Monday, January 24, 2022

Hot Springs and Cross-Country Skiing - The Ultimate Winter Getaway

We love visiting Fairmont Hot Springs Resort for what we call "48 hours in Mexico!" It doesn't matter what the weather is doing outside because once you step into the therapeutic hot spring pools, you can close your eyes and pretend to be anywhere you'd like to be (with no flights or jetlag!)

Recently we hopped over to British Columbia for a combined wellness escape + ski getaway weekend. We spent our days skiing and our afternoons/evenings relaxing in the hot pools. It was pure perfection!

Cross country skiing near Fairmont Hot Springs 
"48 hours in Mexico" at Fairmont Hot Springs

Staying at the Fairmont Hot Springs Resort 


Fairmont Hot Springs is located in the Columbia Valley of British Columbia between the communities of Radium Hot Springs and Invermere to the north, and the City of Kimberley to the south. From Calgary, the drive is just over 3 hours depending on where you live. It's easy enough to reach Fairmont on a Friday after work, and the drive is doable for a short weekend, returning to the city Sunday afternoon.

There are many hotels and resorts around the Columbia Valley, and we've stayed at other properties in the Fairmont area, but if you want to use the hot springs, you need to stay at the actual Fairmont Hot Springs Resort property. 

Pre-pandemic, you could visit the hot springs as a day user, but these days the pools are only open to resort guests. The good news: it means the pools are usually very quiet and never crowded! (I actually enjoy them a lot more when it's guests only.)

Guests staying at the resort get unlimited access to the hot pools and children will love the warm swimming pool located beside the large hot pool. The pools are a short walk from the main lodge building and you'll be given warm plush bath robes for the run over.

Guests not wanting to run over to the large pools will also find a smaller hot pool just outside the building (connected by a warm tunnel.)

Note for 2022, proof of vaccination is required for anybody over the age of 12 in order to stay at the resort or use the hot spring pools.

Magical Fairmont Hot Springs

Running over from the lodge to the hot springs

Lodging Choices at the Fairmont Hot Springs Resort 


We personally love staying in the Mountain View Cabins for a winter glamping experience (though I'm not sure you can really compare it to camping when you have a full kitchen with microwave.) The cabins are very close to the hot pools and I appreciate the privacy you get when you're away from the main lodge. (No neighbors, nobody running down the hallways...)

I also like having two separate bedrooms in the cabins so that you can put the kids to bed earlier in their own room. The kids' room also has bunk beds which is fun!

The cabins are on the pricier side, but you get a fully equipped kitchen so you can save money by not having to eat out as much. If you plan to eat at the resort restaurants most of the time, consider staying in one of the lodge rooms where you'll be able to stay inside without having to walk between your cabin and the main building.

If you want to do a combination of eating out (I always like to eat dinner at the Bear's Paw Bar and Grill) and eating in your room, consider getting a lodge room with a kitchenette. That way you can make simple breakfasts in your room and you'll have a fridge to store lunch and snack items. 

You can view all lodging options here on the FHSR website. 

Mountain View Cabins at Fairmont Hot Springs Resort 

An inside look at one of the Mountain View Cabins 

Where to Cross-country Ski near the Fairmont Hot Springs Resort


There are several options for skiers of all abilities near the resort, and renting equipment is easy if you visit one of the Nordic Centres. 

From south to north, below are the following options for skiing: 

Skiing at the Kimberley Nordic Club 


Kimberley is approximately an hour south of Fairmont and it's a great place to go early or late season when there's not a lot of snow in the Columbia Valley. There are trails for all abilities and we really liked the easy single track trails that were very beginner-friendly. This would be one of your best choices for skate skiing in the Columbia Valley as well.

We had great fun this winter exploring the trails in Kimberley!
"Kimberley is a first class facility consisting of a variety of snowcat groomed trails complete with primary trails that allow skate and classic skiing. There are also narrower single track trails ideal for classic skiers who are looking for more solitude. These trails are of varying degrees of difficulty and length to accommodate all levels of nordic skiers. 
The modern facility includes a comfortable lodge with washrooms, 30 km of groomed double track trails, a 3.3 kilometre lit loop for night skiing, a 1.0 km lit sprint loop and 6.5 km of single track trails. The facility also has some trails specifically constructed to be Paralympic skiing friendly." - Kimberley Nordic Club 

 

There are trail fees in effect to ski at the Kimberley Nordic Club but you can pay when you arrive to ski. You can also rent skis if you need for the day.

We enjoyed a snow globe kind of day when we visited Kimberley to ski


Skiing at the Panorama Nordic Centre


Panorama Mountain Resort is a 40 minute drive from Fairmont and you'll find parking outside the Nordic Centre at the Grey Wolf Golf Course. Inside the clubhouse you can pay your trail fees, get a map, and stock up on anything you might need from new gloves to ski wax. You can also rent skis and equipment.

Skiing to the Hale Hut at Panorama Mountain Resort

Starting from the golf course we like to ski up to the Hale Hut and back, an intermediate ski which visits two huts in approx. 7 km round trip. The Hale Hut is heated and makes for a great lunch spot. If you want to go further, we skied the full Placer/Great Scott Trail out and back for 17-18 km total distance.

"The Panorama Nordic Centre at Greywolf offers more than 20+ km of regularly groomed trails dedicated to cross-country skiing. Through forest and alongside Toby Creek, the cross-country specific trails provide an uncrowded experience in spectacular mountain scenery." - Panorama Nordic Centre

 

Skiing along Toby Creek at the Panorama Nordic Centre

The trails are groomed daily and are great for both classic and skate skiing. Dogs are also allowed on some of the trails but you'll need to purchase a special $5 pooch pass if you want to ski with your pup. (Honestly if you have a dog though, you'll want to go to Nipika to ski - keep reading below.)

There are also separate trails for hiking and fat biking (with fat bike and snowshoe rentals on site if you have non skiers with you.)

Perfect grooming at Panorama 

You don't see perfect fresh grooming like this every day!


Skiing on the Lake Lillian Whiteway and Junior Johnson Trail, Invermere


Invermere is 20 minutes from Fairmont Hot Springs and there are a few options for skiing here.

The Toby Creek Nordic Club grooms and track sets several trails around the Columbia Valley including a loop on Lake Lillian outside Invermere and a loop on the Junior Johnson, a double track beginner mountain bike trail across the road from the lake.

Each loop is approximately 3 km in distance and you can ski both from the same parking lot. The Lake Lillian loop is 100% flat and great for novice skiers. The Junior Johnson Trail has a few easy hills as the trail winds its way through the forest. 

The Junior Johnson loop is groomed and trackset for cross country skiing, and there is also a groomed loop for fat biking and hiking (without tracks.) We skied both loops when we were there for a total of about 5 km. 

Users are requested to pay a $5 day use fee payable online here or in the cash box on the welcome sign.

There are no rentals available so bring your own equipment.

Note: Always check the current trail report before heading out here because the Columbia Valley often has warm spells in the winter, forcing the ski club to close access to the lake loop due to unsafe conditions. The Junior Johnson is also only groomed and trackset when there is enough snow.

The Panorama Nordic Centre is the place to ski when it's been to warm to safely ski on a lake.

Easy skiing on the Junior Johnson Loop outside Invermere

Easy family skiing on the Lake Lillian Whiteway

Skiing on the Lake Windermere Whiteway, Invermere


The Toby Creek Nordic Club grooms and track sets a large loop around Lake Windermere as well. It's another easy option for beginner skiers and the loop is 100% flat. The same trail fees apply as above, $5 per day, and dogs are allowed to join you while you ski. 

"In 2014 the Lake Windermere Whiteway was named the world’s longest skating trail by Guinness World Records. At over 30km in length, this multi-use trail offers ice-skating as well as groomed skate and classic cross-country ski trails.
The Whiteway provides winter sports enthusiasts an incredible facility, adding to the already abundant list of winter activities available in the stunning Columbia Valley. It offers 2 access points: one at Kinsmen beach in Invermere and one at Windermere Beach." - Toby Creek Nordic Club

I've personally never skied on this lake but I've ice skated the loop many times. 

Note As of January 2022, there is no skiing on Lake Windermere as the ice didn't form well this season and it's been too warm to safely ski on the lake.  Visit the Toby Creek Nordic Centre's Facebook page for updates. Things change quickly so hopefully there will be skiing on the lake soon.


The Lake Windermere Whiteway offers ice skating and cross-country skiing in winter


Skiing at Nipika Mountain Resort


Nipika Mountain Resort is an hour north of Fairmont and we like to ski here on our drive back to Calgary. If you have a dog, this is THE number one place you'll want to ski. The resort is very dog-friendly and they are allowed off leash on the trails.

And if you don't have a dog, you'll still LOVE skiing here. Nipika is one of the best Nordic Centres we've skied at, and the trails are incredibly beautiful. We love skiing the north trails to the Natural Bridge, over to the Confluence Bridge, and back in a 12 km loop.

Skiing over the Natural Bridge at Nipika Mountain Resort 

"Nipika Mountain Resort is a cross country ski mecca with 50km of groomed trails. They are professionally groomed on a regular basis for both classic and skate skiing. The terrain ranges from beginner to expert and flows through treed areas, open spaces with mountain views, and alongside the Kootenay and Cross Rivers." - Nipika Mountain Resort

Trail fees apply to ski here and you can pay them when you arrive inside the main lodge. You can also rent skis, fat bikes, or snowshoes - and the resort maintains an extensive trail system with separate trails for all user groups. (And their fat bike trails are amazing if you want to try a new sport.)

You'll also find three warming huts on the trail system which are very appreciated on cold days! 

One of the warming huts at Nipika where you can start a fire and have lunch or snacks

The Confluence Bridge at the Kootenay and Cross Rivers

Skiing along the Cross River at Nipika Mountain Resort


Read more about Winter Adventures in the Columbia Valley





Disclaimer: Our recent stay at Fairmont Hot Springs Resort was hosted by the resort. As always, all words and opinions are my own. 






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