Whip me for my transgression, but until today I’d never skied out of Nelson, British Columbia. Of course I’d heard about the place. Sled access via endless logging and mining roads access. Huts and lodges all over the place. Whitewater ski “resort,” fortunately not really a resort, just a super core place with so much sidecountry and backcountry you’d think you were in Verbier, or Chamonix, or heaven — only this place gets tons of snow nearly any season (to be fair, heaven gets snow too, but access can be problematic).
Today we headed up to Whitewater, where Cameron Shute of G3 showed us around. We did a tour involving Five Mile Basin, essentially one drainage over from the resort. The event began with a lift ride and short tour to a ridge point they call Acidophilus. After a few jokes about digestive supplements, we dropped a few hundred vert then re-skinned and climbed about 2,000 vertical feet to Scob’s Knob. As shown in the photo above, we skied back down into Five Mile then climbed out again and skied large terrain down to the resort base. That’s where the Poutine occurred.
Every inch of the climb had us salivating over totally untracked “heli ski” terrain we were climbing through. Avalanche danger was just about zero. The track wound up through a few shelves and a couple of steep sections, dancing in widely spaced forests of elegant larch trees. Snow quality wasn’t cold smoke like we’d had at Valhalla Touring’s lodge, but a stiffer variety of nieve that required a bit more care with finding the sweet spot (I’d almost forgotten how to do that after our powder festival up at Valhalla, but figured it out pretty quick).
Our crew literally shralped (ergo, gang skied) the “heli line,” then re-skinned another thousand vert or so to nip over a ridge and sideslip through a tight clump of ghost trees. After that, we got a rather large chunk of terrain known as Scob’s Knob that dropped us directly to the “resort” bar. I couldn’t believe it, but on one pitch in a gully on Scob’s I was doing the much vaunted activity of “sluff management.” TGR? Is that you calling?
Can it get any better than that? No wonder Nelson just won Powder Magazine’s Ski Town Throwdown. Yeah, Powder Magazine isn’t WildSnow.com so take what they say with a grain of salt. But you have to admit this place is sweet and the folks at Powder know what they’re talking about.
From the Powder Article “It validates why most of us have given up the big careers and the paychecks that went with them, to live in this hard to get to place (Nelson area), where nearly 40 percent of the population has a ski pass hanging from their jacket,” says Anne Pigeon, the general manager of indoor operations and marketing at Whitewater.”
One thing hilarious about this trip is the powder greed we Colorado folk have been experiencing — especially myself. Normally, we put more energy into doing action photos during our descents. But since we’ve been here it seems we get to the top of some epic terrain feature, think for a moment about setting up some great shots, then totally blow it off and shralp the thing. Oh well, the beauty of it is you can go there too and do the same thing. Head over to backcountryskiingcanada.com and get a guidebook. Then figure out some travel plans. If you’re in lower 48, best way to get here is probably just drive. The nearest hub airport is Spokane, three hours away by car. Locals tell me that driving is the way to go, as the Nelson airport tends to cancel commuter flights due to the constant storms and such.Ilovenelson.com appears to be a resource for accommodations and such.
Oh, and by the way, Sweetgrass Productions is up here living and filming. Interesting how they always end up in the best places. Smart, I guess. Below is the trailer for their new Kootenay based film due out next fall.
WildSnow.com publisher emeritus and founder Lou (Louis Dawson) has a 50+ years career in climbing, backcountry skiing and ski mountaineering. He was the first person in history to ski down all 54 Colorado 14,000-foot peaks, has authored numerous books about about backcountry skiing, and has skied from the summit of Denali in Alaska, North America’s highest mountain.