Monday, February 12, 2024

Plan a Cross-Country Ski Getaway to Radium Hot Springs

Looking for a fun affordable winter ski getaway near Calgary? Radium Hot Springs has it ALL going on for a cross-country ski weekend with several different Nordic Centres and trail options nearby for every ability and skill level.

Radium Hot Springs has it ALL going on for cross-country ski getaways (Photo location: Nipika)

The Village of Radium Hot Springs is located in British Columbia, and is a 3-hour drive from Northwest Calgary via Kootenay National Park. It is easily reached Friday night for a short ski weekend or I recommend visiting for a long weekend if you really want to take advantage of the recreation opportunities available.

Below are the different options for skiing in the Columbia Valley with Radium hot Springs as your base camp. And if you scroll to the bottom, you'll find suggestions for accommodations. 

Also, further in this guide, I've provided suggestions for affordable one-night "power getaways" with two days of skiing and only one night of lodging required. (It's amazing how much skiing you can fit in to a short weekend.)

Nipika Mountain Resort is big on views with awesome Nordic ski trails

Skiing at Nipika Mountain Resort

Nipika Mountain Resort is located approximately 30 - 40 minutes north of Radium via Kootenay National Park and Settlers Road. We like to ski here on our drive back to Calgary, or it's a great day trip from Radium if you want to go to the hot springs afterwards.

"Nipika is a cross country skiing 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

Skiing over the Natural Bridge at Nipika Mountain Resort 

And, if you have a dog, this is THE number one place you'll want to ski. The resort is very dog-friendly and well behaved dogs are allowed off leash on all trails.

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, visiting two warming huts along the way, both heated by wood burning stoves.

Note the Confluence bridge was not installed for the 2024 winter season. You can still ski to the river from either side, and cross the river using the Natural Bridge.

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

Novice skiers will appreciate the easier south trails where the views are no less stunning. I like to ski the perimeter loop on this side for the viewpoints over the rivers. You'll also pass by one warming hut on this side which is a great place to have a snack or lunch break.

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 won't find beautiful ski trails like this too often!

Want to stay overnight? There are nine classic log cabins that sleep 4-13 people.  Guests also have access to a skating rink and sledding hill on site and receive complimentary trail fees.

Visit the Nipika website for trail conditions or follow them on social media for updates (You'll find them on both Facebook and Instagram.) - and they answer messages regularly if you're looking for overnight conditions.

Nipika has 9 cabins on site for ski getaways

Skiing at the Panorama Nordic Centre

Panorama Mountain Resort is a 30 minute drive from Radium via Invermere. You'll find parking outside the Nordic Centre at the Greywolf 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.

And if you are visiting Panorama with a mixed group, you can access the Nordic ski trails from the main base area as well. The multi-use Valley Trail is groomed and trackset, and it starts from near the Toby Chair (Look for the big blue sign visible from the parking lot outside the Approach Hotel.)

The Valley Trail takes you from the main resort ski area to the Nordic Centre

Skiing under the Toby Chair to the Nordic Centre

"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

Starting from the golf course we like to ski up to the Hale Hut and back, an intermediate ski which visits two warming huts in approx. 7 km round trip. The Hale Hut is sometimes heated by a propane stove and makes for a great lunch spot. On warm days I like to eat outside on the beautiful covered deck.

Make sure you ask if the stove will be turned on at the Hale Hut before you start skiing on extremely cold days. I had to turn back once when I found out that the stove was broken on a -30 day. (On warm days it's not a big deal and you can still eat inside out of the wind.)

If you want to go further, ski the full Placer/Great Scott Trail out and back for approximately 18 km total distance.

The Hale Hut is a great place to warm up on cold days!

The Pentagon Hut is not heated, but offers a dry place to have lunch out of the wind

The trails are groomed daily and are great for both classic and skate skiing. Dogs are also allowed on all trails at Panorama, but you'll need to purchase a special $5 pooch pass if you want to ski with your pup.

Read the Dog use rules here if you plan to visit. 

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.)

Ski trails do NOT allow foot or bike traffic and are for skiing only. Fortunately the multi use trails visit both huts, so you can meet up with non-skiers in your group at the huts.

There is a large multi-use trail network. Ski Trails do not allow foot traffic

Perfect grooming at Panorama 

Note that the ski trails at Panorama are not overly "novice-friendly" (in my opinion.) There is a large hill from the Nordic Centre that you'll have to ski down to reach the river, and then climb back up at the end. There's also a long climb involved to reach the Hale Hut.

This trail system is fabulous for intermediate skiers, but true beginners may want to try Nipika or try skiing on one of the Whiteways mentioned below.

Check the Nordic Pulse website for trail conditions.

And if you're looking for accommodations right at Panorama, check out the Approach Hotel which is conveniently located at the base area of the resort for both downhill or cross-country skiing. It's the perfect ski in/ski out basecamp.

Most trails at Panorama are quite hilly and best suited for intermediate skiers

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

Invermere is a short 15 minute drive south of Radium, 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 short 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. 

Easy skiing on the Junior Johnson Loop outside Invermere

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.

Check for conditions on the Nordic Pulse website.

I also like to check for updates on the Toby Creek Nordic Ski Club Facebook page before heading out here because the Columbia Valley often has warm spells in the winter, forcing the 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 too warm to safely ski on a lake.

Easy family skiing on the Lake Lillian Whiteway

Skiing on the Lake Windermere Whiteway, Invermere

The Toby Creek Nordic Club also grooms and track sets a large loop around Lake Windermere. 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 on either Whiteway.

"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. Access to the lake is either from Kinsman Beach in Invermere or from the public beach in Windermere.

Check for conditions on the Nordic Pulse website. And as mentioned above with Lake Lillian, check the Toby Creek Nordic social media accounts too for updates because warm weather can close Lake Windermere too.

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

Recommended Accommodations in Radium Hot Springs

On my recent trip to Radium Hot Springs, we stayed at the Prestige Radium Hot Springs Resort. We had a one bedroom suite with king bed in the main room, jetted tub, and a separate bedroom/living room with a pull out sofa.

We loved our suite with the extra space we got to enjoy as a family. My husband and I watched cheesy sitcoms on the TV from our bed while our son hid out in his own room playing games on his I-pad. (Win win for all.)

One bedroom suite at the Prestige Resort in Radium Hot Springs

And our son definitely wanted to try out the jetted tub, so he put on his swim suit and settled in for a taste of the luxury lifestyle he'll never know at home where he has to make do with a shower.

Aside from our very comfortable room, we enjoyed the location of the Prestige Resort on the main street of the village. We were able to walk to restaurants and coffee shops without having to drive anywhere, and the quiet streets are lovely for a walk around town looking for wild turkeys and the sheep herd.

Our suite at the Prestige had a separate bedroom / living room with pull out sofa

Amenities at the Prestige include:

  • A selection of rooms starting with simple two bed hotel style rooms all the way up to kitchenette suites or family and executive suites with a separate bedroom

  • There is a mini fridge in each room

  • Select dog-friendly rooms

  • A large swimming pool and hot tub

  • A fitness centre for guests over the age of 19

  • Elevation Massage and Spa on site

  • A business centre with a computer and printer (and there is free WiFi at the hotel)

  • Seasonal sports equipment and board games free to borrow

  • Conrad Kain's Kitchen and Grill Restaurant on site open 7 days a week from 7:30am - 11:00pm 

  • The Don Agave adults-only Cantina is also located on site featuring Mexican food and drinks - and last time I ate here, we were able to order food from the Cantina menu in the family restaurant.

Swimming pool and  hot tub in the Prestige Resort for unwinding after a day of skiing

One-Night Power Getaways to Radium Hot Springs 

This has seriously become one of my family's favourite things to do each winter.

We drive to Radium on Saturday, stopping to ski on the way, we stay overnight in an affordable motel or hotel in town (Expedia is great for finding a good deal,) and then we spend Sunday skiing before driving home.

We try to keep things affordable, and so I pack lunch for Saturday, and we also bring a small cooler with us so that we can have breakfast in our hotel room Sunday. We sometimes pre-make sandwiches for Sunday as well, and bring lots of snack items, so the only meal we have to purchase is dinner Saturday night.

For the skiing, we like to drive out via Yoho National Park so we can ski at Emerald Lake. Then we drive to Radium via Golden. It adds a bit of distance, but it's a great way to spend a day skiing the trails in Yoho without the 4+ hour round trip drive from Calgary.

Gorgeous Emerald Lake in Yoho National Park

Then on Sunday we usually ski at Nipika on our way back to Calgary, making a loop with Kootenay National Park.

And we definitely fit a trip to the hot springs in there somewhere (usually after we arrive Saturday.)

Without Yoho, you could also ski Nipika on Saturday, and then ski at Panorama on Sunday before returning home. There are so many options for a short one-night trip with two ski days.

The Confluence Bridge at Nipika is always fun to ski across

Read more about Winter Adventures in the Columbia Valley

Winter is a magical place to explore in the Columbia Valley

Disclaimer: We were hosted at the Prestige Resort on our recent trip to Radium Hot Springs. As always, all words and opinions are my own along with all photography used in this story.

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