KOOTENAY LAKE, BC, CANADA: Winter Adventuring
Story and photos by Larry Turner (www.larryturnerphotography.com)

High on Adventure, January 2019


As I left the USA border north of Bonners Ferry, Idaho, a winter wonderland enveloped me and my trusty 4-wheel drive stead, Rocinante, as we drove 90 miles to the enchanting B.C. Canada, town of Nelson. Traveling solo, I had left fellow members of the North American Snowsport Journalists Association at Sandpoint, Idaho, where we had had an epic several day ski of Schweitzer. They were an hour behind me in a bus.

Canadian highways 3 and 6 were packed with snow the entire distance - the leavings of a fresh storm. Traffic was sparse and the driving much easier than I initially anticipated. The following day we would all be skiing the freshies of Whitewater Ski Resort. There had been no snow to speak of in Southern Oregon—where I live—nor Northern California. So friend Lee Juillerat and I had headed north to the white booty of Idaho and Canada late last January (1918), for our first skiing of the new season. I would stay on in Nelson to explore an extra week while my fellow journalists returned to their respective homes throughout the US.

  Kootenay Lake   Kootenay Lake  
  Kootenay Lake   BC Powder Highway  

Nelson is located on the West Arm of Kootenay Lake. After my peers left, I traveled north to the main body of Kootenay Lake, spending one night at Ainsworth Hot Springs and a few more nights at the venerable Kaslo Hotel. All these towns—and many more—are located along the legendary Powder Highway and the International Selkirk Loop. Skiing and snowboarding is second kin to breathing in this part of the world. There is a plethora of ski resorts and back-country skiing—along with a variety of other winter sports—in these necks of the woods. At the North end of the Powder Highway is Golden where I visited in 2016, doing a travel story on Purcell Mountain Lodge.

Kootenay in the native tongue means ‘water people.’ Kootenay Lake is 70 miles long and has the longest free ferry system in the world. A few years ago, I took the ferry from Balfour to Crawford Bay, but that’s a story for another time.

  Kootenay Harbor   Kootenay Lake bartender with tatoo  
  Kootenay Lake evening view   Kootenat Lake Prestige Resort  
  Kootenay Lake view from hotel room   Kootenay Lake front of Prestige Resort  
  Prestige Resort pool and hot tub   Kootenay Lake view  

After arriving in Nelson, I made my way to Prestige Lakeside Resort where I would stay for a week. Immediately, I was treated to the finest hospitality in which Canadians excel and for which they are known. There are 10 Prestige resorts/lodges/inns in the Powder Highway region. The hotel is beautifully located along beguiling Kootenay Lake, is the only full service resort on the lake (including Santosha Spa), and has Nelson’s only waterfront patio. Prestige’s West Coast Grill serves a variety of fresh entrees throughout the day. I often ordered room service breakfast from them. Delicious! Their indoor swimming pool and hot tub became a frequently visited hangout during my visit, especially before and after skiing. My upper level room afforded great views of the nearby harbor and the steep pitched mountain across the lake. Temps were burr-burr-burr so I spent little time lingering on my balcony! The rooms are uber comfortable and as fresh as a Canadian quarter. Walking access to Nelson’s many amenities is relatively easy, although caution is advised when freezes come.

  Nelson BC architecture   Nelson BC downtown  
  Nelson BC beer tasting room   Nelson BC brewpub  



Nelson BC downtown

  Nelson BC evening dining  
  Nelson BC Hume Hotel   Nelson BC bartender  
  Nelson BC Hume Hotel   Nelson BC stroll  
  Nelson BC twilight   Nelson BC squash players  
  sNelson BC window scene   Nelson BC twilight  

I unabashedly love Nelson! It reminds me of my college alma mater (Southern Oregon University) town of Ashland, though, with time, Ashland has become more gentrified and yuppie. Nelson is more real. Nelson is a small city of 10,000 citizens. Like Ashland, art is revered and celebrated here, giving it the moniker as Canada’s number one arts community for its size, and also the #1 community in all of Canada for the percentage of people employed by arts (11% whereas the national average is below 1%). Strolling and exploring the streets of Nelson is an immersion in the arts. Additionally, Nelson is Canada’s #1 community per capita for serving food and drink, along with having the largest percentage of heritage buildings west of the Great Lakes. It is a small city of unforgettable charm and deep history, with habitation traced all the way back to the time of the great pyramids of Egypt.

Nelson’s winter events include the Winter Carnival, Kootenay Coldsmoke Powderfest, Nelson Figure Skating Carnival, Balfour’s Lucky Larry Fun Derby and Heritage Week.

During my stay, some of my favorite walking haunts included the timeless Hume Hotel where I would often go for their happy hour drink and food menu and Old World atmosphere in the Library Lounge (possibly my favorite lounge in the World), Backroads Brewing (just a couple of blocks from the Prestige) for extraordinary and diverse brews, and squash at the Nelson Squash and Social Club for entertainment, conversation with locals, brew and food (nothing fancy here, just simple grub). A stroll downtown Baker, Vernon and side streets affords an experience of all kinds of art, cultural and museum offerings (don’t miss Touchstones Nelson Museum of Art and History).

  Whitewater Ski Resort   Whitewater fresh snow  
  Curtis Fong skiing Whitewater   Whitewater skier  
  Whitewater happy patron   Whitewater skier family  
  Whitewater helping hand   Whitewater locals  
  Whitewater kids   Whitewater skier  
  Whitewater stopover  
Whitewater slope and parking lot

Just 20 minutes from Nelson, Whitewater Ski Resort is a local’s mountain that is branching out, appealing to national and international skiers and boarders. The addition of a new quad chair has added to the appeal, and consistently the mountain gets an abundance of snow. We were treated to two feet of freshies! Yahoo! There were some exciting groomed runs but the most fun, excitement and challenge came skiing the pow...pure white, light, fluffy, divine! Whitewater is a mountain of ample vertical and prodigious powder. Your ski and board legs will be pulsating at day’s end!

They advertise their mountain as ‘Pure, Simple, Real...Deep.’ On New Year’s Eve 2018, I checked their mountain stats and they have a whopping 171 inches of snow with a settled base of 71 inches. Annual snowfall at the mountain is 40 feet! Okay ski gods, teletransport me to there right now!!!

I love the simple vibe of the Whitewater main lodge. It’s nothing extra fancy, except for their food. Fresh Tracks Cafe has won accolades as the finest ski resort food in Canada. Former co-owner Shelley Adams set the standard at Fresh Tracks with fresh wholesome healthy ingredients in recipes that has led to four best-selling cookbooks. Forget packing a lunch when skiing/boarding Whitewater. Enjoy their superb food! I liked it so much that I even would get an extra order to go for refueling later after leaving the mountain.

Nelson is also the center for unparalleled back-country snowcat and heli-skiing. Check out Kootenay Backcountry Guides.

  Ainsworth BC hot springs   Ainsworth BC hot springs cave  
  Ainsworth BC   Ainsworth BC restaurant view  

After my snowsport journalist buddies left, my Washington cousin Laura Sanders joined me. Our first excursion from Nelson was the incomparable Ainsworth Hot Springs, a picturesque drive north of Nelson. We luxuriated there in the large pool and inside the labyrinth of the hot springs cave which made for one of the most unique hot springs experiences ever! My soreness from several days of robust skiing melted away in this Nirvana, beautifully located along Kootenay Lake in the Purcell Mountain Range. A full moon even visited us.

The hot spring water naturally changes six times daily, making for a refreshing retreat no matter the time of day or night. “I’ve died and gone to Heaven, many times over,” exclaimed Laura, more than once.

The lodging (we had a corner room overlooking the lake) and food (the Ktunaxa Grill; try the smoked elk carpaccio and the skillet roasted Salt Spring Island mussels) was excellent. Don’t miss the Swimwear and Boutique and Spa.

  Kaslo BC downtown   Kaslo Hotel fresh snow  
  Kaslo Hotel hot tub   Kaslo Hotel lounge  
  Kaslo Hotel room   Kaslo BC SS Moyie  
  Kaslo BC Mount Loki   Kaslo BC Mount Loki last light  


With the encouragement of Nelson Kootenay Lake Tourism executive director Dianna Ducs, we drove an additional 20 miles past Ainsworth to the charming little village of Kaslo, and spent two nights at the unforgettable Kaslo Hotel. The original hotel was built in 1896, burned in 1950 and then rebuilt in 1958 with an extensive renovation in 2006. Put this on your bucket list folks! You will not regret it! Once a thriving gold and silver town of 5000, it now has fewer than a 1000 residents (basically the same size as my Oregon hometown).

First of all, the area—situated on the northern arm of Kootenay Lake—is stunningly beautiful (I assume in all seasons), with compelling views of Mount Loki (named after the Norse god known as a trickster and shape-shifter (whatever that means!). The town of Kaslo is in a beautiful time warp, the kind of town that I could live in forever. A mountain town, it offers endless possibilities for the winter adventurer. In the summer months, there is even a jazz festival.

The Kaslo Hotel has eleven luxury room along with several suites, all facing the lake with expansive verandas. The views are superb! The pub restaurant is wonderful and it has at least 11 brews on tap.

When visiting Kaslo, I highly recommend their new brewery and the Blue Belle Bistro.

  Kaslo BC Angry Hen owners  


Regional Airport to access the Kootenay Lake Country: www.castlegar.ca/airport.com

Greyhound Bus Lines: 250-365-7744

Castlegar Chamber of Commerce: www.castlegar.com




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