A venerable powder port in a winter storm-swamped sea of Canadian peaks, Nelson, British Columbia is the kind of high-country holy land in which near penniless ski bums pray they’ll be able to find very, very part-time winter work.
There are a number of explanations—19 of them, in fact—as to why this town of 10,000 made Powder Magazine’s “20 Best Places To Live To Ski” list at the start of the 2010/2011season.
Within an easy morning’s drive, two hours tops (or 20 scant minutes if you want to hop the continent’s biggest new triple—Whitewater Winter Resort’s Glory Chair) there are three resorts, seven cat skiing operations, three heli ski companies, six backcountry lodges and more touring than you’ll ever shred in a season, from lift-access slack country to multi-day adventures amidst the epic enormity of the Selkirk, Purcell or Bonnington ranges.
Whitewater, Nelson’s hometown hill, has been off-the-radar until the last few years. This season it’ll likely be off-the-charts. The Glory Chair will boost Whitewater’s vertical to over 2,000 feet, open 749 acres of new terrain and double the resort’s size.
Nelson’s après and off-day amenities are as much a draw as the mountains themselves. Voted one of North America’s best little arts towns a decade ago, the city offers inordinately diverse cultural samplings, culinary experiences and accommodation.
There‘s live music, hipster night clubs, great pubs and abundant grub, be it dirtbag dining or award-winning wine lists and paired fare. The accommodation situation starts with discount motel and traveler-savvy hostel haunts and tops out with lakeside view suites, boutique hotel rooms and splashy hot spring resort stays. Almost ideally isolated, Nelson is located three hours driving time north of Spokane, Washington, seven hours from either Calgary or Vancouver and is serviced by the West Kootenay Regional Airport, in nearby Castlegar, with dailies from Vancouver and Calgary.