Let’s get straight to the point; winter tends to overstay its welcome. With major snowstorms lasting into April earlier this year, Mother Nature definitely took longer than expected to bestow warmer temperatures upon us Canadians.
Living in this wonderful, snowy nation, there are some crucial lessons to learn in order to thrive in the ‘Great White North’. Most importantly, is realizing the importance of making the best of your environment and conditions (especially the long winter months we so often endure).
Our initial instincts are to stay warm and cozy during blizzard-stricken months, huddled indoors with blankets, warm drinks, a crackling fire and taking in an unhealthy amount of Netflix, while silently praying that our neighbour or significant other will shovel the walkway. Winters have such great potential though, why surrender such glorious opportunities to see the remarkable beauty Canada boasts in its backyard?
Exploring the outdoors throughout all four of our Canadian seasons is a revitalizing experience for us, which should be taken advantage of to refresh our frame of mind. It’s a chance to discover new adventures just a snowball’s throw away. We’re all familiar with making the most of warm temperatures during the summer months with patio season and backyard lounging in full swing. The winter landscape can be just as inspiring too, when given the chance.
If you need more convincing, here are a few of Canada’s premiere winter activity destinations:
Fernie, British Columbia
The shops, cafés, restaurants and pubs along 2nd Avenue in Fernie are some of the Canadian Rockies’ hidden gems, with surrounding mountain peaks looming over the glow of its downtown streets.
Located just down the road, Fernie Alpine Resort is home to some of Canada’s most legendary powder, with an average snowfall of 30ft. From epic downhill skiing to leisurely snowshoe and groomed cross-country skiing trails, the resort has activities for the whole family. It also offers plenty of weekly programs to get you outside and even yoga classes to help you find your winter Zen. Their on-mountain accommodations along with a local shuttle to town make for a perfect introduction to Canada’s winter activities.
Kimberley, British Columbia
If you’re looking for a classic mountain town, you’ve found it. The town of Kimberley embodies the Canadian spirit with humble, welcoming locals and a relentless passion for nature. Kimberley is home to craft beers, great local dining, the oldest building in Canada and a variety of activities to enjoy outside.
With stunning scenery of the Kootenay mountains, Kimberley Alpine Resort is just minutes from town and offers great facilities and terrain for people of all skiing and snowboarding ability levels – from first-timers to seasoned slope shredders. Looking to stay on level ground? Try the area’s expansive snowshoe trails, cross-country skiing network or check out fat biking, one of North America’s favourite new activities (mountain bikes with wider tires for better grip in snow conditions).
Golden, British Columbia
One of the most famed locations along the Powder Highway, Kicking Horse Mountain Resort and the town of Golden are conveniently located along the TransCanada Highway and ready to provide you a mountain experience like no other. Drop into Whitetooth Brewing Co. for locally crafted beers, or the Northern Lights Wildlife Wolf Centre for an up-close learning session with these amazing animals.
Delving deeper into nature, Kicking Horse Mountain Resort offers Canada’s highest dining experience, the Eagle’s Eye Restaurant at 7,700ft. Once you’re fueled up, hit the slopes of the Catamount Chair to learn the basics on your skis or snowboard, or bring your little ones to the tube park and natural ice rink at the base of the resort. Advanced skiers head to the top via the gondola for wide ranging bowls, ridges and chutes. If staying grounded is your preference, Golden is primed with world-class snowmobiling, along with plenty of rentals and tours available.
Life’s too short – and winters are too long – to miss out on a lifetime of adventure. Let winter activities revitalize your soul and help you look forward to the inevitable snowfalls each year. Meet Mother Nature halfway on this one and discover how rewarding Canada’s winter climates can truly be.
There’s not much skiers and snowboards look forward to more than the first few turns of the season and with great early season snowfall in November this year’s opening weekend is looking like it’s going to be an awesome one! Most terrain off of the Easter Chair will be open, this includes skiing in the Vimy Ridge zone, and the upper parts of the Black Forest and Tamarack Ridge zones. Access to the Easter Chair will be by way of the North Star Express Quad Chair. Exit off the mountain back to the base will be by way of the Ridgeway ski way. (Please be aware and ski with care, and watch for early season hazards. Skiing on the Easter Chair is not recommended for first-timers or beginners). Services open will be Guest Services, Winter Sports School (lessons start Dec 16th), Rental & Repair shops, NEW Buckhorn & Main restaurant located in Trickle Creek Lodge, Stemwinder Bar & Grill, Slopeside Café and the Retail Shop.
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.
Your skis that is.
It’s recommended you wax your skis every 5 or 6 times out. The reason being the base of your ski is very porous (similar to your skin) with lotion (wax) you’ll have a better running surface. This will allow for increased glide over all snow conditions, less leg fatigue and increased speed. The layer of water that is created by the friction between your skis and the snow will wick away from the base of your skis and not get absorbed into the base thus allowing for better glide (even when you’re skiing powder).
Remember the base of your skis is just like your skin, when it’s dry you take care of this by putting on lotion. Hot waxing is the lotion for your skis!
Our Professional tech’s at the ski resorts will be able to take care of this for all of our guests, find them in the Repair area located in the Rental Shop in the base area at Kimberley Alpine Resort. For prices and services offered give our repair shop a call at 250-427-4881.
Don’t forget – if you’re a season passholder use this member benefit to get a free tune up – ‘Buy 2 Get 1 Free – buy 3 full tune ups for the price of 2, includes edge base and side, stone grind, Ptex and hot wax’. Just print off a coupon from the Member Benefits website and redeem it at the resort.
Find out more about why to wax your skis and what a tune up entails on Fernie’s YouTube channel (plus find out what the fancy machine behind Harry is used for too).
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.
Checking your Ski Equipment now is very important for many reasons, here are the 3 top reasons;
FAQ: I get asked all the time ‘Why should I check my Ski Equipment, as I’m not a great skier and spend lots of time on the beginner slopes with kids…”
My Answer: I always say try these- once you try new skis you are on cloud nine. Technology advancements, ski shape, size are some of the many reasons the new skis really do make a difference. You owe it to yourself as it will enhance your skiing skills, make skiing easier and give you more control on the slopes.
FAQ: I have a pair of skis in the garage- is it okay to use them?
My Answer: The key here is check the bindings- visit your local ski shop or most ski resorts have tune up shops in the rental areas as well. If you live in Calgary visit your local ski shop like the new Sporting Life store located in Southcentre mall to have a pro look at the bindings to make sure they still are in good shape and meet current binding standards.
FAQ: Do I really need to check the condition of the bases and edges of my skis?
My Answer: Now I don’t get my skis tuned all that regularly as I ski mostly in soft, powder snow. But if you are visiting ski resorts that have hard snow or icy conditions regularly then you should definitely get your skis tuned more often.
Unparalleled Savings! 1st, 4th & 7th ski day FREE & up to $40 (double discount period) savings every time you ski! Plus go Direct to Lift – just by linking your credit card.
- 3 FREE days The 3 Free Days can be redeemed at any RCR Western Resort.
- Cardholders receive their 1st, 4th and 7th ski days FREE and daily discounts every other day.
- Children 6-12 to get their very own RCR Kids’ Club Card FREE of charge. ($5 discount on full-day Child lift tickets at any RCR resort)
- Your Direct to Lift card can be linked to any major credit card at any of our resorts or at the Calgary office.
For more information visit the RCR Webstore. On sale until December 31, 2016.
If you’re thinking of booking a ski getaway this winter, now is the time to do it! With Early Booking Vacation Offers available for Christmas and Family Week vacations, as well as special long stay savings packages and spring skiing trips with savings of up to 48%!
Visit our Early Booking Offers page to book a getaway online or give our vacation specialists a call at 1-800-258-7669 to book over the phone.