Stay in an ice hotel, attend a winter festival and wander through an ice castle.
Tucked away in the southeast corner of British Columbia, and among the towering peaks of the Columbia Mountains, the West Kootenays’ isolation is part of its appeal. The region attracts explorers who want to paddle its waterways, hike its alpine meadows in the summer and snowshoe the same trails in the winter. In the charming towns of Nelson and Rossland, adrenalin takes a backseat to craft beers, haute cuisine and boutique hotels, lending a touch of civility to this largely untouched wedge of wilderness.
There’s a reason Nelson is revered by hippies and hipsters alike. Located on the shore of Kootenay Lake, ringed by mountains and dotted with hundreds of heritage buildings, it’s as picturesque as it is primed for adventure. But it has a laid-back vibe, too, amplified by four craft breweries and more than 70 restaurants serving everything from fried avocado tacos at Cantina del Centro to Kombucha Spritzes and wild mushroom burgers at Pitchfork.
At nearby Whitewater Ski Resort, the food is second only to the snow, which floats down like a siren’s song to settle in open bowls and forested slopes that call to powder lovers. Après-ski, refuel on poutine and local brew at Coal Oil Johnny’s before heading back to town for round two.
An adorable main street lined with frontier-style buildings makes Rossland a contender for the West Kootenays’ cutest town. Just a few minutes away is RED Mountain Resort, where a quintet of peaks, anchored by the imposing Granite Mountain, invites riders to get their shred on.
The resort has been heralded as one of the world’s best for steep and deep-powder skiing, with nearly 2,900 in-bounds acres of bowls, chutes and glades blanketed in up to 7.6 metres (25 feet) of fluffy flakes each winter. At day’s end, glide in to The Josie Hotel, a new, ski-in/ski-out boutique property at RED’s base, and toast the season with a Bourbon Cherry Sour from The Velvet Restaurant and Lounge.
[This story appears in the January 2019 issue of WestJet Magazine]