'Boarding B.C.'s Backcountry

By David Fireman
  |  Gorp.com
Carving freshies in the Purcell Mountains
Make tracks for Invermere

Southeast of Alaska and north of Washington State lies some of the most precious terrain in the world.

Four mountain ranges stretch across the south of the province: the Rocky Mountains and the Purcells in the east, and the Selkirks and the Monashees in the west. Nestled within these mountains—and surrounded by seemingly endless forests—are a variety of ski and snowboard opportunities. Even the smallest towns have a ski hill nearby, and cat and heli-skiing abound. The snow in the interior of B.C. is different from that on the coast. It's drier and lighter and you can usually only ski from December to late April. To access these mountains from Vancouver count on a nine-hour drive to the far-flung towns of Golden and Invermere, along what are often icy and treacherous roads. Or fly into Calgary, Alberta, and access B.C.'s white stuff in only three and a half hours. Here are some ideas about where to go:

Fernie: Lizard Range, Rocky Mountains
Fernie Alpine Resort (800-258-7669, www.skifernie.com) is a must-ski, and Island Lake Lodge (888-4-CAT-SKI, www.islandlakelodge.com) offers incredible cat-skiing. Three days will cost you about CND $1,280 (U.S. $869), four days CND $2,200 (U.S. $1,493). Lodging prices in the interior of B.C. are reasonable and you should be able to find a bed for CND $20 (U.S. $14) a night; try the Three Sisters Motel (250-423-4438, threesis@cancom.net). After pushing your limits on the hill, soak your weary muscles in Fairmont Hot Springs, two hours outside of Fernie (800-663-4979, www.fairmontresort.com).

Invermere: Purcell Mountains
RK Heli-Ski (800-661-6060, www.rkheliski.com) at Panorama Mountain Village is probably the best heli operation around. Not only do they provide weeklong packages at reasonable rates, but you can hop on the chopper for a day to break away from the not-so-challenging chairlift access to Panaroma Mountain. This family-run business will take care of you—there is no doubt in that. Three descents will cost you about CND $520 (U.S. $340), five descents CND $634 (U.S. $420).

Nelson: Selkirk Mountains
Cruise into Nelson and you'll find a snow-inspired, thriving artistic community. Here there is no such thing as too much snow. Whitewater Ski Resort (800-666-9420, www.skiwhitewater.com) is the closest mountain to the town, with tons of access into the backcountry. Check out Snowwater Creek Lodge, a new heli-skiing operation (250-354-8238, www.snowwater.com), and watch out for Baldface Mountain Lodge Cat Operation opening this winter. Lodging, again, is reasonable, and everything is accessible by foot.

Published: 28 Apr 2002 | Last Updated: 15 Sep 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication


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