Poutine For Christmas – WildSnow @ Best Ski Town In North America


This post by WildSnow.com blogger  
Poutine for Christmas, nothing else was needed for Louie and Hayden. Lou isn't sure.

Poutine for Christmas, nothing else was needed for Louie and Hayden. Lou isn't sure.

Whip me for my transgression, but until today I’d never skied out of Nelson, British Columbia. Of course I’d heard about the place. Sled access via endless logging and mining roads access. Huts and lodges all over the place. Whitewater ski “resort,” fortunately not really a resort, just a super core place with so much sidecountry and backcountry you’d think you were in Verbier, or Chamonix, or heaven — only this place gets tons of snow nearly any season (to be fair, heaven gets snow too, but access can be problematic).

BackcountrySkiingCanada.com is doing a terrific job of providing Canadian ski touring information. I like their business model of combining website with pamphlet type guidebooks.

BackcountrySkiingCanada.com is doing a terrific job of providing Canadian ski touring information. I like their business model of combining website with pamphlet type guidebooks. Photo above is from their 'West Kootenay Touring Guide,' as pictured in the inset. The red arrows and labels are mine, showing our two big drops from Scob's Knob (ho hum for the locals, but epic for snow deprived Coloradians). I'm looking forward to how these books progress in quality once they gain a good sales volume. The route photos are good, but it would be fun to have more photos run larger so they could zero in tighter on terrain features. The books are supported at least in part by advertising. Locals might find that tiresome, but for tourists like us the ads give a nice glimpse of local retail culture, as well as a handy resource for contact info. To that end, another suggestion would be that they include a list of all their advertisers (with websites and phone numbers) in the book's directory section. As it is, the Directory does include an excellent listing of guide services and huts -- perfect for outsider trip planning.

Today we headed up to Whitewater, where Cameron Shute of G3 showed us around. We did a tour involving Five Mile Basin, essentially one drainage over from the resort. The event began with a lift ride and short tour to a ridge point they call Acidophilus. After a few jokes about digestive supplements, we dropped a few hundred vert then re-skinned and climbed about 2,000 vertical feet to Scob’s Knob. As shown in the photo above, we skied back down into Five Mile then climbed out again and skied large terrain down to the resort base. That’s where the Poutine occurred.

Terrain above Whitewater, all is skied.

Terrain above Whitewater, all is skied. These mountains are perfectly sized for creating day tours.

Sign at the resort boundary. Refreshingly mellow compared to the stupid skulls, crossbones and assorted other goofy stuff you see at some other resorts.

Sign at the resort boundary. Refreshingly mellow compared to the stupid skulls, crossbones and assorted other goofy stuff you see at some other resorts.

Every inch of the climb had us salivating over totally untracked “heli ski” terrain we were climbing through. Avalanche danger was just about zero. The track wound up through a few shelves and a couple of steep sections, dancing in widely spaced forests of elegant larch trees. Snow quality wasn’t cold smoke like we’d had at Valhalla Touring’s lodge, but a stiffer variety of nieve that required a bit more care with finding the sweet spot (I’d almost forgotten how to do that after our powder festival up at Valhalla, but figured it out pretty quick).

Heading up through the perfectly spaced forest, Whitewater region.

Heading up through the perfectly spaced forest, Whitewater region.

Mountain alder at Whitewater backcountry, Nelson.

Mountain alder at Whitewater backcountry, Nelson.

Louie gets essential phone number from Cam for setting up our satphone. No cell coverage up at Whitewater.

Louie gets essential phone number from Cam for setting up our satphone. No cell coverage up at Whitewater.

Exit from the resort, getting set for first drop.

Exit from the resort, getting set for first drop.

Our crew literally shralped (ergo, gang skied) the “heli line,” then re-skinned another thousand vert or so to nip over a ridge and sideslip through a tight clump of ghost trees. After that, we got a rather large chunk of terrain known as Scob’s Knob that dropped us directly to the “resort” bar. I couldn’t believe it, but on one pitch in a gully on Scob’s I was doing the much vaunted activity of “sluff management.” TGR? Is that you calling?

Can it get any better than that? No wonder Nelson just won Powder Magazine’s Ski Town Throwdown. Yeah, Powder Magazine isn’t WildSnow.com so take what they say with a grain of salt. But you have to admit this place is sweet and the folks at Powder know what they’re talking about.

From the Powder Article “It validates why most of us have given up the big careers and the paychecks that went with them, to live in this hard to get to place (Nelson area), where nearly 40 percent of the population has a ski pass hanging from their jacket,” says Anne Pigeon, the general manager of indoor operations and marketing at Whitewater.”

Lisa and yours truly. The squint is from the flash, most assuredly I'm not sleeping.

Lisa and yours truly. The squint is from the flash, most assuredly I'm not sleeping. Though sleep is coming rather easily on this trip, and that's not due to the Harvest Moon ale.

One thing hilarious about this trip is the powder greed we Colorado folk have been experiencing — especially myself. Normally, we put more energy into doing action photos during our descents. But since we’ve been here it seems we get to the top of some epic terrain feature, think for a moment about setting up some great shots, then totally blow it off and shralp the thing. Oh well, the beauty of it is you can go there too and do the same thing. Head over to backcountryskiingcanada.com and get a guidebook. Then figure out some travel plans. If you’re in lower 48, best way to get here is probably just drive. The nearest hub airport is Spokane, three hours away by car. Locals tell me that driving is the way to go, as the Nelson airport tends to cancel commuter flights due to the constant storms and such.Ilovenelson.com appears to be a resource for accommodations and such.

Lisa climbing up out of Five Mile

Lisa climbing up out of Five Mile. Michael Kennedy photo.

Some guy wearing a hemp cape handed this to me on the street. From around 2003, how they used to roll around here on skinny skis.

Some guy wearing a hemp cape and huge beard handed this to me on the street. Filmed at Whitewater around 2003, how they used to roll around here on skinny skis. I barely remember this flick from back then, a blast to refresh and amazing to see how the sport has progressed in just one decade. Worth a view just for that, but also the less pretentious nature of an early ski film.

Oh, and by the way, Sweetgrass Productions is up here living and filming. Interesting how they always end up in the best places. Smart, I guess. Below is the trailer for their new Kootenay based film due out next fall.

Comments

16 Responses to “Poutine For Christmas – WildSnow @ Best Ski Town In North America”

  1. Evan December 25th, 2012 11:55 am

    Merry xmas Dawsons! Glad you got some sunshine on the trip, and are enjoying Nelson. Gotta go, time to harvest more Valhalla cold smoke…

  2. Lou Dawson December 25th, 2012 12:00 pm

    Hey Evan, I hope our sunshine didn’t interfere with your cold smoke acquisition (grin)!

    I was thinking about you and Jasmin yesterday, after meeting a few of your new guests and seeing all the smiles, figured you were up there repeating your special life. CU again soon I hope.

    Wish everyone up there a merry Christmas and we trust our tracks are all covered up.

    Lou

  3. Zap December 25th, 2012 12:28 pm

    WH2o is an addictive place!

  4. Cam December 25th, 2012 4:36 pm

    Lou,

    Always great to show folks around, especially when they like what they see! a pleasure to ski with your crew, and hope to do it again tomorrow!

  5. cam December 25th, 2012 5:14 pm

    Also, the trees up high are actually Larch.

    quite unique for conifers, and beautiful the fall. they shed their golden needles each year.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Larch

  6. pete anzalone December 25th, 2012 5:26 pm

    Merry Christmas to all you Dawsons.
    My, has Santa has been good to you!
    And Happy New Year too!

  7. RobinB December 25th, 2012 5:47 pm

    Larch = Good, alder = BAD!

    Don’t forget about Rossland, the other half of the best “Ski Town” – Red has lots to offer and we are having an amazing early season! Come check it out. I can point you towards some of the best sidecountry laps off the mountain if you do make it over this way.

  8. Lou Dawson December 25th, 2012 6:54 pm

    He he, larch!

  9. Mac December 25th, 2012 7:55 pm

    Must you really persist with the Americanisms butchering the English language?

    The word is slough – not “sluff”. Petty stuff in the wider context I know, but if your aim is to write an authortive blog on backcountry skiing, surely you would want to present the words associated with our sport correctly?

    Cheers (and happy Christmas).

    Mac

  10. Colin December 26th, 2012 1:54 am

    Yo Mac, im’ma let you finish, but “slough” is actually a marshy estuary. “Sluff” is a stream of light powder that cascades with you as you ski a steep slope. See, e.g., the Movement Goliath Sluffs (http://www.backcountry.com/movement-skis-goliath-sluff-ski-mvm0024). If your aim is to authortively (sic) correct people, you may want to get your terminology straight.

    And, when I lived in the UK, I witnessed the current citizenry of that nation butcher the Queen’s English far more than we do over here in the former Colonies.

    Cheers, Merry Christmas, and a happy Boxing Day to ya. Dude. :D

  11. Lou Dawson December 26th, 2012 7:24 am

    I’ll keep using “sluff” as variant spelling, but don’t mind the feedback. One of my biggest challenges with blogging is having enough time to re-write and double check everything enough.

    And happy Boxing Day everyone!

  12. Cam S December 26th, 2012 9:33 am

    Whitewater is fine for a small, dinky resort but for real skiing with thigh burning fall line, the mecca lies 1 hr away at Red/Rossland, the other half to the Powder prize.

  13. Lee Lau December 26th, 2012 4:12 pm

    Nice writeup about a nice town Lou. Mac – before criticizing may I suggest knowing what you’re talking about? “Sluff” management is the spelling.commonly used in Canada.

  14. Andrew December 26th, 2012 7:27 pm

    Lou and family. Andrew here from backcountryskiingcanada.com. Thanks very much for the mention and feedback on our West Kootenay Touring Guide. We put out one for the Whistler BC as well.

    ‘super duper happy you enjoyed your stay here. What a week to hit the Kootenays! Smart of you to hit VMT and lucky you had Cam “the uptrack animal” to show you around. The skiing is good here, eh? Have a safe trip home and enjoy the rest of your season.

  15. Jim December 26th, 2012 8:36 pm

    In AK its known as “sluff”, the stuff that cascades down the steeps as you ski and required one to move off the fall line to avoid getting knocked down. Its also known as loose snow. (Matt would know for sure)

  16. Hank December 27th, 2012 10:15 pm

    I wish it was easier to immigrate to Canada!!!

    As for Americanisms, we say Merry Christmas here Mac!!!

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Welcome to Louis (Lou) Dawson's backcountry skiing information opinion website and e magazine. Lou's passion for the past 45 years has been alpinism, climbing, mountaineering and skiing -- along with all manner of outdoor recreation. He has authored numerous books and articles about backcountry skiing and is well known as the first person to ski down all 54 of Colorado's 14,000-foot peaks, otherwise known as the Fourteeners! Books and free back country news and information here, and tons of Randonnee rando telemark info.

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