Sure, the Canadian Rockies are known for clean lines, epic powder days, and bluebird skies, but skiing and snowboarding are far from all they have to offer. A winter wonderland and snow globe brought to life; if you need a break from the slopes or just want to vary your vacation activities, try these unique winter adventures on for size. You don’t have to venture far from the resorts, either (if at all).
- S’mores Fat Bike Adventure – Kimberley Alpine Resort
This adventure on the Trickle Creek Golf Course includes a two-hour guided fat bike tour (also available as a snowshoe tour) through the winding trails of the golf resort. After you’ve broken a sweat, a firepit, hot beverages, and toasty s’mores will be waiting to power your ride back down. If you’re looking for an even bigger adrenaline rush, they also run night tours via headlamp.
- Snowshoe and Fondue Tours – Kimberley Alpine Resort
Held at the top of North Star Mountain, you’ll ride the chairlift up for snowshoe trek through the deep pow. When you’re ready to warm-up, the Kootenay House Log Cabin will have chocolate fondue waiting as a tasty reward. They also run a special Valentine’s Day tour if you’re looking for a unique outing with your loved one.
- Cat Skiing – Fernie Wilderness
For dedicated backcountry enthusiasts, snowcats can plow through almost any type of weather so whiteout conditions won’t impede your vacation plans. The Fernie Wilderness has some of the most legendary and challenging runs on the planet but is still accessible enough that beginning skiers and boarders can practice their turns. An added bonus? The trips are BYO.
- Purcell Heli-Skiing – Kicking Horse Resort
Heli-skiing is one of the most coveted winter experiences for true powder hounds. Grouped by skill level, a helicopter will take you to up the pristine mountaintop in search of untouched lines and fresh powder in the Canadian Rockies’ vast wilderness. You are guaranteed at least five runs with an average of 700 vertical feet, so get ready to feel the burn.
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.
Ski under the stars on the longest lit run in North America!
If you’re like me (and many other snowboarders out there), you’re a weird-ish combination of someone who loves the mountains mixed with a space nerd. Which really, when I give it a second though, isn’t that strange of a combination – the mountains are majestic and mysterious, not unlike outer space. Maybe it’s easier than I thought to see where the interests come from.
It’s for that reason, Kimberley Alpine Resort is one of my favourite ski resorts, not because of the ridiculously cute mountain village, not because of the amount of sunshine and not because of the amazing Canadian mountain town atmosphere (although all of these awesome things are nothing to shake a stick at). Kimberley is one of my favourite resorts because of the night skiing.
Whether you’re into space or not, one view that has the ability to make nearly every human feel close to nature and hopelessly insignificant (in a good way) at the same time, is the view of the stars at night. At Kimberley Alpine Resort, you’re already far away from the hustle and bustle of the city as well as the city lights. Kimberley is a small town giving you a great view of the sky and with many clear days to go along with the night skiing, running nearly all season, it’s your best bet to get the absolute most skiing in possible while admiring the scenery from the top of the mountain.
At Kimberley – night skiing is included on every full day lift ticket purchased (during night skiing hours) or a night skiing season pass, cleverly called The Night Rider is available from guest services. Also hosted throughout the season are Night Race series and Rail Jams. Combine night skiing with the on mountain bar and lodging – this is one ski resort that will leave you no desire to return to the city life (and the lack of visible stars).
*For night skiing dates please visit the Hours section on our website*
Words by Cali Sammel
Photos by The Real McKenzie Photography & Vinnie Mo