Definition:Small town in southwestern British Columbia nestled in the Selkirk mountains known for little more than a hotel of the same name, and being the most timely way to access Nelson, BC by skipping the Kootenay Lake ferry.
Why you should know about it? Even a short trip through Ymir is the definition of the classic ski trip.
Most WildSnow readers don’t need an explanation of what defines a “classic” backcountry skiing trip. And likely, everyone is coming from one of two schools of thoughts. Either the old, crusty, back-in-the-old-days ski bum who thinks every trip he hears about was never as good as it was. Too easy, less snow, etc. Or the more common viewpoint that skiing is about the most fun you can have, any-day-on-skis-is-better-than-a-day-in-the-office type who is already dreaming of their next perfect ski trip regardless of what else I write here.
For the second set of skiers, I present today’s definition of the “classic” ski trip.
Heading up from Whitefish we passed Fernie, and headed west toward Kootenay Pass (or Creston-Salmo Pass according to some locals) into the biggest storm of the year. One meter in 36 hours (it was Canadian snow, so I’ll give you their numbers). Yes, classic ski trips should involve driving through dreamed of locales into the fury of the heavens falling to earth. Check.
The Hotel:Ymir Hotel has the necessary elements, and non of the fluff. No hot tub, no private baths, no elevator, no paved parking.
What it does have is an ancient owner named Hans who will chat your ear off into the wee hours with a nearly incomprehensible accent, while chasing out the drunk local. True story. Hans purchased the hotel because he needed more room for his ever growing art collection. Ymir Hotel’s walls are filled with paintings, drawings, sculptures and art work of all kinds. It’s truly magic, or haunted (and rumored to be a former brothel). And for $39 a room (with bunks), it’s cheap.
Every good ski trip must have snow. And this piece of the Powder triangle has it. Nearby Whitewater ski area averages over 500 inches a year. They are about 40% below average this year. We were still finding “sub par” conditions with over 8 feet on south facing slopes. It was the kind of snowpack only a local could call bad.
Deep down we all fight that inner conflict between wanting to be a dirt bag and wanting a hot shower. Camping trips, yurt and hut trips, these are all little victories for our inner ski bum. Three or four days without a shower makes us feel like a man, or a really tough chick. Staying in a yurt that looks more like a children’s treehouse, located 15 miles from your car, that’s just the icing on the cake.
The Crazy Story:
Deep snow. Sick lines. A long slog in. These are all great stories. But the best backcountry skiing stories are the ones that are hardest to come by. Conditions that are out of the ordinary. Events that could have killed you. A shallow snowpack that means high avy danger. Make that extreme danger. Make that 8 triggered slides in 6 runs. Throw in the fact that EVERY. SINGLE. ASPECT. SLID. In the first 24 hours. Well, except for the 2 temptresses that sat directly over the yurt. Chokingly deep was guaranteed. Perfect pitch, of course. Instant death? Probably, depending on if you hit a tree or just asphyxiate. We avoided taking the story that far, but this was the best avy class I’ve ever been in. And in case you don’t believe it, pictures!
Stay at a Ymir Yurt that is privately run by Wildhorse Cat Skiing and you get a cat ride in the first 10-12 miles. Go when the snow pack is just slightly more bonded than water on your car windshield and you get a free ski run with the guide (thanks Trevor). And a ride to within 2/3 of a mile from the Yurt. Make for more fun laps and less slogging on the first day.
The Perfect Ski Trip:
So there you have it. If you aren’t currently dreaming of your own perfect ski trip, consider checking out Ymir. Epic snow, great people, rustic hotels and breath taking terrain are waiting for you to go and write your own story.
(Guest blogger profile: Dave Downing and his wife Jessica live in Whitefish, MT, where he is a freelance designer and owner of Ovid Nine Graphics Lab. Dave has been told that there is nothing to see in Montana, so please move along.)