Whitewater is defined as the part of a river that looks frothy because it’s moving very fast over rocks. So why in the world would you name a ski resort “Whitewater?” The last thing a skier or snowboarders’ wants to think about is snowmelt! This time it’s a good thing. It’s due to the location. The resort sits on the path of an atmospheric river, which supplies the moisture. Plus its geography leads to agitation and turbulence in the weather causing frothy storms like rapids to dump over 40 feet of snow each year! A powder junkie’s fantasy.
Soul of searching for powder
Before we talk about this famed resort you must understand the quest for powder is not just about the snow. It’s also about the experiences on the way to find it. Our journey first took us to the town of Nelson. We were granted the opportunity to meet up with Rebeckah Hornung, the director of Marketing at Whitewater Ski Resort. Sitting down with her, you immediately get the feel that this place is special. Her energy about Whitewater and Nelson, were contagious. Here, you feel the soul of skiing/snowboarding beating hard and it’s visibly due to the deep connection with the community. In a cozy office surrounded by posters of powder shots taken from the ski area she passionately begins to delve deep into the history of Whitewater.
A community resort built for the love of skiing
Originally, Nelson had a small ski hill that was closer to town. Unfortunately, in the 60’s the ski hill had a few consecutive seasons of terrible snow. The community began to scout out a new location. Once the location was chosen, the resort was born purely based on volunteers. In 1974 with the help of the Riblet Corporation, a company that manufactured mining tramways, the two main chairlifts that still exist today were constructed.
The original owners Mike and Shelley Adams based Whitewater on three founding principles:
- Maintain a strong community connection
- Serve the best food
- Snow of the best quality possible
They owned and operated the resort for 34 years. In 2008 they sold to a company named Knee Deep Corporation. Even though it changed hands, the ski resort still follows those same three principles. The new owners love for snow is evident. In 2010 this was proven. More of the mountain needed to be accessible. They bought the High Noon Chair from Vail and moved it Whitewater. The lift nearly doubled their terrain and vertical.
Rebeckah gave us a few additional tips on what to check out in Nelson during our stay. She grinned and was excited for us to go out and form our own impressions of the place.
Pure, simple, Deep… that is Whitewater
After a peaceful evening in Nelson, we awoke early the next day to go riding. We jumped in the car and quickly began to ascend up Canada Route 6. Once at 3,000 feet we swung a left onto the entrance road to Whitewater. Initially the road seems typical with a well-maintained surface and only slight curves. As we continued to gain elevation and get closer to the resort the road gets rougher and bumpier. Walls of snow grow larger and the switchbacks get a little bit tighter. Pavement turns to gravel and hugs the side of the mountain until suddenly there it is. The first thing that’s visible is Mt. Ymir. Standing at almost 8,000 feet it looms over the resort in the tight horseshoe canyon like a king and his subjects. Everywhere the eye can see is amazing terrain. Right in the center of this canyon is the main lodge.
Starting off the day we met up with Ross. A Nelson local, born and raised. He was our guide. The one tasked with introducing us to all the hidden stashes that only locals know. First, a run to warm up our legs. As Ross began to show us the mountain the realization that every inch or centimeter of this place can be ridden becomes clear. Whitewater has done a great job clearing natural debris to introduce a ton of gladed skiing. On a powder day, this is the mountain to be at. At top of every lift he points out not just the terrain available inbounds, but also backcountry terrain right outside of the resort.
Here the open boundary policy is embraced. The only caveat is, follow the rules. Before heading out into the backcountry, its standard to check in with ski patrol. Departure and return times are mandatory. A review of the days avalanche report and current conditions are provided. On a busy day, reports of over four hundred people in the backcountry are not unusual. Out of bounds adventure is alive and well here!
An Expert’s Mountain
Almost 55% of the terrain is advanced and not for the faint of heart. From every lift steep terrain is accessible and covered with glorious glades. Taking the Summit lift and heading over to the Glory Ridge gives access to steep terrain that has the longest sustained pitch on the mountain. If that isn’t technical enough, drop down the Summit Side and head into Terra Ratta to find tight trees and cliffs that will definitely test your skills.
Beginner / Intermediate Terrain
Looking for something a little less extreme? Check out Morning Glory or Ramble On, which is off of the Morning Glory Chair. Bumps and rolls curving through the forest are definitely fun and will keep all entertained. One thing to note is that these runs funnel you into a cat track that winds its way down to the base of the chair. Still too much? Head over to Silver King for the most gentle terrain on the entire resort.
Great Snow needs Great Food
While most ski resorts have either great food that costs an outrageous amount or cafeteria style food that leaves you wanting more, Whitewater is in a class of its own. Affordable food that is really fantastic. The dining is so good in fact, people from town come up just to eat without even going skiing. Why? Shelley Adams, the original owner, happens to be a three-time national best-selling author of cookbooks. Even though she doesn’t own the resort anymore, Shelley still skis at Whitewater. It’s her award-winning food that’s available at the lodge. The Backside Bowl is highly recommended and surely is a tasty meal. This is not an item on most resort menus. It’s an Indian fusion rice bowl with tender pieces of chicken drenched in a tasty curry sauce. The spicy buttery notes of the bowl lends itself to be gobbled up, leaving you warm and happy on a cold day. Served with a side of fresh naan to mop up any sauce left in the bowl. Wash it down with a local beer by “NBC” (Nelson Brewing Company) such as the Faceplant Winter Ale and you can’t go wrong.
Whitewater truly is a great mountain to ride, eat and revel in the culture. Attention to detail is top priority and there is something for everyone. No question about it…we will be back!