my family’s adventures in Kimberley and our stay at the Mountain Spirit Resort, check out my recent story on my own blog: The Ultimate Family Ski Weekend at Kimberley Alpine Resort.