The Powder Highway – Part 1 & 2: Written by Courtney Bowen at TravelCuts
Where and what is The Powder Highway?
Also known as Route 95A, in British Columbia, Canada, the Powder Highway loops between seven ski resorts that are guaranteed to deliver wintery adventures. In Part 1 we mentioned Revelstoke, Kicking Horse and Panorama, here are the other four ski resorts that make up the loop on The Powder Highway…
Ski Resort: Kimberley
Sunny Kimberley ski resort, 140kms south of Panorama, is considered hugely underrated. It offers excellent, economical and family friendly facilities whilst still offering challenging terrain. Similar to Panorama, it’s more of a local ski resort so it remains uncrowded compared to the bigger resorts such as Whistler. Lift infrastructure could be better but caters to the green, blue and black runs, all below the treeline, surrounding the resort.
Skill: Intermediaries love Kimberley, but beginners are bound to enjoy the runs as well given the magic carpet and t-bar area. Snowfall is around the 4metres/13ft per season. Kimberley is 400km from Calgary, 2.5hrs from Kalispell, Montana or just 20minutes from the Canadian Rockies Airport.
Accommodation: Accommodation is available in all styles at the resort and all budgets in downtown Kimberley, 4kms from the resort, which also provides more access to amenities, of which they are limited at the resort. Kimberley also offers other popular activities apart from skiing and boarding, such as cross-country skiing, dog sledding, snow shoeing, snowmobiling and scenic helicopter flights.
Ski Resort: Fernie
Fernie ski resort is a popular (yet still uncrowded) resort for being an all-rounder ski holiday destination, especially to local Calgarians. From Kimberley ski resort, Fernie is a 120km south east and requires a detour off the ‘Powder Highway’, but is commonly visited anyway.
Skill: It’s relaxed and friendly and suitable for all ages, levels and abilities. There’s plenty of dry snow (9m / 29ft per season) and great terrain offering 1,000 hectares (2,500 acre) of playground, and 1,100 metres/3,600ft of vertical. Fernie ski resort’s international crowds keep away to a degree given its distance from cities (although a shuttle does run from Calgary International Airport, 3.5hours away). The town of Fernie is 5km from the resort, Cranbrook airport (Rocky Mountain airport) is 1.25 hours away, and Kalispell in Montana is 2 hours away.
Accommodation: Facilities on the mountain are limited, however downtown Fernie offers more budget friendly options and facilities including shuttle services up to the mountain. Similar to Kimberley other activities include snowmobiling, sleigh ride dinners, snow-shoeing, ice-skating, curling, and cross-country skiing and cat skiing is another highlight of Fernie.
Ski Resort: Whitewater
Back on The Powder Highway Whitewater ski resort is a 320km drive from Fernie or if you’ve skipped Fernie, it’s a 260km drive from Kimberley. Nelson the nearby town, sits on the shores of the stunning Kootenay Lake, and is well know for being the gateway to some of Canada’s (and North America’s) best skiing, at Whitewater. Whitewater is relaxed and mostly serves the local community of Nelson, but offers some of the best terrain and massive snowfall of around 12m annually. Whitewater is 19kms southeast of Nelson and is accessible via the nearby airports at Castlegar and also Spokane in Washington USA. Nelson offers cat skiing, heli-skiing and resort skiing at Whitewater. Cat skiing is sell out popular each season, so bookings well in advance are required. Cat skiing is recommended for getting to see the surrounding, incredible Kootenays.
Skill: The vertical drop is 620metres/2000ft and the terrain caters almost 50/50 to beginner/intermediate and advanced/expert. On mountain amenities are basic, but adequate and food has a quality and taste to it, that other ski resorts catering to the masses, can’t provide.
Accommodation: is only available in Nelson, which is inexpensive and there are plenty of relaxed, friendly and affordable food options available.
Ski Resort: Red Mountain
Apparently, there are Scandinavians who came to Red Mountain in the 1890s for the gold rush and haven’t left. This is probably for a few reasons, but the skiing on the mountain was possibly a factor too! Pro’s of Red Mountain include uncrowded runs, plenty of snow (7.5m / 24.5ft), a great combination of challenging and family friendly, a friendly and laid-back attitude and most importantly, it’s affordable for all budgets. The only negatives really, are that the ski lifts can be a tad slow and activities for non-skiers/snowboarders are limited.
Skill: Red Mountain offers 1,128 hectares (2,787 acres) of skiing, and 890 metres/2,919ft of vertical, with 18% of terrain being beginner, 31% intermediate and the rest mostly catering to advanced and expert. Located 76km southwest of Nelson and about 3kms from Rossland in BC, Red Mountain is also accessible from Kelowna International Airport (3.5hrs away), 30minutes from Castlegar Regional Airport or 2.5hrs from Spokane in USA.
Accommodation: is available on mountain or in Rossland again with more amenities in Rossland than on mountain, but without the ski in/out ease of being on mountain. The relaxed feel of both Rossland and Red Mountain is both charming and comfortable. There are plenty of facilities provided catering to tourists, without the capitalising on tourists. A cat skiing day trip is highly recommended (as is booking in advance) whilst staying in Rossland.
Completing the Loop – return to Kelowna
Once you’ve had your fill on Red Mountain, you can complete the loop by reaching Kelowna (depending on where you’ve started from, of course). If you haven’t had enough or need to break up the journey you can also call into smaller lesser known ski areas including:
Baldy Mountain: Beginner and intermediate friendly, uncrowded and inexpensive, 135km south of Kelowna.
Apex Ski Resort: North west of Baldy, off-the-grid Apex is 95km south west of Kelowna where crowds won’t be an issue.
Big White Ski Resort: 55km east of Kelowna is another option, very popular with families as well as everyone else of all ages given its all round great amenities and facilities.
See Part 1 to read about the other destinations on The Powder Highway; Revelstoke, Kicking Horse and Panorama…