There are 5 Ski Resorts in the BC Rockies:
- Fairmont Hot Springs Ski Resort
- Fernie Alpine Resort
- Kicking Horse Mountain Ski Resort
- Kimberley Alpine Ski Resort
- Panorama Mountain Ski Resort
Kootenay River and Cross River Valleys
The Cross River Canyon Trails are operated by Nipika Mountain Resort in partnership with the Province of BC (BC Ministry of Forest, Lands and Natural Resource Operations). The Cross River Canyon Recreation Site spans across 1500 acres and is designated as a non-motorized/ non-shooting Recreation Site specifically for skiers, snowshoers, cyclists, hikers and runners.
During cross-country ski season, the trails are regularly professionally groomed for both Classic and Skate Skiing. The trails from the resort to the Cross River are novice, intermediate to expert, while the trails across the Natural Bridge on the north side of the Cross River are expert. The South Loops are great beginner terrain.
Nipika is set amid a 100-kilometre scenic trail network built and maintained for cross country skiing and snowshoeing in winter, and mountain biking, hiking and trail running in summer. If you don’t have the gear, Nipika offers a range of rental equipment including cross country skis, poles and boots, snowshoes and poles, and mountain bikes and helmets in summer.
To access the Cross River Canyon Trails, travel east for 20 kms from Radium Hot Springs on Hwy 93 into Kootenay National Park, then turn on to Settlers Road and drive 14 kms to Nipika Mountain Resort. The trailhead is the day lodge at Nipika, which has trail maps available. Map of Cross River Canyon Trails.
Fairmont Hot Springs Resort Ski Hills Area
Fairmont Hot Springs Ski Resort has downhill skiing and snowboarding, with a vertical rise of about 985 feet (300 m), serviced by a T-bar and rope tow. In addition, there are about 12 miles (20 km) of groomed cross-country trails. The resort is located on Hwy 93/95 in the town of Fairmont Hot Springs.
Fairmont Hot Springs Resort is located at the foot of the spectacular Rocky Mountains in the British Columbia Rockies, at the headwaters of the mighty Columbia River. The ski lodge is warm and cozy, the lounge has the best view in the world, the staff are friendly, the atmosphere is great, and best of all, Fairmont skiers and hotel guests get to relax and swim in Canada’s largest hot mineral pools at night after a long day of skiing. Adjacent to the resort, a 2,000 m (6,200 ft) airport welcomes private and charter aircraft up to the Boeing 737.
Fernie Alpine Resort and Fernie/Elkford Area
The craggy cleft of the Lizard Range above Fernie Alpine Resort is often likened to an open catcher’s mitt. The sheer limestone faces tower above the lifts of the ski area, trapping snow-laden storms and making Fernie a must-ski on British Columbia’s powder circuit, along with Whitewater near Nelson and Powder King near Prince George.
On weekends, the parking lot will likely have about three cars bearing Alberta plates for every one from British Columbia, as Fernie is well patronized by skiers from Calgary, a three-and-a-half-hour drive away. These savvy skiers have known about Fernie’s bounty for years – photographers regularly descend after a major snowfall to take those great magazine cover shots.
The ski area rises about 3 miles (5 km) above the town of Fernie; you can see the massive bowls from Main Street. Trails on the lower mountain cut through dense forest. Fifty named runs and countless other secret chutes and gullies drop a total of 2,400 vertical feet (730 m). Experts, intermediates, and novices can all get the chance to ski powder, since all levels of skier can utilize each lift.
Experts can follow North Ridge to the ultra steep Boomerang Ridge, which offers heart-thumping glade skiing. Cedar Bowl is more open and less intimidating. Directly above the base lodge, Stag Leap, Decline, and Sky Dive provide knee-knocking mogul-skiing thrills. Backcountry skiers equipped with avalanche transceivers and other relevant safety equipment can traverse beyond the area boundary into bowls that are scheduled for future lift development. At this time, the runs here are unpatrolled and usually untracked.
For intermediates, the front face of the mountain offers great fall-line skiing on Power Trip and Lower Bear. The upper T-bar accesses several fine open runs to hone your powder-skiing technique. The novice trails near the bottom are vast, uncrowded, and well serviced by two lifts. Meandering runs like Meadow and Bambi won’t strike fear into the hearts of too many skiers.
Fernie itself is more of a rough-and-tumble resource town than a typical ski resort. Apres-ski action can get pretty wild at Buckaroos, especially when the powder hounds start howling. Fernie also features 9 miles (15 km) of groomed and track-set cross-country trails.
Kicking Horse Mountain Resort and the Golden Area
The Kicking Horse Mountain Ski Resort near Golden (formerly the Whitetooth Ski Area) is the first four season mountain resort to be built in the Canadian Rockies in the past 25 years. The resort is ideally situated to produce a sparkling, light and dry snow, aptly named “Champagne Powder”. The varied terrain offers a winter playground for those new to alpine adventure and the perfect opportunity for adrenaline junkies to charge down a 4,000 foot ski out, the second longest in Canada. You’ll get to the top of your run in comfort and style with the Golden Eagle Express walk-in gondola, the first level walk-in gondola to be used in Canada. In summer, mountain bikers can experience Canada’s longest lift access mountain bike descent!
The powder doesn’t come any lighter than at Kicking Horse, and the downhill skiing is complimented by more than 12 miles (17 km) of great cross-country trails.
Kimberley Alpine Ski Resort and the Kimberley/Cranbrook Area
At Kimberley Alpine Ski Resort, you relax on a bench in the Bavarian Platzl, sipping a cold Warsteiner. The accordion player serenades passing pedestrians as the pungent smell of bratwurst and sauerkraut fills your nostrils, its scent mingling with the crisply invigorating mountain air. With Teutonic precision, a Happy Hans figurine emerges from a cuckoo clock and marks the passing of another hour. No, you’re not in a hamlet in the Black Forest, but rather the funky mountain town of Kimberley, about 20 miles (32 km) northwest of Cranbrook on Hwy 95A. Two decades ago, this mining town decided to stake a tourism claim and undertook an ambitious Bavarian-style face lift of its downtown.
Kimberley’s long, sunny, south-facing ridge offers a respectable 2,300-foot (700-m) vertical drop and 67 tree-lined runs and glades. The nearby mountains were once staked for mining claims, a history reflected in the names of the runs.
Experts will head to the Easter triple-chair and hop through the moguls under the lift line. There’s great groomed cruising on Flapper, while powder-hounding tree riders will love Flush. For more adventure, take the Ridgeway traverse to precipitous thrills and spills on Magma, Twist, Maverick, and Vortex. These are the best places to powder ski after a storm. To the skier’s right off the Rosa chair, a galaxy of well-groomed intermediate runs awaits on Telegraph Line, Dreadnought, and Rosa. The nearby Buckhorn chair takes you to sweeping, undulating challenges on Utopia, Stemwinder, and Twilight.
Expert skiers will find double-black diamond steep shots through the trees on Jack the Bear, Quantrell, and White Pine. Novices can enjoy the broad boulevard of fall-line cruising on Main run (reached via the Rosa triple). Kimberley also boasts night skiing/snowboarding on some of the longest illuminated runs in North America. Located about 2.5 miles (4 km) from the centre of town, the resort’s challenging runs and friendly local ambience draw skiers and snowboarders of all abilities.
In addition to the downhill runs, there is also a 16-mile (26-km) network of groomed and track-set cross-country ski trails suited to all ability levels. The trailhead is located directly across from the Kirkwood Inn in Kimberley. A 2-mile (3-km) loop is lit for night skiing. Visit the Cranbrook Visitor Centre for maps and information on the many forest recreation trails suitable for cross-country skiing in the Cranbrook Forest District, including the South Star Cross-Country Trails south of Cranbrook.
Panorama Mountain Village Ski Resort and Invermere Area
In a province of great, relatively unknown ski resorts, no place in British Columbia is as underrated or overlooked as Panorama Mountain Ski Resort. Because of its remote location in the Purcell Mountains, Panorama is more of a mountain retreat. Bed capacity at the resort is 1,500, while the mountain can comfortably handle 7,000 day-skiers.
Panorama has all the trappings of a tremendous destination resort: walk-to-lifts accommodation, high-speed quad chairlifts, and a relatively easy international gateway airport (Calgary, in this instance, about 300 miles/500 km away). There are even several outdoor hot tubs located right at the base of the lifts, in which you can soak your weary bones after a day on the slopes.
Then there’s the mountain itself. With 4,300 vertical feet (1320 m) of skiing, Panorama is one massive piece of work. This is a mountain on which you can really find space to spread out; at the most, only 3,000 skiers and boarders show up on a busy day. The runs provide enough length and steepness to regularly host World Cup downhill races.
Starting from the top, Panorama’s summit is just above tree line, reached via two T-bars. This is Panorama’s Extreme Dream Zone, where expert skiers and snowboarders can plunge down gladed runs blanketed in dry, fluffy powder. In places such as Hopeful Sun Bowl and the bottom of the cliff band on Extreme Dream, the terrain opens up, providing dozens of untracked turns before picking up a cat-track back to the main core of the mountain. Panorama’s terrain flattens considerably on the mountain’s lower flanks, which provide ideal cruising runs on which you’ll seldom encounter another rider. In fact, most of Panorama’s more than 60 trails lean to novice/intermediate runs. All runs lead to a common base area, so there’s little likelihood of getting lost.
Skiers looking to improve their form need go no farther than Panorama’s famous ski school. And there’s great cross-country skiing on a network of 19 miles (30 km) of trails that winds its way through the woods at the base of the mountain. Panorama Ski Resort is located in the Toby Creek Valley, a tributary of the mighty Columbia River, 11 miles (17 km) west of Invermere on Toby Creek Road.
The Wapiti Ski Hill is a family oriented, natural snow ski hill in Elkford (north of Fernie on Highway 43), run completely by volunteers, including the highly trained ski patrol. The “Moose Caboose” T-bar takes skiers up approximately 1,000 vertical feet where a skier can choose from 7 runs as well as other trail systems, ranging from beginner to expert. The season usually opens in late December and runs through early April (snow conditions permitting). A day lodge, ski rental shop and concession are conveniently located on the mountain base. Ski lessons can also be arranged with a qualified instructor. Lighting on the two main runs makes night skiing possible Tuesday through Friday from 7 PM to 9:30 PM. All runs are open for daytime skiing on Saturday and Sunday from 10 am to 4 pm. All children under 6 years of age and all skiers over 60 years of age SKI FREE.
Elkford’s own Snowmobile Association has developed and identified an extensive network of trails enabling riders to explore the Elk Valley. Many of the trails travel throughout large mountain basins, high mountain passes and through beautiful valleys – all providing spectacular riding opportunities. Elkford is fortunate to have access trails that allow riders to leave their home or hotel, stop for gas and then head out of town for a day full of exiting riding!
Cross-country skiers will delight in Elkford’s groomed trails. Beginning downtown, or from the parking lot at the ski hill, the groomed trails follow Boivin Creek 4.5 miles (7 kms) up to the skiers cabin. Here skiers can relax while roasting hot dogs over an open fire. The Elkford Interpretive Cross-Country Trail system has 25 miles (40 km) of cross-country trails. Maps are available at the Elkford Visitor Centre right in town. A good book to consult is Ski Trails in the Canadian Rockies by Scott.