Nelson BC Skiing – Entryway To Adventure And Paradise At Whitewater

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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 the Nelson BC skiing resort “Whitewater?” The last thing a skier or snowboarder 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

View of the Selkirks from the top of Whitewater Ski Resort
The Selkirks from the top of Whitewater Ski Resort

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 beating soul of skiing/snowboarding, and it’s visible through the deep connection with the community. In a cozy office surrounded by posters of powder shots taken from the ski area, Rebeckah passionately begins to delve deep into the history of Whitewater.

A Community Resort Built For The Love Of Skiing

Originally, Nelson BC skiing 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.

Whitewater Founded On Three Simple Principles

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 owner’s 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 to 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

Going up Summit Chair looking over at all the epic terrain.
Epic terrain seen from the Summit Chair

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.

Mt. Ymir Runs This Resort

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.

Open Gate Policy Makes Acreage MUCH Bigger

Ross pointing out the goods.
Ross pointing out the goods

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 the top of every lift he points out not just the terrain available inbounds, but also backcountry terrain right outside of the resort.

Backcountry Access

Here the open boundary policy is embraced. The only caveat is, follow the rules. Before heading out into the backcountry, it’s standard to check in with ski patrol. Departure and return times are mandatory. A review of the day’s 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 each 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 in the entire resort.

Great Snow Needs Great Food

The cafe at Whitewater
The Freshtracks Cafe at Whitewater

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.

Try The Backside Bowl & Wash It Down With An NBC

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.

Cat, Cat, Heli!

Besides being home to one of our favorite ski resorts in the world, the town of Nelson is also a basecamp for some of the best heli-skiing and cat-skiing operations anywhere. For heli-skiing, this includes Stellar & Snowwater. On our last trip here, we sampled the legendary steeps and mouthwatering snow that Baldface Lodge has to offer. The place where Travis Rice, Brian Iguchi, and countless other Pros visit annually because it’s soooo good.

Cat Ski Capital Of The World

In fact, there are so many operators within a few hours that Nelson it’s nicknamed the “Cat Ski Capital Of The World.” This includes Selkirk Cat Skiing which is where cat-skiing began in 1975. To this day, they still are recognized as one of the top places to cat ski. Other operators include Retallack, White Grizzly, and Valhalla Baldface. Valhalla Baldface is unique in its own right since it serves up a hybrid of heli AND cat skiing in one trip.

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!

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