Today’s Poll

Lots of powder makes for great season at local ski hills

Claire Paradis
By Claire Paradis
February 2nd, 2018

There’s no such thing as too much snow, says Whitewater Ski Resort’s Rebeckah Hornung and Nicole Briggs from RED Mountain Resort — two of the main hills located in the West Kootenay that offer skiers and boarders some of the best riding in Western Canada.

Whitewater, which according to Hornung, has had an abundance of snow this year already, with more in the forecast.

North of the Golden City, Briggs can’t remember a season with so many consecutive powder days. Although the snow base built slowly this year, it’s now 220 cm, well past last year’s 176 cm.

And the powder is running deep in Rossland this year.

“Obviously our area has transportation issues,” said Hornung when asked if heavy snowfall days dissuade visitors from out of the area.

“Some people adjust plans, and we give people the best options for their travel.”

But travel hitches aren’t keeping people away.

The number of visitors to both Nelson’s Whitewater and Rossland’s Red Mountain are on par with other years. And like other years, that number is kept secret by ski hills, but what isn’t secret is where the skiers are coming from.

The strong U.S. dollar and different partnerships helps draw American visitors, and both hills are popular with Albertans, but it’s still a community affair.

“We have a lot of local skiers,” said Hornung. “It’s part of our unique community vibe.”

Whitewater Ski Hill, a short 20-minute venture south of Nelson on Highway 6, boasts an endless terrain and legendary deep powder over 623 metres of steeps, deeps, chutes, bowls, and glades are all there, beneath the ski resort's majestic Ymir Peak.

With three lifts to service the terrain, including the new new fixgrip quad chair installed during the past summer that replaces the former two-seater Summit Chair, Whitewater has a tremendous economic impact to Nelson and area said Nelson Chamber of Commers Executive Director Tom Thomson.

“The most significant economic impact Whitewater provides is jobs, employment opportunities, taxation and the spinoff or trickle down economic benefits,” Thomson said.

“The other main benefit that Whitewater delivers is that unlike other Mountain Resorts, we have the added benefit of having world class ski facilities like Whitewater just 20 minutes away.”

A short stone’s throw away, near Rossland, RED Mountain offers a vertical drop of 890 meters over more than 4,200 acres of terrain using seven lifts and three mountains.

However, there’s more to the two facilities than just riding on snow.

To keep people interested and excited, Whitewater has a slew of events through the season, the ne plus ultra of which is the Kootenay Coldsmoke Powder Festival at the end of February. Skiers, snowboarders, split boarders, telemarkers, freeskiers and more can shine up their skills with 30 different clinics to choose from, all of which are taught by instructors from across North America.

And then there’s the really fun stuff like the Randonee ski tour competition, the Sunday Poker Run (bring your costume), and the Backcountry Olympics. At the end of the weekend, the King and Queen of Coldsmoke are crowned and presented with a Northface outfit, a Stellar heliski trip, Whitewater passes, and bragging rights (including their name on a plaque in the pub).

This year, RED Mountain’s big draw is its Man on the Mountain crowdfunding campaign, Briggs told the Daily. The resort is offering skiers and snowboarders the chance to own a piece of RED, and it’s paying off. With hundreds of investors who love the place, word about RED Mountain is spreading, said Briggs. And raising money. Roughly $2 million has been raised for improvements to the hill, all while keeping the resort independent and connected to the regular skier and snowboarder.

Looks like there will be lots of great skiing and boarding to be had in the second half of the season. You can find current snow reports on the Whitewater Ski Resort and RED Mountain Resort websites.

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