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.
Nestled in the Kootenay Rockies, at the footstep of the Purcell Mountains you’ll find a charming town gently tucked into the mountainside with access to it all, Kimberley B.C. Known for it’s epic supply of fresh snow at Kimberley Alpine Resort during the winter months, Kimberley can fly under the radar when it comes to summer adventuring, keeping the gems of this town yours to discover! Endless options for exploration exist in all directions, but where to begin?
Trickle Creek Lodge makes the ultimate base camp for adventure with all the bells as whistles. With the P2P trail and Railway Trail literally out the lobby door, it’s too easy to hike, bike or run to your destination of choice. The extensive network of trails connect multiple parks with in town, most notably the Kimberley Nature Park. Connecting parks run into town, up the mountain offering incredible views for sunsets and all the way to Marysville. The best part? After a busy day of activities the outdoor pool and hot tub will be calling your name as the sunsets over the towering mountains. Finish the night with a bite and earned beer at the restaurant in Trickle Creek Lodge before crashing in that cozy bed to do it all over again.
Several extensive trail systems exist with in the Kimberley area including the braggable new downhill trails on Bootlegger Mountain. Much of the Kimberly Nature Park is also bike specific. Hosting over 50km of trails nearly all of them all bike-able at varying ability levels there is some loamy goodness for everyone. Bike to a variety of destinations for an extra enticing outing like the Halfway Cabin, Dipper Lake or into the Platzl for an après bike session!
Again with the Kimberley Nature Park, but it’s too good to not mention again! These manicured and town accessible trails offer views with elevation gain, family walks and educational hikes. A drive to area that won’t disappoint is the nearby Top of the World Provincial Park. Top of the World’s hiking network is easily accessible via a easy 6.7 km hike into a campground complete with cabin, from there the trails ascend quickly justifying it’s name as it produces endless alpine views. For a heli of a hike, connect with Boulder Hut Adventures and do just that, take a helicopter into a remote backcountry lodge location for some once in a lifetime hiking opportunities!
When not chasing an adrenaline induced adventure, relax downtown Kimberley and enjoy some local eats at Pedal and Tap, or spend an evening on one of the 3 golf courses in town. Take a paddle on St. Mary’s Lake or simply enjoy the stroll to Marysville Falls with an ice-cream in hand. Big or small, the town of Kimberley is the gateway to adventures for all.
Words & Photos by Abby Cooper
The Meachen Creek Falls (just off the road on the way to Hourglass lake) offers some absolutely amazing photo opportunities for your Instagram!
2) Farmers Market
Running every Thursday evening from 5 – 7:30pm until September 7th, visit Downtown Kimberley (Howard Street) to find fresh local and sustainable food as well as some local artisans. Started and still run by Wildsight, a company committed to protect biodiversity and support sustainable communities, Wildsight also offers educational programs for kids and families to learn more about the wild outdoors, recycling and much more.
3) Pool Party – Trickle Creek Lodge
Time to party! Trickle Creek Lodge has an outdoor heated pool and two hot tubs, with nearby BBQ’s it’s the perfect location to come for a road trip or week away. Hang with the family and entertain friends and have a pool party!
While there are many easier hikes in and around the Kimberley area (even a trek up the ski hill is easier than this one), if you’re looking for a real challenge, try Fisher Peak. Once scaled the views from the top are definitely hard to match! Read about the experience on our post ‘The Taunting Temptress – Climbing Fisher Peak’.
5) Rails to Trails
Opened in 2010, the Rails to Trails is a well travelled passage that has been used as far back as the early 1900’s as a railway to transport lead, zinc and logs between the Kimberley and Cranbrook area, eventually being revamped into the passenger track it is today (hence the name). Rails and Trails is open to anyone on foot, bike, skateboards (skis or snowshoes in the winter) and is a 28 km trail connected the two cities. For a full map of the trails visit the Rails to Trails website – northstarrailtrail.com.
6) Nature Park
Also known as ‘the gateway to nature’, the Kimberley Nature Park is the largest municipal park in British Columbia! Offering everything from guided hikes for everyone of any age to group mountain bikes and educational programs. Find out more about their programs and what to explore in the Nature Park on their newly redesigned website – kimberleynaturepark.ca.
7, 8 & 9) Golf Central
This gorgeous course is known for its wide open spaces and perfect greens. Hole #12 is the signature hole here and after playing the hole we think you’ll realize why.
Trickle Creek Golf Resort
Affectionately called ‘a golfer’s dream’ Trickle Creek is home to 18 challenging holes surrounding by the beauty of the mountains and is one of just a few Canadian Courses to be rated 4.5 stars by Golf Digest. Don’t miss a chance to stop for a photo op at the signature hole #11.
Kimberley Golf Club
From their website – the Kimberley Golf Club is ‘proven to be one of the most scenic, charming and challenging courses in the B.C. Rocky Mountains’.
Trickle Creek Lodge is located close to all three courses and has a package to stay and play all three. See the Offers page on the Trickle Creek Lodge website and look up the package called ‘Golf Kimberley Package’ for this special offer.
10) Downtown Platzl
The pedestrian platzl in downtown Kimberley is not to be missed, with its quaint brick lined paths surrounding by locals restaurants and shops including a German themed bakery with delicious daily specials and fresh made items and the Kimberley Heritage Museum. Top it off with life size chess and a huge freestanding cuckoo clock (put a coin in the clock to see what happens).
11) River Sports
Through the Kootenay Raft Company you can sign up for a guided whitewater rafting trip (introductory or extreme tours available), or you can simply rent kayaks canoe’s or Stand Up Paddleboards. Whatever water adventure you’re in the mood for, you can find it near Kimberley! More iformation is available on the Kootenay Raft Co. website – http://www.kootenayrafting.ca/.
12) Black Spur Ultra
Trail Running has been gaining significant popularity in recent years and the Black Spur Ultra race event is no exception either. The course starts and ends at Kimberley Alpine Resort (meaning if you stay at Trickle Creek Lodge you can walk to the start and finish line) and is a challenging race that can be run individually or in a relay team. Teams have 12 hours to finish 50K and individuals or teams have 24 hours to finish 100K – now that’s a race with bragging rights! If you aren’t interested in racing, the event needs many volunteers to help run smoothly – get more information about racing or volunteering on the official website – blackspurultra.com.
Too many to mention! Other attractions to check out include the Comico Gardens, Mini Golf, Kimberley Skate Park, Kimberley Underground Mining Railway Tour, Spirit Rock Climbing Centre (and yes, there is still more). Get more information about all activities in Kimberley on the Tourism Kimberley website.
Once in a blue moon something unlikely occurs. A goal beyond expectations – beyond capacity of aging knees – is accomplished.
The view of Fisher Peak from our Kimberley home is mesmerizing. For years I’ve gazed across the Rocky Mountain Trench at that daunting, taunting pinnacle. Fisher dominates the skyline in this range of the Rockies. At nearly 3000 meters it towers over its lofty neighbors.
Last July I watched the second full moon of the month, a blue one, rise near Fisher and said to my brother, “Let’s do it.”
Good weather is critical to mountain climbing. Luckily, the forecast was ideal: clear skies and calm winds. An alpine storm even in summer can necessitate an overnight bivouac. We were not equipped for that nasty contingency.
As predicted a perfect day greeted our early start. Climbing Fisher requires no mountaineering equipment, no technical skills. But it’s a long drive to the remote trailhead and the sheer, steady steepness of the climb – and the equally grueling descent – make for a long, hard day.
From trailhead to summit the elevation gain is 1400 meters. That’s nearly a vertical mile!
The hike began unfortuitously. When my brother Patrick donned his daypack, the water reservoir was empty – and his pack was sopping wet. A leaky start.
It is imprudent to begin a seven-hour climb on a hot summer day without H2O but we had little option. We’d driven an hour up bumpy logging roads to reach the trailhead. Returning to get water meant we would not have time to complete the ascent. Besides, we were in the mountains. That’s where water comes from. Find a stream, fill up – and beaver fever be damned.
The upward march began in a shaded forest of conifers. After an hour, patches of light started to shine through the canopy and the trail opened across a jumble of rocks. Beneath our feet we heard gurgling, the babbling of an invisible creek. The steepness continued as the path skirted a cascading waterfall, the source of the hidden rumbling – and the source of clean, beautiful liquid sustenance to fill an empty camelback.
After ninety minutes of relentless climbing, the trail leveled and we came upon a beautiful alpine tarn, its crystal clear waters mirroring the jagged peaks enveloping us. Above the small lake a cirque opened up and we had our first view of Fisher, the temptress, still hundreds of meters higher.
A solitary marmot whistled a warning call. The sound echoed loudly off the walls of the rocky amphitheater.
We were halfway to the summit.
The next leg of the assault is difficult: three hundred vertical meters of steep, loose scree. A real b*#ch!
Even with foreshortened hiking poles digging firm, two hard-earned forward steps were countered by a slippery step backward. The scree section is also dangerous. As it steepens, the risk of lost footing and a fall increases. And, worse still, a hiker above can dislodge rocks upon those below.
Did I mention the scree was a real b*#ch.
After an hour the loose slope resolves to a saddle – a safe refuge before the final climb to the top. This notch in the mountain is festooned with prayer flags. We took a breather in the thin air and gazed around. We had equaled the height of the nearby Steeples, where we’d seen the moon rise a few nights before. Dibble Glacier, a remnant of the last ice age is visible from this vantage, its ancient blue-gray mass cupped within the Steeples.
The last section begins innocuously with a well-marked switchback through ever-bigger rocks. But soon these boulders become broken, vertical slabs. We abandoned our hiking poles, which became a liability in the four-limbed scramble up, over and around truck-sized stones.
Clinging precariously to handholds and squeezing through narrow fissures, we neared the top. In a few spots only a tiny foothold marked the difference between moving safely upward or making a quick 1000-meter descent. But for us this was the fun part.
The top of Fisher is as tiny as it appears from our balcony 30 kilometers away: a small platform with room for just a handful of climbers. I’m not sure what I expected at the peak but was surprised to see just a jumble of huge boulders stacked atop one another. Like the playthings of a giant.
The view from the top is remarkable. 360 degrees of pure horizon. To the north and east an endless ocean of mountain peaks. To the south the blue meandering waters of the Kootenay River and Koocanusa Lake disappearing into the United States a hazy hundred kilometers away. In the west, directly below us, lay the verdant green fields of the Trench. Further distant the bare ski runs of Northstar Mountain stood out clear as day. I could almost see my deck over there in Kimberley. No, I couldn’t.
The difficulty with scrambling up to a steep, precarious perch is… what goes up must come down. On the ascent we had concentrated on grabbing, reaching and looking upward. To get down we had to look down. It was disconcerting hanging over a cliff ledge, slipping toward an invisible foothold below.
But we slid safely through the slabs, retrieved our poles at the saddle and surfed down through the scree. Soon we were back at the lovely tarn. We stopped briefly to look back up at the now distant peak. Picas gallivanted about, squeaking cutely, gathering nesting grasses, oblivious to the great feat we had just accomplished.
Surprisingly, the last downward section can be the hardest, an unrelenting ninety minutes of joint-jarring, toe-busting, knee-knocking descent. Alpine wildflowers in radiant bloom helped ease the pain.
We were back in Kimberley in time to enjoy barbequed steak. At sunset we sipped a cold one on the deck and watched as alpenglow lit Fisher’s face. The next blue moon is January 31, 2018. What to do for an encore?
See the original post and more images on Gerry’s blog.
Experience Helicopter Assisted Ski Touring from Kimberley Alpine Resort with Boulder Hut Adventures. Come ski the best of the Purcell backcountry as part of a professionally guided, one-day helicopter-assisted backcountry touring adventure!
Start your day with a helicopter pick-up at Kimberley Alpine Resort. You and your guided group will be dropped off at a ridge top for an epic first run. From there, professionally guided ski touring enables you to explore the amazing Purcell Mountains under your own power. The day includes a safety briefing, helicopter transport, lunch and professional guiding service. An additional heli-drop run is an option at the end of the day with a return to all the comfort and amenities that Kimberley has to offer.
Get more information or book your tour from the Boulder Hut Adventures website.
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.
What binds a community together? What makes us proud to call the place we live home? In Kimberley, for over 92 years, it was the holes we dug in the ground, the thousands who gathered to extract precious metals from the world’s largest lead and zinc mine. It was a town toughened by grit, the damp echoe beneath us. Yet when the mine closed in 2001, we began the search for a new identity, beyond the one previously carved underfoot—an identity that celebrated our stunning landscape and the small-town charm that drew us towards it.
In 2007, an event was born in Kimberley that became an integral part of our identity: The Dirtbag Festival, a visual celebration of the elusive dirtbag lifestyle. The festival, entering its 10th anniversary, is a local cultural phenomenon. It consistently sells out two consecutive nights, and has included a variety of formats toasting the dirtbag lifestyle: the ever-popular community slide show, an eclectic compilation of Kimberley residents’ photographs; locally-produced films, some which are national award winners; spoken word; after parties; presentations by adventure gurus, such as 2016’s keynote Will Gadd; and beyond these events, the pervasive buzz leading up to the weekend, the constant chatter: “Are you going to Dirtbag?”
What exactly is a festival that honours dirtbags? According to its Facebook page, the Dirtbag is, “…a celebration of story gatherers as well as the story tellers, told by dirtbags living in the rebel realms of the wild spaces they call home, through film, photography, spoken word and art. It is a community of artists, activists, pranksters, and adventurers who carry us through dark winters by sharing their stories.” It poses a question to Kimberley residents: “What awes & inspires you? What keeps you going? What’s your place on earth? What’s your story?”
In its 2007 inaugural opener, local dirtbag icons attempt to explain the term “dirtbag”. According to Dave Quinn, “The most valuable thing a dirtbag has is time to spend with friends and to explore passions. Way down on this list is money.” Quinn believes to call someone a dirtbag, “…is to lay a really nice compliment on them.”
Dirtbag co-founder (along with Kevin Shepit) and host of the Travel Channel’s “Big Crazy Family Adventure” Bruce Kirkby says, “Dirtbag’s got a bad sound, but it’s really a great thing: You put your money—what little you have—into the things that count. You don’t spend all your time trying to make money. You do things that are fun.” Kirkby believes that the success of the Dirtbag Festival is that it speaks, “to what we value, and why we were here. And folks like seeing what their friends and neighbours shot in the last year, as opposed to going to Banff to see what the entire world has produced. So it’s become a very intimate event.”
Shepit believes that the Dirtbag Festival was embraced from the beginning. “It represents letting go,” he says. “Letting go of tomorrow’s worries, yesterday’s mistakes, workload, debt load, stress load, and the celebration of being able to, at a moment’s notice, simply notice the moment.” The new man behind Dirtbag’s curtain, Steve Tersmette, believes, “Dirtbaggery is our lifeblood. Look out our backyard. How can we not be a town of dirtbags?”
Dirtbag films have showcased a collage of wild adventures: family canoe trips through Alaska; 15-year-olds urban skiing off downtown rooftops; solemn Indian pilgrimages; the quiet narration of multi-day treks through the St. Mary’s Alpine; and the ever-popular openers, featuring Jedi dirtbag John Haner (see link above).
The spirit of Dirtbag brings a community together in the most unusual ways: Ryan Lunge’s 2014 Dirtbag Film winner, “Pirates of the Kimberlean” featured ten neighbourhood children from three to six years of age. It included special effects, green screen, waterfall cable cam shots, pirate outfits and props crafted by parents, and a 16-foot long pirate ship replica Lunge built in his back yard. Lunge, who had never shot a video before, learned everything from a book, and watching YouTube. “It became a bit of an obsession for the year prior to Dirtbag,” Lunge said, “but we had such a blast.”
How does a town celebrate its identity and culture? It gathers in a sold out theatre, hoots and hollers as photos and films flash upon a screen. It stands teary-eyed, smiling, sending ovations to the dirtbags we’ve lost. It celebrates the lifestyle of living in the Kootenays, among the people who are proud to call Kimberley home, and the Dirtbag its festival.
Dirtbag Festival 2017 (March 24-25, 2017)
Submissions Open: December 15, 2016
Submissions Close: February 19, 2017
Ticket Sales Open: Feb 1, 2017
Canadian Rockies International Airport – The mountain airport that puts you in the heart of adventure
Carrying my skis over my shoulder after the last run of the day, the alpenglow stopped me in my tracks. Gazing up, the late afternoon sunlight was fading, casting a gorgeous peach and orange glow on the rocky summits across the valley. Although I had only arrived earlier that day, just like me, they looked rosy, rested and content.
For most mountain adventure seekers, finding an airport within a three or four hour drive of their destination is considered a win. Kimberley BC is nestled in the heart of the Kootenays’ famed “Powder Highway”, and has the Canadian Rockies International Airport a mere 20 minutes away, offering multiple flights daily from Vancouver and Calgary.
Surrounded by the jagged, picturesque peaks of the Rocky Mountain range, adventure comes as a 360 degree view of summits, slopes, forest, wilderness, lakes and more.
Located at an elevation of 3,084 feet and featuring an 8,000 foot long runway, the Canadian Rockies International Airport is small but welcoming, which means less fuss when you land or leave.
When you first arrive, you can’t help but feel the relaxed pace of the area, but only some things move a little slower here. Beyond the small town pace and “slow food” passions of many restaurateurs, the adrenaline that accompanies adventure thrives on the mountains and in the nearby wilderness areas.
Your journey can read like a choose your own adventure novel. Accommodation? The choice is yours: there’s slopeside hotels, condos, townhouses and mountain houses. Ready for an outdoor adventure? There’s four seasons of excitement. When the snow flies, the area is transformed into a winter wonderland. Kimberley Alpine Resort is one of the only mountain ski areas in Canada where you can be on the chairlift within an hour of landing at the airport. From there, choose your passion: Kimberley features 1,800 acres of alpine skiing, with night skiing available and access to a world-class Nordic skiing facility.
While often dubbed as “family-friendly”, the backside of Kimberley Alpine Resort offers powder stashes, steeper fall lines and graded terrain. With fewer crowds and plenty of storms, Kimberley is a secret hideaway for adventurers in the know.
Speaking of secret, ask a local to tell you the best place for a tranquil moonlight snowshoe, where to soak in natural hot springs, sip the best craft brew in the land, eat in a centuries-old barn, glide under the stars on perfectly-set tracks. The only thing you’ll be left wishing for is more hours in the day.
Photos: Mike Byrnes, YXC & The Real McKenzie Photography.
There’s something about mountain towns that I love. Maybe it’s the coziness that comes from feeling perfectly enveloped by peaks around you, or the gentle orange glow that bounces off the jagged summits at sunrise and sunset. At first glance, Kimberley feels like one of those towns inside a snow globe: Windows lit by fireplaces, smoke wafting from the chimneys, sidewalks blanketed in white. Quiet. But if you think Kimberley is a sleepy town “in the middle of nowhere”, think again.
Some of my favourite memories and laughs have come from adventures in Kimberley. From surprise powder days that provided fresh tracks with every run, to gliding on cross-country skis under a full moon, to discovering a snow pack so deep we could ski off a garage roof and land in a soft pillow of snow below (don’t try this one at home, kids).
And then there’s the culture of this mountain town – steeped in history, it has embraced the future and younger families and adventurers are eager to call it home. It permeates a zest for life that can sometimes be forgotten in the city.
In Kimberley, “do it now” attitude means something completely different here – it’s more like “go do it now”. This means that deadlines can wait just a little longer on a powder day, or that meeting can happen just as efficiently on the chairlift. Come evening, at the local watering holes, local legends help keep the stories alive that make a place unforgettable.
Here’s four reasons why adventurers are loving Kimberley now more than ever:
- Four seasons of fantastic – Snowy winters and sunny summers. Kimberley provides quick access to dozens of outdoor activities.
- Go fast, then slow down – Adventurers love to get out there, then wind down re-charge. With a vast number of outdoor activities, and the emergence of a local food culture and plenty of cozy accommodation options, it’s easy to find the perfect balance between “go” and “rest”.
- Powder stashes for days – When winter storms roll through the East Kootenays, they can provide a big powder punch. Quieter mountains like Kimberley Alpine Resort can provide fresh tracks days after a storm, particularly on the mountain’s “backside” which offers a variety of advanced terrain.
- Fly close – When the big city calls, the Canadian Rockies International Airport is located just 20 minutes from Kimberley, with daily service from Calgary and Vancouver. And speaking of flying, Kimberley is also home to world-class fly fishing on dozens of lakes and Rocky Mountain rivers.
So give that snow globe a shake, and find yourself living in a real-life version of one this winter in Kimberley. Go on, do it now.
Head north into Kimberley, and you’ll notice a billboard: “Smile. You’re here. We’re happy.” Ascend into a landscape of the highest city in Canada, the snowpack of surrounding mountains, the people readied for cold weather: steep metal rooves, wood-fired chimneys, Thule boxes stuffed with skis. Enter a town with tales of grandfathers who descended into earth, drilling, jackhammering, and blasting into what was the world’s largest underground lead-zinc mine. Pause for a moment, and you’ll notice Kimberley’s quiet charm, the mining homes built eighty years ago, kids who still wander into ravines and build forts, the town’s one traffic light, and for a loonie listen to the yodel of Happy Hans from the world’s largest cuckoo clock. When you ask directions, there’s a friendliness to the people. You’ll notice their smiles, like those settled in a place they needed to be. It doesn’t take long to discover, whether you live here or are just visiting, Kimberley’s a good place to be doing just about anything.
Among long-time residents, whose families carved Kimberley out of rock, is a new population calling Kimberley home: A younger generation, who’ve set roots here for the lifestyle and the vast array of activities right outside their door. It’s not long before they notice how long it takes to grocery shop, distracted by new friends telling tales of their latest adventures. As organic farmer and counselor Kelly Comishin says, “And all those adventures are from understated, humble folk, out because they love it. Not for bragging rights.” When you talk to the people of Kimberley, there’s a humility to them, and a sense that “good” is sometimes the quietest form of “best”. It’s a town of belonging, where everyone’s welcome. A town, once defined by mining, now by the eclectic mix of industry reflecting the culture of people who live here: skateboard manufacturing, coffee roasting, gin distilleries, climbing gyms, microbreweries, coffee shops and locally-sourced restaurants. All these, infused into the established culture of brick buildings, restaurants, hardware stores, and small businesses that have supported families and served the community for generations.
Kimberley’s a town that will charm you. You’ll never want to leave—there’s too many good things going on. When you enter Kimberley, you’ll smile.
Like the sign says, You’re here. We’re happy.
To Help Put a Smile on Your Face:
Kimberley Alpine Resort: Over 75 runs, five lifts and 2,465 vertical feet, with Rocky Mountain panoramas. Longest night skiing run in Canada.
Kimberley Nordic Club: X-C Ski Trails, with over 40 kms of snow-cat groomed trails; 3.3 km lit for night skiing.
Outdoors Adventures: The Kimberley Nature Park is one of Canada’s largest trail networked municipal parks; as well, a 25 km North Star Rails to Trails joins Kimberley to Cranbrook on a converted paved railway bed. Travel anywhere, just minutes outside of Kimberley, for an abundance of lakes, rivers, trails, and access to the Purcell and Rocky Mountains.
Golf: There are three public courses within Kimberley, and eight within a ½ hour drive.
Fine Food: Kimberley hosts the most restaurants per capita in Canada! Whether you’re looking for a German-themed meal in the oldest building in Canada, or a Rails to Trails chicken burger and mucky fries, Kimberley has a cuisine for everyone.
Activities and Attractions: Indoor climbing gym; aquatic centre; pedestrian-only brick-lined platzl, downtown shopping, and restaurant hub; underground mining railway.
Art and Culture: Galleries. Arts and cultural centre (Centre 64). Live performances. Heritage sites, and a variety of festivals.
Accommodations: In Kimberley, there’s an accommodation for every budget: from mountain chalets, to ski-in/ski-out luxury lodges. Enjoy the Rocky Mountain alpenglow from your bedroom or hot tub.
Getting Here is Easy: Kimberley is only a 20 minute drive from either The Canadian Rockies International Airport, or from Highway 3, one of Canada’s two primary east-west routes.
Photos: Cali Sammel, Raven Eye Photography & Mike Reece