A Long Weekend in Nelson, B.C.
The small, sleepy town of Nelson is by far one of my favourite places to visit in British Columbia. It sits nestled among the Selkirk Mountains, on the extreme West Arm of the Kootenay Lake. Quiet and charming on appearance, yet secretly bustling with adrenaline-based sport junkies, eager to get out and take advantage of their adventurous surroundings. Only a short 4-hour drive from Big White, we headed there for a quick long-weekend getaway.
Arriving slightly earlier than check-in time, we parked the car and headed off on foot down the main street of town. It is only five blocks long and yet full of cool ski shops, quirky restaurants and charismatic bars. In every store we entered, the locals were so interested in where we had come from and where we were going, we felt welcomed and relaxed instantly.
We stayed at The Dancing Bear Inn, a quaint hostel at the end of the main street, with a beautiful open common room, complete with a crackling fireplace and cozy lounge chairs. The vibe the Hostel projected was awesome. The room was simple and clean, but a little cold. The heating seemed to only kick in in the middle of the night, so until then it just wasn’t quite warm enough. We also had cold showers the two nights we were there. There was a large group of young Europeans staying at the same time, and it seemed the hot water could not keep up with so many cold bodies. Other than these few issues, I would recommend staying there. It’s cheap, clean and the staff are lovely and always helpful.
After dropping our bags in our private room, we headed out to try Cantina del Centro, a Mexican place we had taken note of during our afternoon exploration of the main street. The vibe was cool, service quick and friendly, and the nachos – amazing! I highly recommend eating here at least once during your stay. It is small though, so get in early.
Whitewater Ski Resort
Our first day of skiing was spent at Whitewater, only 20 minutes from Nelson. A small resort, with pre-historic (or what felt like) chair lifts and a whole lot of powder! Be careful getting on the Summit Chair. The seats are super slippery, the chair comes flying around the bull wheel, and the liftie ‘bumping’ our chair actually just held it back, so it loaded up and sent us flying… straight into the ground. I can laugh about it now, but at the time I was mortified!
The runs at Whitewater are generally intermediate, with gladed runs quickly transitioning from wide, openly spaced trees to steep, deep and narrow. Unfortunately for us, the weather was absolutely terrible – snowing up the top, sleeting in the middle and raining down the bottom. The bottom third of the mountain saw the snow to be wet, heavy and super sticky, so we tried to stay high and enjoy the light, dry snow. I would love to say that we lasted the entire day, despite being soaked straight to the skin within 2 hours, but we did not. We spent our morning floating between Glory Ridge and the Summit Chair, made the most of the nice snow up high, and called it after about 3 hours. We were like drowned rats, who weren’t having fun anymore.
Despite the shocking weather, Whitewater was a cool little resort with amazing terrain. You can imagine it would be absolutely phenomenal on a powder day, top to bottom. It’s definitely on our list of ‘let’s visit again’.
We headed back into Nelson, cold, wet and hungry and after having a cold shower, we decided we needed some carbs to cheer us up. We headed for Leo’s Pizza and Greek Taverna. The pizza and pasta here is amazing! With more of a family vibe, the service was lovely, portion sizes generous and we left feeling warm, full and exhausted. We spent the rest of the afternoon relaxing in the common area back at the hostel, hoping for a better weather day tomorrow.
Red Mountain Resort
The final day of our long weekend getaway saw us waking up nice and early, packing the car and heading back towards Big White via Red Mountain Resort, about an hours drive from Nelson. Red is a cool mountain. It’s much bigger in size than Whitewater, and we were lucky enough to have awesome snow from top to bottom.
The runs range from intermediate to advance or expert, with tonnes of gladed runs waiting to be explored. We found ourselves in steep, gladed areas with little cliffs to jump off, open meadows with fun little pillows and rollers throughout, and runs long enough to leave you happy to get on the lift for a break. They even have a side country cat ski operation to give riders a chance to experience cat skiing for $10 a ride, something we wish we knew about while we were there. While it was a tiny bit foggy in some areas, it wasn’t raining and we were having an absolute ball. We rode all day, grabbed some coffee and yummy poutine for the road, and left Red Mountain promising to be back.
Our trip to Nelson was the perfect weekend road trip. Not too long of a drive, awesome skiing, great terrain and good powder. And to top it off, delicious food and an amazingly cool town to relax in.
Side Note: I’d like to quickly point out that we have stayed at The Dancing Bear again since this trip, and the hot water was not an issue, but the room was still chilly.