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.
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
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.