Monday, November 19, 2018

Winter Guide to the Columbia Valley (Golden, Radium Hot Springs, Invermere - and beyond!)

For those of us living in Calgary, it is a 3 hour drive to reach either the Village of Radium Hot Springs or the Town of Golden (both, fabulous destinations for a winter getaway and fairly easy to access Friday after work.)

Skating on the world's longest ice skating path, Invermere

Without much extra distance you can also reach the Community of Invermere, Panorama Mountain Resort, or the resort community of Fairmont Hot Springs.

Drive an hour further south and you'll be in the small Bavarian themed City of Kimberley, an ideal destination for a long weekend or school holiday.

I've organized this guide by town, community, or resort area starting in the north and working my way south through the Columbia Valley.

Note this guide gets updated annually.

Fat biking at Nipika Mountain Resort

The Town of Golden 

Below are some of the key winter adventures you can find for your family in the Town of Golden:

  • Spend the day downhill skiing or boarding at Kicking Horse Mountain Resort (and if you time your visit right, you can watch some of the World Free Ride events in February.)

Skiing at Kicking Horse Mountain Resort

  • Enjoy cross-country skiing at Dawn Mountain Nordic Centre (with 35 km groomed for classic and skate skiing) - and the centre is located less than a kilometre from the base of Kicking Horse.

Cross country skiing at Dawn Mountain Nordic Centre

Dog sledding in Golden (photo: Julie Brown and Golden Dog Sled Adventures)

For more information read my newest story on Golden:

 Read: 5 Reasons to Visit Golden, BC this Winter

Wapta Falls outside Golden 

The Village of Radium Hot Springs 

We spend a few nights here every year for New Years and frequently come out for the Family Day long weekend in February as well.

Winter activities I recommend are below:

Radius Retreat Winter Yurt Camping 

  • Try winter yurt camping at Radius Retreat. They have six yurts (the closest one is a 300 metre walk from the parking lot and the most remote one is a 2.5 km hike.)

  • Take a day trip to Nipika Mountain Resort, Invermere, Panorama Mountain Resort, or Fairmont Hot Springs.

    The beauty of staying in Radium Hot Springs is that you're at the centre of everything. You could even go skiing in Kimberley or Golden for the day.

    Use Radium as your base camp for adventure across the entire Columbia Valley.

For more information, visit the Tourism Radium Hot Springs website.

And check out my guide: Active Family Guide to Winter in Radium Hot Springs

And for a cross-country ski getaway to Radium, read: Plan a Cross-Country Ski Getaway to Radium Hot Springs

Winter at Radium Hot Springs (photo: Tourism Radium Hot Springs)

Nipika Mountain Resort 

Nipika Mountain Resort is an eco-resort is located approximately 45 minutes outside Radium Hot Springs. Here you'll find over 50 km of groomed ski trails and 25 km of dedicated fat bike trails (groomed to perfection) along with snowshoe trails as well.

Fat biking at Nipika Mountain Resort

Stay overnight and you can ski, snowshoe, or bike out the front door of your own cozy cabin. There's even a small pond on site for ice skating.

You can also visit Nipika as a short excursion from Radium Hot Springs, using all their trails for a small day use fee. There is a great rental shop on site as well and they have two youth fat bikes (a 20" bike and a 24" bike.)

Ski in/out cabins at Nipika Mountain Resort

Visiting Nipika is always one of our winter highlights, and there's no other place I like fat biking more.

Read more: Family Fat Biking at Nipika Mountain Resort

Read more: Everything for a Family to Love at Nipika Mountain Resort 

Read more: The Ultimate Girls' Ski Getaway at Nipika Mountain Resort 

Skiing over the natural bridge at Nipika Mountain Resort 

The Community of Invermere

Winter Adventure on the Lake Windermere Whiteway

The biggest highlight here is skating on the Lake Windermere Whiteway between the towns of Invermere and Windermere on the world’s longest ice-skating path. The full track is 34 km long when the lake is fully frozen, and the Whiteway promotes community spirit as the entire valley gathers in the same location to skate or ski around the lake, with dedicated paths for both cross-country skiing and ice skating.

Skating on the Lake Windermere Whiteway

Local cyclists also like riding around the lake on fat bikes with studded tires, and the snowmobile community is out in force as well, using the middle of the lake as their recreational ground.

A $5 donation fee is requested from all Whiteway users (or a seasons pass can be purchased for locals) to support the efforts of the Toby Creek Nordic Ski Club who maintains the Whiteway.

This is a major highlight for us on every visit to the valley in winter and I have dreams of skating the entire path in a day. (some year...)

And you can watch a fabulous video of the experience here on the Columbia Valley website.

For up to date conditions on the Whiteway, visit the Toby Creek Nordic Ski Club website or check out their Facebook page.

Sunset on the Lake Windermere Whiteway

Skating and Skiing on the Lake Lillian Whiteway

Most people will be completely satisfied with the Lake Windermere Whiteway, but if you want a smaller lake to skate or ski on, Lake Lillian also gets groomed and tracked for skiing (and sometimes for ice-skating) by the Toby Creek Nordic Ski Club. It's located on the road up to Panorama and is only 10 minutes outside town.

More information on Lake Lillian can be found on the Toby Creek Nordic Ski Club site.

There are also groomed trails for cross-country skiing, fat biking, or winter hiking (separate trails for skiing Vs. multi use enjoyment) across the road from Lake Lillian on the Junior Johnson Trail. If you were to ski every groomed trail in the Junior Johnson network, it would be about 5 km of beginner/intermediate skiing.

Note that as with the Lake Windermere Whiteway, a $5 donation is requested per user for use of the Lake Lillian Whiteway.

And while we always stay in Radium Hot Springs, you'll find plenty of condos to rent in Invermere as well if you'd prefer to be closer to the Whiteways or to Panorama Mountain Resort (below)

Skiing on the Lake Lillian Whiteway 

Panorama Mountain Resort

I love ski or hike in/out locations, and this is a prime contender for one of the best spots to enjoy a variety of winter sports without ever having to drive anywhere. Walk out the door of your cozy condo in the Panorama Village and enjoy downhill skiing, cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, or fat biking – with rentals for all sports on site. With the amount of options here, you might just have to stay for a week!

First tracks at Panorama Mountain Resort

Panorama Mountain Resort is a short 20 minute drive if you are staying in Invermere as well and we usually visit this resort as a day trip from Radium to go cross country skiing over New Years.

Rent a condo in the village and you'll enjoy relaxing at the end of each day in the Panorama Springs Hot Pools, included with all stays in the Panorama Village.

Panorama Springs Hot Pools 

Read more: Plan a Ski Getaway to Panorama Mountain Resort (with affordable slopeside lodging at the Approach Hotel)

Read more: Family Guide to Panorama Mountain Resort 

Read more: Find it ALL at Panorama Mountain Resort

Read more: Panorama Mountain Resort (much more than downhill skiing) - Cross-country skiing and fat biking guide

Read more: Magic Carpet to Monster at Panorama Mountain Resort 

Cross-country skiing to the Hale Hut, Panorama Mountain Resort

Fairmont Hot Springs

We love the pools at the Fairmont Hot Springs Resort. I like to soak in the hot pool while my boys swim and play around in the warm pool (situated side by side so I can keep an eye on them while I’m relaxing.) 

Fairmont Hot Springs in winter (photo: Fairmont Hot Springs Resort)

Spend the day skiing at the Fairmont Hot Springs Ski Hill and you'll receive day passes to visit the hot springs after as well. (Inquire directly with the resort to check on current availability of ski/soak passes.) 

Finally, Fairmont Hot Springs is a lovely family-friendly resort and I highly recommend spending a weekend here at the lodge.

Read more:  Five Reasons you need to Visit Fairmont Hot Springs Resort with your Family

Read more: Hot Springs and Cross-country Skiing! The Ultimate Winter Getaway 

Fairmont Hot Springs Ski Hill (photo: Fairmont Hot Springs Resort)

Looking for other activities to do in the area:

  • Hike to Findlay Falls near the Village of Canal Flats - A high clearance AWD or 4WD vehicle may be needed if it's recently snowed. You'll also want snowshoes if the trail hasn't been packed down.

  • Visit Lussier Hot Springs, natural hot spring pools located near Canal Flats. They are accessed via a rough logging road followed by a short hike. - You may want an AWD or 4WD vehicle in the winter and snow tires would be very helpful.

  • Explore the Spirit Trail, an old historic road that connects Fairmont with Canal Flats. Hike as far as you want and return the same way. Snowshoes may be necessary but chances are you should be fine in winter boots for this trail.

  • Take a walk on the new Markin MacPhail Westside Legacy Trail which will connect Invermere and Fairmont when completed. The first 5 segments have been completed from the Invermere side and you'll find the trail off Westside Road. 

Findlay Falls Hike 


Kimberley is one of my favourite mountain towns with a quaint Bavarian themed plaza located downtown.

Below are a few highlights from a winter trip to Kimberley:

  • Go cross-country skiing or snowshoeing in the Kimberley Nature Park, a large natural area located completely inside city limits and containing more than 30 miles of trails for skiing, hiking, or snowshoeing.

    It's also the largest municipal park in all of BC.

  • Spend the day downhill skiing at the Kimberley Alpine Resort. And I highly recommend staying at one of the ski in/ski out condos on the property where you'll be close to both the alpine resort and the Nordic centre up above.

Kimberley Alpine Resort

  • Go cross-country skiing at the Kimberley Nordic Centre, just up the road from the Alpine Resort. The Nordic Centre has 30 km of groomed trails and the Kimberley Nature Park is also accessible from this centre for backcountry touring or snowshoeing.

    You'll also find night skiing on a 3 km loop (which I found to be awesome while I was staying at the Alpine Resort down the road.)

    Note that there are trail fees to ski at the Nordic Centre.

  • Join a fat bike or snowshoe tour at the Kimberley Alpine Resort. The Trickle Creek Snowshoe Tour is family-friendly and you'll enjoy a hot drink and s'mores on your outing. There's also a Kootenay Haus Chocolate Fondue and Snowshoe Tour where you'll ride up the chairlift for a gentle snowshoe tour up top followed by chocolate fondue.

    Adults can join a fat bike tour across the snowy Trickle Creek Golf Course with a hot drink and s'mores. (The resort has fat bikes to rent, but unfortunately only for adults.)

  • Plan at least one dinner in the downtown Platzl. My personal favourite restaurant is the Pedal and Tap where I’m obsessed with their Vietnamese pulled pork subs with mucked-up fries. My son is a huge fan of their spaghetti balls and I have been known to plan ski trips to Kimberley around our family’s love of this restaurant.

    Tip: Dine early because I’m not the only one who loves this restaurant, and the dining room is small.
Snowshoeing through the Kimberley Nature Park (photo: Kimberley Tourism)

Read: Family Guide to Kimberley Alpine Resort

Read: The Ultimate Family Ski Weekend at Kimberley Alpine Resort 

Winter in the Platzl downtown Kimberley 

Planning to return in Summer? Check out the summer edition of this story:

Read: The Best of the Columbia Valley (Radium Hot Springs to Invermere - and beyond) 


  1. I really need to get back to Kimberly. I only seem to visit there in summer, but want to change that!

    1. It's so magical in winter and the ski hill is very family-friendly. We are the opposite from you and never seem to get there in summer. We really need to go check out the bike trails.

  2. We miss Kimberley's Bavarian theme (and have visited less since it has diminished in this wonderful city). But, thanks for the wonderful article and your efforts to write it!! Wonderful reading :).

    1. The platzl still has a strong Bavarian theme. At least it did the last time I visited. Perhaps less so than when I was a child though.