Monday, February 27, 2017

Panorama Mountain Resort (much more than downhill skiing)

Panorama Mountain Resort is a popular destination for Calgary families in the nearby Columbia Valley of BC. Situated just outside the Town of Invermere, the resort caters to downhill ski enthusiasts and has a variety of ski terrain for the whole family (with over 100 different runs serviced by 10 lifts.)

My family and I visit the resort every winter while staying in the valley but we have yet to actually purchase lift tickets for the ski hill. (And that's not because we sneak onto the hill or because somebody else is buying lift tickets for us.) The reason we haven't had to buy lift tickets at Panorama is because we've never used the ski hill when we've visited the resort.

Cross country skiing across the golf course at Panorama Mountain Resort

My family loves downhill skiing but we've always enjoyed Panorama for its nordic multi-use trails. We love cross country skiing up to the Hale Hut, we ski around the golf course on the Valley Trail, and we love cruising down the Prospector's Trail (all downhill from the Grey Wolf Golf Course to the Nordic Centre in the Village below.)

On our most recent visit to Panorama we also discovered that the nordic trails are a lot of fun on bikes, and the Nordic Centre just happens to rent fat bikes for the whole family. (something I can assure you is rare at a ski hill! - trust me, I challenge you to find me another ski hill that has kids' winter bikes to rent)

Fat biking at Panorama Mountain Resort

Cross Country Skiing at Panorama Mountain Resort


There is a great Nordic Centre at the Panorama Mountain Resort where you can rent skis if you don't have your own. The trail fees are reasonable and the resort hands out easy-to-follow maps showing  trails for all abilities.

Our first time cross country skiing at Panorama (and my son still had strap on skis!)

Our approach to cross country skiing at Panorama



Parking:

The biggest challenge at Panorama is parking in the lower village near the Nordic Centre. There's a parking lot right across the bridge from the Centre (just below the gondola station) but there's never any free parking spots here unless you arrive super early.

We get around the parking situation by just starting at the Grey Wolf Golf Course above the Village. You can drive right up to the Golf Course Club House (closed in winter) and there's tons of parking here.

Easy skiing on the Valley Trail from the Grey Wolf Club House

Note that if you choose to park at the golf course above, there are no bathrooms. There are no bathrooms at the Nordic Centre though either so it's just easier to make sure you use facilities in Invermere before the drive out. (Or hopefully you're staying at the resort and it's not a problem.)

Also, if you park at the golf course, you'll need your own skis. If you have to rent, you'll be forced to at least double park by the Nordic Centre while somebody runs in to grab equipment and day passes for the trails

If you've parked at the golf course, you can buy day passes for the ski trails from an automatic kiosk outside the club house using your credit card. Otherwise, we often send an adult into the Nordic Centre to grab passes while the second adult stays with the car

One of the fun hills coming down the Prospector's Trail from the Golf Course to the  Lower Village


The Ski Trails:

From the Grey Wolf Golf Course you can either ski up towards the Hale Hut on an easy/intermediate trail (roughly 8 km round trip from the golf course,) you can ski across the golf course on the easy Valley 2 Trail (2 km return) or you can ski down to the Lower Village on the Prospector's and Valley 1 Trails (4 km one way.)

The Hale Hut, Panorama Mountain Resort

On our last visit we skied up to the Hut for lunch in the warm heated cabin, skied back down, and then continued skiing down to the Lower Village since it's all downhill from here and super fun. The Prospector's Trail down to the Village is rated "easy" but there are a few hills where you definitely have to know how to snowplow (I would personally rate the trail as intermediate.)

Skiing up the Placer Trail to the Hale Hut

If you've decided to ski down to the Lower Village one way, you'll need to either have a car shuttle set up, or (much easier) just send an adult back up the Prospector's Trail to fetch the vehicle. And while somebody's doing that, you can take the kids up the free gondola from the Lower Village to access the Upper Village where you'll find a coffee shop and post-ski snacks. The open gondola ride will probably be the highlight of your kids' ski day.

Grab your coffee and snacks in the Village and then simply head back down the gondola for a pick up in the lower parking lot once your partner is back with the vehicle.

Flying down the Prospector's Trail to the Lower Village

For more information on the ski trails at Panorama, visit the Panorama Mountain Resort website. Trail conditions are posted along with a map of the trails, and information on trail fees and rentals. You can also visit the Toby Creek Nordic Ski Club for more information on ski trails in the Columbia Valley.

Easy family skiing at Panorama Mountain Resort

 

Fat Biking at Panorama Mountain Resort


So you've tried cross country skiing at Panorama and have another day to play - I highly recommend trying fat biking on the same trails as mentioned above for cross country skiing.

First, stop in at the Nordic Centre and rent a set of bikes for the family. The Centre rents fat bikes for adults and rents 20" and 24" plus sized bikes for kids (bikes with larger tires that are half way between a summer mountain biking tire and a fat bike tire.) The kids' bikes wouldn't work in deep powder but they work fine on the packed Panorama trails.

Fat bikes and Youth plus sized bikes for rent at Panorama


Once you've taken care of rentals, either bike up the Valley Trail or if you have a truck, load the bikes in for a short drive up to the Grey Wolf Golf Course (what we did.) From the golf course, it's a FUN ride back down to the Village on the Prospector's Trail and the Valley 1 Trail.

We couldn't fit all of our bikes in our truck so my husband generously biked up and met us at the golf course parking lot so that my son and I didn't have to make the climb up. Then he biked back up to get the vehicle again at the end (and brought his bike back down in the truck while my son and I rode the gondola up to the Upper Village.)

Biking down the Prospector's Trail from the Golf Course to the Lower Village


What to expect from winter biking at Panorama:

  •  There's not a lot of "easy" beginner biking here unless you manage to get your bikes up to the Grey Wolf Golf Course parking lot and you ride downhill on the Prospector's Trail and Valley 1 Trail to reach the Lower Village.

    You can also ride out and back on the Valley 2 trail from the golf course before riding down to the village.

  • If you decide to bike straight from the Nordic Centre, you can ride out and back along the Valley 1 Trail for a short ways but then you'll have to start climbing up the Prospector's Trail (something that most kids would find hard to do.)

  • From the golf course, you can also bike towards the Hale Hut which has a lot of hills (up and down in both directions.) On a nice warm day though, it would be a fun ride and you'd just have to walk any steep hills the kids couldn't ride. It's on our list to try next time.

  • Know that all trails are multi-use. This means that you must be able to stop if going down a steep hill before you run into some poor unsuspecting cross country skier slowly climbing up a hill.

    Also, because the trails are multi-use, you can expect frozen foot prints (making for a bumpy ride,) ski tracks that you have to avoid hitting, and possibly even snowshoe tracks. On the bright side though, each member of the family could choose to head out to the Hale Hut via a different mode of transportation. You can bike, ski, or hike to the hut and still do it together as a family (something that's really cool in my mind  because I could see myself quite happily skiing while my son biked.)
Riding down one of the steeper hills on the Prospector's Trail

Main reasons I recommend fat biking at Panorama

  1. You've always wanted to try fat biking and you are staying at Panorama with extra time on your hands. Boom, here's your chance to try it!

  2. You're in the Columbia Valley looking for something new and novel to do for a day. Again, boom, here's something super cool and original to do for half a day.

  3. You're not a skier and are spending a weekend at Panorama with the family. Fat biking is an excellent alternative to cross country skiing and you'll still get to reach the beautiful Hale Hut.

  4. You love biking in the summer, can easily ride uphill in a gentle sustained 30 minute ride, have no problems with moderate descents, and again, have never tried fat biking. Here is your chance!! (and honestly, all trails here are double track so it's not that challenging in terms of technical terrain)

  5. You are looking for a multi-sport outing with the family. Maybe the older kids or teens would like to bike but you need to ski or walk with the younger kids (or pull a toddler in a sled.) The trip to the Hale Hut is the kind of outing where you can do it all: bike, hike, snowshoe, or ski. The whole family can go together and there's no designated trails for each sport.

  6. You've been trying to find a place that rents fat bikes for kids (not the easiest thing to find!) Well, you've come to the right place here because the whole family can rent bikes down to a 20" bike.

Easy riding on the Valley 1 Trail at Panorama

Overall Summary and Recommendation


Regardless of whether you choose to bike, hike, snowshoe, or cross country ski at Panorama, there's something for each member of the family with rentals on site for everybody. The resort offers so much more than downhill skiing and you could easily spend a weekend here without ever stepping into a set of downhill bindings (and still have a blast!!)

Biking along Toby Creek on the Valley 1 Trail


Disclaimer: We received complimentary bike rentals at Panorama Mountain Resort so that I could write this story. We have always paid for our own trail fees though when cross country skiing at this resort and I was not compensated for writing this review. As always all words and opinions are my own.

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Ski Travel Feature: Shames Mountain, Northern British Columbia

I'm excited to be publishing a second story today for snow chaser extraordinaire, Powder Matt, an adventurer, top ski blogger, author of the "Adventurer's Guide to Living a Happy Life," and Vice President of Resorts of the Canadian Rockies.

Last week we traveled to Smithers in the story, Craving Cabin Life in Northern British Columbia. Today we travel to another town in Northern BC also known for epic powder and incredible ski days. Today we visit the Town of Terrace and the Shames Mountain Ski Area.

Again, as with last week's story, I don't expect you to jump in your car for the long drive north tomorrow. However, I know I'm always looking for new places to add to my winter travel list and some day I just might find myself traveling around Northern BC. When that day arrives, I'll remember having read this cool ski story by Powder Matt and I'll know exactly where I want to go visit. For now, I dream, I add new resorts to my winter bucket list, and I grow in my awareness of great ski areas across our country.

On the Road to Northern BC and Shames Mountain Ski Area (photo: Dax Justin)


Shames Mountain Ski Area, Terrace, Northern British Columbia


By Powder Matt


Snow, Deep, Deep snow


“Don’t fight the mountain, go with the flow.” says Christian Theberge, General Manager of Shames Mountain Ski Area. These were Christian's inspiration words as we headed higher, sinking waist-deep with each step, to reach a little knob, accessing blower deep pow, right off the top t-bar.

Each step here earns you unlimited goodness.

Large trees, with perfect spacing and copious amounts of snow, greet us as we top out. I can now see why this place, one of the largest ski area tenures in British Columbia, is not only a great place for families to enjoy sliding time, but a bonanza for ski touring and split boarders, as the scope and size is in another league.


When you factor in the actual ski area tenure, Shames Mountain Resort in Terrace BC has more terrain then Whistler Blackcomb (photo: Jim Barr)


One Day is Not Enough


“Don’t just come here for a day,” says Theberge,”as you will wind up kicking yourself, seeing all those lines that you’ll want to do, over there, around that horn, up that valley; it is all accessible from this lift,” added Theberge.

We head out on another junket, this time, taking a lap through a magical forest. With the snow flying, one gets the feeling that we have truly arrived in another world. My takeaway is that you certainly can't judge a ski area from the number of runs on the trail map. The beauty of this place is that it has so much variety of terrain to explore and you can let the lift assist you on the skin trail.


Beyond the line at Shames in Terrace is acres upon acres of white gold to be discovered (photo: Jim Barr)



Why Visit Shames Mountain


Get in the woods


At other places you have to hurry to get fresh tracks but here the trees are buried and everywhere you look is potential lines. This is the land of big sticks and with incredible spacing, it is a tree skiers dream. Go with the flow, look for the opening and don’t fight the mountain.


Prince Rupert based, Kris Pucci maker of craft skis, swears by Shames’ Backcountry bonanza.  Seeing the Skeena Mountain Range typically sees more snow then any other mountain range on the planet (photo: Jim Barr)

Prepare for deep


Be ready for deep snow. With over 50 feet of snow, you can experience some ski touring here that is easily accessible off the lift network that will blow your mind. Make sure to take time to meet with locals, and ask questions on routes and conditions to get the most from your touring journey.

Remember to have your ‘powder tune’ ready, as singing while you turn gives you rhythm. Sing your tune and enjoy the deep goodness.

Have your Powder Tune Ready (photo: Powder Matt)

Enjoy hang time with the local peeps


The ski touring community here is awesome and welcoming, so immerse yourself in the goodness. And you don’t have to work the locals to find the secret stash. It’s more about way finding, and finding the entries and return routes to the lift, as there is tons of terrain to go around. Slow down here and enjoy your turns.  

Long time Terrace Local Hansie Mudhenk moved to Terrace simply to experience the backcountry of the region. (photo: Jim Barr)


Want to Read More?


Check out Shredding it up Backcountry Style at Shames  by Powder Matt for SnowSeekers.


Caleb Brousseau, medal winner at the Sochi 2014 Olympics, grew up skiing at Shames Mountain (photo: Powder Matt)


Other stories you may be interested in:

72 Hours in Terrace with Dax Justin 


Skiing into the Wild by Doc Pow


You can also read more here about The Ski North BC Expedition on the SnowSeekers website.


Climbing up the Boot Pack Trail at Shames Mountain (photo: Powder Matt)



This story was sponsored by Snowseekers and I was compensated for publishing it.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Our Newest Winter Obsession - Family Fat Biking

"Obsession" might be a strong word but what else do you call something that has completely captivated you and that has changed the way you look at life around you? An avid skier who dreams of gliding through pristine snowy meadows on my cross country skis, I have now started looking at  trails with fresh eyes and am wondering what they'd be like on a bike. I'm taking a brand new look at all of my favourite trails and am starting to imagine what it would be like to explore them with a fat bike as opposed to skis or snowshoes. I'd say "addicted" or "obsessed" is hence fairly accurate for how I'm feeling about my new winter "interest."

A new winter hobby for us - Fat Biking!

Fat biking had been on my list of new things to try for a couple of winters now but I'd been putting it off for a few reasons:

  1. I was terrified to try fat biking. I'd seen photos and heard stories from friends, and thought I had to be this extreme mountain biker to participate in this sport. I didn't associate fat biking with the casual mountain biking enthusiast and couldn't fathom how I'd manage to bike up snowy hills (when I already struggle with ascents in summer.) Add twisty, windy single track trails and steep descents, and I just couldn't picture myself trying it on a snowy (possibly icy) trail. I equated fat biking with being a bad ass mountain biker - and that, I am not!

  2. There are not a lot of places to rent fat bikes. (And buying one was out of the question due to the $$$.) I also didn't picture myself renting one and driving it out to the mountains, so I needed to find a good trail system with on site rentals.

  3. I didn't know of a single place renting fat bikes for kids - and if I tried this new sport, I wanted my son to be able to try it as well. He loves mountain biking and had been begging me to try fat biking. I told him that if he could find me a place renting 20" kids' fat bikes, that I'd happily take him (and we'd walk the scary hills together.)

Trying winter biking for my first time at Nipika Mountain Resort (and it wasn't scary!!)

Fat Bike Trail System with On Site Rentals - Found!


Step one if I was ever going to try fat biking was to find a trail centre or winter sports destination with on site rentals. I also needed to find a place that had EASY trails for beginners.

Easy winter riding at Nipika
Fortunately, I was planning a ski weekend with some girlfriends at Nipika Mountain Resort located on the border of Kootenay National Park outside Radium Hot Springs, and I knew Nipika had fat bike trails.  I'd also heard that they were super mellow and chill as compared to the resort's regular mountain bike trails (which are very challenging.)

I planned to spend most of my weekend skiing at Nipika on their amazing network of groomed cross country trails but figured just maybe, I'd rent a fat bike for a quick spin and see what the fuss was all about. I suspected they wouldn't have kids' bikes (and I was initially right) but I could at least try it myself before introducing the activity to my son.

Luck or fate intervened and Nipika was hosting a "Demo Day" with Specialized bikes while we were there so you could try out some cool winter bikes on the Nipika trails. While my bike wasn't technically a "fat bike," it still had bigger tires that enabled me to try out some of the trails at the resort. And the result - instant addiction!

Ok, so there's a "small" learning curve when the trails are soft



Dedicated Fat Bike Trails at Nipika Mountain Resort


Nipika maintains, grooms, and packs two different trail networks on their property. First, there is a great system of cross country trails for skiing. Second, there is a dedicated trail network for winter biking - and only biking (so if you see somebody on your bike trail who's hiking, snowshoeing, or skiing, you could actually tell them to get off and to go find their own trail!) Snowshoers and winter hikers don't get their own groomed trails but they are welcome to use the summer mountain bike trails or to hike on the main ski trails (staying off the tracks.)


Dedicated fat bike trails at Nipika Mountain Resort

I can't even begin to explain how amazing it is to bike on a snowy trail that has no foot prints, (other than where people have had to walk up a hill or have stopped for a break,) no crusty indentations from people post-holing through soft snow, and no ski tracks to accidentally ride into. Nipika's winter bike trails are pure perfection, groomed for easy riding, and well signed so that you always know you are on one of the bike trails. (And if you get lost, you can always hop onto the ski trails, find the nearest junction, and orient yourself.)

Easy riding on the South Trails at Nipika Mountain Resort

If for whatever reason you find the fat bike trails to be too challenging, you can always get off and ride on the packed ski trails (wide and well groomed for easy riding) but I can assure you that the South Trails are EASY PEASY and I had zero challenges on them. My 8 year old got to ride them too and found the trails well within his ability range.

Crossing a ski trail at Nipika while fat biking

For riders looking for more of a challenge, the North Trails are hillier with more twists and turns. I rode these trails when I was first at Nipika and then checked out the South (easier) Trails on my next visit. Whichever set of trails you choose to ride, there is something at Nipika for all abilities and challenge levels.

My girlfriend riding across a snowy meadow on the north trails

 

Family Fat Biking at Nipika Mountain Resort


When I do something, I do it with all my heart (and that includes falling in love with a new sport.) Fortunately, we had planned to be in the Columbia Valley staying in Radium Hot Springs over the Family Day Long Weekend - just a short drive from Nipika. How could we not go back??

I also new that Nipika had just purchased a 20" kids' fat bike at the extreme begging and pleading of a crazy Calgary woman (yes, me.)

So, off to Nipika we headed with friends to check out the South Trails and to find out if this could become a family winter sport for us.

My son LOVED his fat bike at Nipika. He was very proud of how "fat" his tires were


The Family Fat Biking Experience at Nipika:

  • Arrive early if you want to rent the kids' fat bikes. Nipika currently has one 20" bike and one 24" bike. We were there for 9am and managed to claim the smaller one that was perfect for our 8 year old.

  • Consider going with friends and sharing the cost of bike rentals. We were with another family who also just has one child so we rented three bikes and took turns with them. While we biked, our friends skied. And then while they biked, we skied. Afterwards, we headed to the sledding hill and played there for a bit before the drive home. There is plenty to do at Nipika for a day so you'll be fully justified in making the drive out from Radium Hot Springs or Invermere. There's also a great lodge beside the parking lot where you can have your lunch, warm up, and even just hang out between activities.

  • Start on the South Trails and then if everything goes well, try a short loop on the North Trails. I love the meadow area around the first warming hut on the north side for its easy gentle terrain. The south side though gives you that same easy experience the entire time. It's ALL easy flat meadow riding and great for families.

  • Rent actual fat bikes. While my first experience on an all-season Specialized bike was ok, my second experience on a real fat bike was much better. I stayed on top of the snow better, I wasn't slipping or fish tailing, and I didn't sink in fresh snow. When we were there as a family, it had snowed a bit overnight and we were easily able to break trail with our fat bikes. (My 8 year old broke trail most of the time if that says how easy it was with the big tires.)

  • Try not to get your kids' hopes up too high about the actual fat biking, and plan to visit Nipika for either skiing or biking. If you get the kids too excited and then discover that the kids' bikes are already rented out by a family in one of the cabins on site (for the full day) your kids would be quite upset. We tried to emphasize to our son that hopefully we'd bike, but if we couldn't (or if conditions were too challenging with the fresh snow) that we'd ski - and have a simply lovely time doing so.

  • Have a back-up plan in place. If you are visiting the Columbia Valley for a weekend and can't get on the bike trails at Nipika, you can always head out to Panorama Mountain Resort which also rents winter bikes (and has kids' bikes too.) I'll be writing more about our experience at Panorama in another story very soon so watch for that one.

  •  Bring your own bike helmets with you. Other than that, wear any gloves that you find to be comfortable and warm. I recommend the thinnest snow pants you have (rather than bulky ski pants) and you'll want a buff or something under your helmet to keep your ears and face warm. Other than that, you can wear your normal winter boots (or warm hiking boots.) Remember that you don't have to look like professional winter bikers here - you just want to be warm and comfortable.

  • Choose a warm day to try fat biking for the first time. You don't want to try it when it's -30 and your hands/feet are freezing from being inactive. I was blessed with warm weather on both of my days at Nipika and it made the winter biking experience much more pleasant.

Easily biking through fresh snow on the groomed fat bike trails at Nipika


Fat Biking - Not what I expected at all!!


Fat bikes for the whole family at Nipika
If you go back to the beginning where I listed my fears and reasons for not having tried fat biking yet, you'll see that most of my fears were unfounded.

Yes, there are EASY fat bike trails out there - and you only have to plan a weekend getaway to BC to access them.

No, you don't have to have previous experience. If you've done some easy mountain biking in summer, you can bike at Nipika in winter.

Yes, you can rent fat bikes for the whole family and take them onto a great trail system without having to load them into your vehicle.

Yes, at least one magical amazing place has kids' fat bikes!! (Thank you Lyle and Steve!!!)



 Fat Bike AND Stay Overnight at Nipika Mountain Resort


Nipika has several cozy cabins on the property that you can rent for a couple of nights. Each cabin has a kitchen and living area. There's also a house that sleeps 10-12 people. We've stayed at Nipika several times now and it's one of my favourite places for a girls' ski weekend. We also love staying here in the spring for a mountain bike weekend.

You can read about our previous stays at Nipika in these stories that I've already written for my blog.

Kids on Wheels - Nipika Mountain Resort

Everything for a Family to Love at Nipika Mountain Resort

The ultimate Girls' Ski Getaway at Nipika Mountain Resort 

Exploring the Nipika trail network by bike

For more information on rental rates, trail fees, accommodations, or ski trails at Nipika, please visit the Nipika Mountain Resort website.


Disclaimer: This story was not sponsored by Nipika. I paid for my recent stay at the resort and we paid for our own trail fees and bike rentals on our last visit. This story is written out of pure love for a great resort.




Friday, February 17, 2017

Craving Cabin Life in Northern British Columbia

I'm excited to be publishing a story today for snow chaser extraordinaire, Powder Matt, an adventurer, top ski blogger, author of the "Adventurer's Guide to Living a Happy Life," and Vice President of Resorts of the Canadian Rockies. Matt supposedly lives in Calgary but I suspect he's not here much in the winter, spending his days on the road chasing powder across Alberta and British Columbia.

Today's story takes us to a new destination for this blog as we travel to Northern BC to the remote town of Smithers. And while I doubt any of you will be jumping in the car for the 12+ hour drive north this weekend, I do hope this story puts a new ski location on your radar for future trips. I'm actually from Northern Alberta and used to ski in Northern BC as a child. I remember the powder and the fun road trips with my friends in college. If I still lived up north, I'd definitely be planning a trip to Hudson Bay Mountain after reading Matt's fun story below.

Enjoy this story and consider adding a ski trip to Northern BC to your winter bucket list.

Trips to add to the winter bucket list! Skiing across Northern BC



Craving Cabin Life

Nothing beats a retreat in the woods after a day of play in the mountains



By Powder Matt

Riding up the Panorama t-bar at Hudson Bay Mountain took to me to another place and time. This is a ski hill happily reveling in the past, with a welcoming retro vibe. It’s definitely got that going for it, but it also has long fall lines, rolling terrain, trees perfectly spaced for glade lovers and views that make you just stop in your tracks.

Gorgeous scenery from Smithers and Hudson Bay Mountain


Cabin love


This is a place that begs to have a haven at the end of the day because nothing beats warming your toes in front of a crackling fire inside a cozy cabin that doesn’t require a drive. Hudson Bay Mountain has hundreds of cabins dotting the forested mountainside, some hidden, others right on the ski run (many you can’t even drive to in the winter)

Many of these cabins in the early days were built rustically for a couple of reasons. Most people didn’t have much money, and the focus was about having a place to warm up at the end of the day. They were handmade, built with the help of friends and family who came together to carve out their après-haven.

Cabin life in Smithers, BC

What sets Hudson Bay Mountain apart is this incredible cabin community – right on the mountain. It has really created a 'skiing tradition' and connection for so many, and makes a difference in their lives. I heard this over and over from people. 

Having a cabin wasn’t about keeping up with the neighbours and building the biggest place, it was about building it right for warmth in between shredding snow. All you needed was the basics so you could enjoy what was most important – time outside.

Community at Hudson Bay Mountain


"After long days of race training, I used to take the last run of the day to reach the family cabin, and wallow in its quiet, simple comfort,” said Claire Challen.

“It still gives me that great energy, that same feeling years later after skiing," she says. "It has been a tradition for our family that continues - cabin time is the best.”

Nothing says ski in/ski out like this cabin on Hudson Bay Mountain


Mountain traditions matter


Mountain traditions are made around skiing, hiking and climbing, usually getting their start in how your family plays. If your family and friends play outside, then this is your life. The family cabin provides an anchor, a place of rest in the storm and it’s always there when you need to sneak away for some calm in your life.


Mountain haven that screams "après-ski paradise"

Want to read more?


Check out Slopes and snow that will make your spirits soar by Powder Matt for SnowSeekers.

"Frost-coated trees cover the high-alpine terrain, Impossibly blue skies make the winter creations known as "snow ghosts" glisten in the brilliance of the day. This seemingly endless wintry white expanse just shouts, "welcome outdoors lovers, stay awhile." One adventure-seeking New Zealand family did just that and one week turned into six months and then 15 years."

You can also read more here about The Ski North BC Expedition on the SnowSeekers website.

#SkiNorthBC


All photos were provided for this story by Powder Matt and the SnowSeekers Team. This story was sponsored by Snowseekers and I was compensated for publishing it.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

The Ultimate Family Ski Weekend at Kimberley Alpine Resort

I posed the following question in a recent ski story: Do you want more ski days or do you want more GOOD ski days? That was the thought that hit me in December as we made our way to Kimberley Alpine Resort for a day of skiing. We had "gone cheap" on accommodations and had chosen a hotel in a nearby city thinking we would just drive to the ski hill in Kimberley for a quick day of skiing - and that it would be just as good as the last time we'd skied here when we'd stayed on hill.

Magical Kimberley Alpine Resort in February

For us, a "day trip" to Kimberley meant waking up unorganized. It meant having to pack everything up before we could drive to the hill for the day. It meant trying to get to the hill in time for first lifts (but knowing it would never happen.) It also meant showing up at the parking lot, not knowing where anything was! I'd tried to be super organized but it's hard when you have a small car packed to the roof with your ski gear, your overnight gear, food, and the extra supplies we'd need for the rest of our new years vacation in a neighboring town.

Fortunately we got a chance at a do-over this month when we got to spend an entire weekend in Kimberley and had lodging arranged for us right on the ski hill. We also brought friends with us and discovered what it looks like to plan the ultimate family ski weekend.

Family Ski Weekend at Kimberley Alpine Resort


Snapshots into our Family Ski Weekend at Kimberley


 

Friday Night


We arrived in Kimberley Friday night, had a quick dinner in our condo (yay for the grocery store in town where you can grab a couple pizzas, a salad, a bag of chips, and dessert) and then sent the kids to the swimming pool with the dads. Us moms on the other hand - we went skiing! Cross country skiing that is.

The Kimberley Nordic Club has fabulous trail network with 3 km of lit skiing for night use. We had brought head lamps with us as well so we did a second loop on the non-lit trails up to a lookout point. From the viewpoint we could look down over the whole valley and the lights below us.

The cross country trails are also conveniently located right above the ski hill so we had a very short 2 minute drive to reach the club parking lot.

Night skiing on the Kimberley Nordic Trails



Saturday Morning


We all headed to the ski hill together after a gourmet breakfast cooked in our condo's kitchen. And it's pretty easy to be in line for first lifts when you're staying right on the ski hill!

We did a couple of runs with the kids skiing together but quickly realized that paces and ski styles weren't exactly conducive for skiing in a large group. It wasn't a big deal though because the hill had something for everybody. I was able to run laps up and down the main run (the only one freshly groomed after a large dump of powder overnight,) my husband and son took off to play in the trees, and our friends split up to check out runs to suit their children's tastes and ability.

Our small gang of kids heading down one of the novice runs on a soft powder day

Kimberley is a beautiful hill for families because it's always easy to regroup after a run or two. All runs on the front side return to the same chair lift. Stay on the front, and you're guaranteed to find your group again if you wait at the bottom of the main run.

We also liked using the cafe and day lodge as a meeting spot and would frequently retreat here for a snack or a cup of coffee. My husband could then head out for a solo run and find us again after we'd warmed up.

Together for a quick photo with my son at the top of the main chair lift


Saturday Afternoon


The beauty of staying on a ski hill is that you aren't committed to following the same plans as every member of your group.We loosely made plans with our friends to meet back at the condo for a late lunch and knew that the kids would likely spend the remainder of the afternoon in the swimming pool. This left plenty of time for the non-supervising adults to get more laps on the ski hill and to check out more advanced runs.

I happily sacrificed a few ski runs for a chance to spend some time soaking sore muscles in the hot tub with my son, and all three kids had fun swimming in the pool. With four adults between us, there was always somebody to hang out with the children and nobody felt like they had to cut their ski day early when the kids got tired of skiing.

Saturday afternoon in our condo's hot tub and swimming pool

The Après-Ski Experience and Resort Entertainment 


My husband was off the ski hill by 3:30 and it seemed like the perfect time to head over to the Stemwinder Bar and Grill to hear the band and grab a drink. I discovered an amazing coffee that must have had four different kinds of alcohol in it and my son liked listening to the live music.

Afternoon entertainment at the Stemwinder Bar and Grill

The bar allowed kids and was a very popular place to be at any time of day. Ski boots were welcome and it was definitely "the place to be" on the hill for some good pub food, a post-ski beer, or even a bowl of soup at lunch (again with a beer of course.)

Our friends' kids never did make it down to the bar, preferring to spend what had to have been two hours in our condo's swimming pool. Again though, the brilliance of staying on hill is that everybody can do what works for their own family. Stay on the ski hill, go back to the room to unwind, hit the swimming pool, or head to the pub to hear the live entertainment. There's something for everybody (and for each member of the family.)

Late afternoon at the hill

Saturday Evening and Dinner on the Town


We split ways with our friends for a couple of hours because we wanted to go downtown to the Platzl for dinner. The platzl is a super cute Bavarian themed plaza with some amazing restaurants. We wanted to eat at the Pedal and Tap, probably my favourite restaurant in all of the Kootenay Rockies.

Our friends wanted to cook dinner at the condo and wanted to spend some time chilling but we were all united again by 7:00 so that the kids could run around and play for a while before bed.

The Pedal and Tap, and the very snowy Kimberley Platzl

And again, because we were staying at the ski hill, we could all choose different ways to spend our evening. Most of us chose not to do anything after dinner but one of our dads wasn't quite done with his ski day yet and headed back out for some night skiing on the lit main run.

Night Skiing at Kimberley Alpine Resort

Other options would have been skating on the village rink, more cross country skiing at the Nordic Club, or more time in the hot tub. And try as we might have to get the kids back outside to do something, they were tired and committed to not moving again till the next morning.

The Village Skating Rink in the evening snow fall

Sunday and the Arrival of Snow-magedon


The resort received over 70 cm of snow in a 72 hour period. Meteorologists called it one of the most significant snowfalls to hit British Columbia in February history and RCR (Resorts of the Canadian Rockies) proclaimed it the "best storm in years."

Snow-magedon hits Kimberley while we were there

I'm usually a big fan of groomed corduroy skiing and had never skied in snow this deep before. It was easily up to my son's knees and he had a big learning curve ahead of him on Sunday. He learned quickly that you did not seek out fresh tracks in the kids' trees when there's just been a fresh dump of powder. (It took my husband an hour to guide him down and they had to spend significant periods of time searching for buried ski poles.)

Heading off into the Kids' Trees for First Tracks Sunday Morning

I attempted to change my ski style but my muscles were shot by the end of my third run. Apparently skiing through fresh powder is quite the leg work out! My son lasted a few runs longer than me while I retreated to the Stemwinder Bar and Grill again for more "spiked coffee." And, apparently I wasn't alone in needing a break from the skiing because the bar was packed!!

Fresh tracks on what was actually a groomed run!

My girlfriend pretty much closed the ski hill down, giddy like a child in a candy store, while her children spent several hours with dad in our condo's swimming pool. (That could be a separate story: Ode to the Beautiful Resort Pool, Salvation for Tired Kids and Sore Muscles.)

No friends (or grooming) on a powder day

As tempting as it was to call in sick and stay for another day, we had to get back to Calgary and chose to leave early afternoon in an effort to beat some of the traffic and bad road conditions we anticipated.

Powder Day at Kimberley Alpine Resort

Where We stayed at Kimberley Alpine Resort


We stayed at the beautiful Mountain Spirit Resort on the Kimberley Alpine Resort property. We had a two bedroom condo with fully equipped kitchen and dining room, king sized beds in each room, a spa-inspired ensuite with large soaker tub in the master bedroom, a second full sized bathroom, electric fireplace in the living room, and TVs in both the living area and bedrooms. We even had in suite laundry!

Honestly we could have stayed here for a week and would have been quite comfortable!

Enjoying breakfast in our condo kitchen

While the condo may have been a bit cozy for 7 people, we didn't really spend a lot of time in it (with all the activities we were  doing on the hill) and the bedrooms were very spacious. Our friends' kids slept on the floor in their bedroom using mattresses and sleeping bags they had brought for them and my son slept on the pull out sofa in the living room.

Large master bedroom in our two bedroom suite

Our condo was located just behind the Trickle Creek Lodge Property where we had stayed our last time at Kimberley and we had views of the skating rink outside our window. It took us less than 2 minutes to walk over to the main chair lift from our front door and we enjoyed our underground parkade (more so with all the fresh snow!!)

The view from our balcony over to Trickle Creek, the Ski hill behind (and the reason we liked our parkade)

Over all we had no complaints about this property and we found it to be very quiet. Trickle Creek had been noisier with a bit more of a "party vibe" to it. The Mountain Spirit Resort was like Trickle Creek's more mature sister for those who want to ski hard and then go to bed early.

Spa Inspired Ensuite Bathroom in the Master Bedroom

More on Kimberley Alpine  Resort


The Town of Kimberley is reached in roughly a 4 hour drive from Calgary via either the Crowsnest Pass and Town of Fernie or via Banff and Radium Hot Springs. We chose to take the Hwy 93 via Radium Hot Springs and found it easier to take half a day off Friday so that we could get an earlier start on the drive. We left Calgary around 1:00pm and arrived at our condo in time for dinner.

You can read more about the Town of Kimberley here and read more about the Kimberley Alpine Resort here.

The chair lift sign that greets you at the top of the main run at the Kimberley Alpine  Resort

You can also read about last year's trip to Kimberley Alpine Resort where we had a more typical experience with bluebird days and groomed corduroy as far as the eye could see. That story is here: Family Guide to Kimberley Alpine Resort. Last year we stayed at Trickle Creek Lodge and information on those accommodations can be found in my family guide story.

Bluebird day at Kimberley Alpine Resort

Finally, read more about the Kootenay Rockies and Area Tourism here on the Destination BC website.

My boys skiing fresh powder at the Kimberley Alpine Resort
 

Other COOL Things to Do while at the Kimberley Alpine Resort


We tried to do it ALL while at the hill but it just wasn't possible. We tried out the nordic ski trails, we spent two days on the hill skiing, we checked out the live entertainment and après ski scene, we definitely enjoyed our condo's pool and hot tub, and we explored the town Platzl. And heck, we even tried both nordic and downhill skiing at night to make sure we took full advantage of our time at the resort.

Making the most of our ski weekend at Kimberley

Other activities that we didn't get to try this year included the chocolate fondue snowshoe tour and the fat biking tour. We really wanted to try the "S'mores fat bike tour" but alas, it snowed too much! (not usually a problem.) We also discovered that they don't have kids' fat bikes (yet.)

To read about snowshoe and fat bike tours, check out the resort's Family Fun Activities Section on their website.

Fat Bike Tours at Kimberley Alpine Resort (photo: Resorts of the Canadian Rockies)


Big Thanks to Resorts of the Canadian Rockies and Tourism Kimberley for partnering to sponsor this family ski vacation.

Disclaimer: While we enjoyed skiing and accommodations at Kimberley Alpine Resort, all words and opinions are my own.


ShareThis