With BC so close to Oregon, it’s long been a desire of mine to learn more about the snowboarding terrain and ski town living found along the legendary “Powder Highway” in the southern interior of British Columbia. The snowmobile riding in these mountain is arguably the best in the world. Evidence of this is seen while entering any interior BC town where a staggeringly high percentage of the vehicles are trucks hauling machines. BC has remained top of mind for me since a chance trip to Revelstoke in 2011 provided an eye opening experience of what lays across the border.
Scheduling a larger group trip to meet with sleds was more difficult than expected this winter. Not wanting to let another year slip by without exploring BC, Nikki and I took the Passat wagon on a resort trip, leaving our friends and snowmobiles in the rear view mirror. We headed east through Washington with two noteworthy resorts in our sights.
I have always wanted to see the town of Nelson, nestled deep in a steep river valley, not far from the eastern Washington border. The ski town of 10k residents was laid back and outdoor focused, catering to tourists with it’s many shops, restaurants and bars. Coming from a city where our roads are jammed and the local resort is constantly running out of parking, the slow paced lifestyle we found in Nelson was much appreciated. The relaxed attitude at Whitewater ski area was our favorite discovery of the trip.
We rode Whitewater for three days, catching a glimpse of the mountain in a variety of conditions as a weather events passed through during our trip.
New snow overnight allowed us to explore the mountain off the groomed runs. With the moguls softened we were able to venture into the steep glade skiing that BC is famous for. We pushed our legs and explored a majority of the mountain the first day, finding the lodge bar with a view of the main bowl by 2pm.
More new snow overnight came in thicker this time, filling in the moguls enough to make for floaty turns in the trees the first half of the day. We brought our split gear as well, which opened doors to the sidecountry terrain just outside the resort boundaries. Using lift access to aid our accent, we toured up and conquered a big line the second half of the day with. Our approach and safety on slope was a success but we messed up the decent. Our riding was limited by having to pick through thick tress the second half of the run. Moves like this made me thick twice about not paying for a guide on this trip.
Our best riding of the trip came on our third day at Whitewater. The mountain sells one and two bump tickets at discounted prices for those exploring the sidecountry. With warm temps, we were looking for north facing terrain. We took the main lift up 1500 vertical feet before starting a 1.25 hour tour outside the resort boundary to a big open bowl run. Two powdery laps were enjoyed and smiles displayed as sun pockets came and went. In true BC style, we capped the day off with a soak at the Ainsworth hot springs that located out in the valley past the apartment we had rented.
We headed to Revelstoke for the second half of the week. Our drive from Nelson up through the Slocan valley was a disappointing one. Low clouds killed the amazing views we hoped to enjoy as we passed beneath the Valhalla mountain range. Like being in Portland during a week of heavy rain, the mood was hindered with a trapped feeling while driving through fog. We made a full day of our three hour drive by adding on a 3 mile hike into a natural hot spring. The small rock pools helped ease the sore muscles. Conversations from one pool to another bubbled with talk of snow conditions by locals and tourists alike making a similar drive to ours. After the hot spring, we hit the ferry stop, which is a dead end in the road with a flashing light. The ferry ride (which I really enjoyed regardless of it’s necessity), connects two sections of highway with a 20 minute free ride over a beautiful lake.
Our photos and footage from Revelstoke mountain resort is limited. The low level clouds we traveled through to get there never lifted during our stay. The cloud cover and Revelstoke resort being a true ski destination resort with lots of tourists making turns, reduced my desire to shoot any video. Different languages are heard while in the long lift lines to access the upper mountain. Quite a different experience than Whitewater.
Our first day started as an ass kicking on huge moguls. Wet snow started coming down hard. We explored the resort’s two primary chairs pretty thoroughly, retreating to a mid-mountain lodge for an afternoon beer by 1:30pm. Refreshed by the liquid courage, we went back out for some late day turns and scored with a full fresh of 8 inches that had fallen throughout the day.
Revelstoke is a great ski town. Driving 10 minutes from the Resort parking lot back to town is a true luxury in comparison to our Mt.Hood to Portland commute. The small downtown is packed with restaurants and bars, all of which seem to play ski and snowboard films instead of team sports on their TVs. The conversations are thick with powder talk. Tourist who want to chat about their turns are easy to find in Revelstoke.
On our second day riding Revelstoke we took a short hike getting us higher into the North bowl. The bowls hold alpine style terrain with steep open turns and rock features to air. This premier riding of Revelstoke quickly turns to moguls if you’re not willing to hike further and take some gnarly run outs back to the lift. Our bodies took a beating this trip. The snow was heavy and the moguls tall. On our fifth day of riding we were getting ready to retreat. Realizing our legs had little left, I stopped Nikki in the woods to catch our breath during yet another long mogul run. High up on the mountain, surrounded by snow caked trees on the edge of the resort boundary, I proposed to Nikki.
Our trip ended with a different type of excitement. Tears quickly turned to smiles. A renewed energy reduced the pain in our backs and knees. We rode out of the woods as an unstoppable couple. Our engagement filled us with an excitement that completely changed the day and our vacation. The BC trip now had purpose beyond the turns and seeing lifestyles outside the city. This trip bonded us and will now forever serve a reminder of our commitment together.