Whitewater

British Columbia, Canada

Deep in British Columbia's famous Kootenay region there is an incredible ski resort with it all that's fast becoming one of Canada's top places to ski - Whitewater Ski Resort. Renowned for its consistent snowfall, epic powder days and distinct lack of crowds, Whitewater is a community ski resort - simple but perfect for powder skiers and families who want to escape the larger (and busier) ski resorts in BC. The terrain offers plenty of options for advanced skiers and snowboarders, with endless chutes and bowls, and memorable tree skiing. Whitewater is also a great spot to experience a true mountain town, with nearby Nelson's thriving with arts and culture, scattered with heritage buildings, funky restaurants and a great winter vibe. A hippie town combined with an awesome mountain is what makes Whitewater truly unique and one not to be missed.

Scout Loves

  • Being off-the-beaten-path with no crowds and fresh tracks all day
  • The day lodge has really, really good food for your mid-ski energy boost
  • The town of Nelson (great microbreweries & coffee & hippie vibes)
  • Head to Bibo for fantastic food & apres

Scout Tips

  • Some of the best skiing can be found off the Summit Chair
  • Silver King has some great gentle slopes for beginners & intermediates
  • Stay at the Hume for classic but upgraded comfort in a central location
  • The chairlifts are old, but the terrain they access is amazing, so enjoy the ride.

Scout Review

Whitewater Ski Resort has to be up there as one of Scout's favourite resorts (and we've seen quite a few!). 

We love everything about Whitewater. Being a lesser known resort in BC means this true local's mountain rarely gets crowded, and there's plenty of powder snow to go around. Don't expect all the frills of a big ski resort at Whitewater, but it does have everything you need. 

The tree skiing among the glades, especially on one of the many powder days, is truly memorable, as well as the bowls and chutes at the top of the Summit Chair. It does take a while to get up there due to a old-school chairlift system (only two slow double chairs and one triple chair), however, the views are stunning and the terrain that the lifts access are worth the wait. It's a good time for a bit of a yarn with the locals who will more than likely share tips on where the best lines to ski can be found - because it's a friendly place and they love visitors.

For mid-ski breaks or a pick-up, the day lodge offers some really great food, especially at Coal Oil Johnny's Pub, or Fresh Tracks Cafe (where the have a no-grease policy!). Teamed up with a locally brewed beer, you'll find it hard to find to tighten up those ski boots and get back out on the slopes.

There is no accommodation at Whitewater so the best place to stay is in downtown Nelson - a true hippie slash hipster mountain village, with a super laid back and friendly vibe. History is that the town's hippie heritage stems from those Vietnam War draft dodgers in the US, who fled to Nelson to start fresh. There are so many options for apres and a night out on the town, from heritage-building-esque bars and restaurants and a line of microbreweries, the main question was 'where first?!'. The town is small enough to explore on foot, but large enough to offer a more than sufficient variety.

Whitewater is a smart addition to a BC ski roadtrip itinerary - stay a couple of days or a whole week. The resort is sure to impress even the most avid powderhound. Just be prepared that after a visit here you'll want to up-root your life and move to Nelson for the ultimate mountain lifestyle.

Whitewater Skiing

What we love most about Whitewater apart from the awesome terrain is the distinct lack of crowds, inexpensive lift tickets and incredible powder snow. Such a perfect combination. Teamed up with great tree skiing, lift-accessed backcountry and plenty of opportunities to get 'steep and deep', Whitewater has become one of our favourite resorts to ski.

The terrain caters well to advanced and expert skiers (roughly 68% of the resort), especially the via the Summit Chair. Over 2044 ft of natural terrain with countless chutes, wide bowls and glades means you'll be getting those powder face shots in no time (bring your snorkel!). Advancements in lift operations has almost doubled the ski area and increased the vertical drop, creating some unforgettable great tree skiing. Beginners and intermediates will enjoy the gentle slopes of Silver King, and the long groomed runs (up to 3km) from the Summit back to the base.

There are also plenty of opportunities for awesome lift-accessed backcountry touring from the resort, and avalanche knowledge and safety equipment is a must. Several companies in Nelson offer great guiding options, run by locals so they know exactly where to go to find the best lines. There's also a plethora of cat and heli-skiing operations that are based in the area around Nelson.

With over 40ft of annual snowfall (and no snow making needed), Whitewater has some of the most consistent snow in terms of quality and quantity. Freshies fall constantly throughout the season so powder days are almost guaranteed.

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Whitewater For Families

This is a wonderful resort for families who are a little more independent and don't need all the frills of a big ski resort. While it caters to beginners with ski schools and a beginner slope, there are probably better resorts to choose if your kids are learning. It would be a great resort for older kids who are looking to start skiing trees and steeps (and definitely those that are already competant at it).

You'll need to be prepared to stay off-mountain and make the trek up to the resort each morning (only 20 minutes by resort shuttle or car). There are plenty of great family-oriented accommodation options in Nelson, from motels and guesthouses to self-contained cabins, and you'll be sure to experience some true Canadian mountain hospitality. A stay in Nelson also means you're close to great amenities, including restaurants and cafes, convenience stores, retail shops, and the hot springs (always a hit for families), along with a very local Canadian experience.

Lift tickets, rentals, and lessons are relatively inexpensive compared to other resorts in BC. At the Whitewater Adventure Centre, there is a good range of ski school and guiding options. The ski school is well organised, however only have the option of 2 hour lessons (AM or PM) for ages 6 years and up. They do have a great mid-week program for the little kiddies aged 3 - 5 years - their Wee Skiers group lessons run morning and afternoon on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, giving you a 2.5 hour kid-free powder session.

For those down days, there are a stack of tour companies based in Nelson that offer plenty of day tours and adventures for families and kids. 

Whitewater Accommodation

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Whitewater has no on-mountain accommodation, so base camp will need to be down in the small mountain town of Nelson (only 20 minutes from the resort). Nelson has plenty of accommodation options from classic cabin-style to higher-end boutique hotels, there is something to suit every budget.  With so many great bars and restaurants it's worth staying within easy walking distance of the main street. Hume hotel is our pick.

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Resort Activities

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If the amazing powder skiing at the resort is not enough, there are plenty of other things to do in Nelson and the surrounding mountains.

There are over 15km of groomed cross country skiing and touring trails, which snake between the valleys and mountains with incredible scenery to admire as you ski along. Snow shoeing and snow biking is also popular and a great way to explore more of the wilderness of BC. 

Due to its consistent snowfall, Nelson is popular for cat-skiing and heli-skiing, and day tours are quite affordable for an unforgettable experience. Selkirk Snowcat Skiing and Valhalla Powder Cats are the two largest operations in Nelson, and offer single and multi-day experiences in the BC backcountry. Big Red Cats in nearby Rossland is also another great option, and bookings are highly recommended prior to arrival as it can book out fast! If you were after an experience above the clouds, Stellar Heli-skiing offers fantasic multi-run packages with all your safety equipment and instruction included, and are a perfect way to experince the ultimate in backcountry powder skiing.

Getting There and Around

Whitewater is barely a 20 minute drive from the town of Nelson. A daily shuttle operates from multiple pick-up points (morning shuttles between 7:50AM - 8:50AM, and return shuttles at 3:00PM & 4:45PM) and you can purchase tickets on the day. Multi-day ticket books are good value if you're sticking around for a week. 

Flying into Castlegar Airport is the best option, with transfers operating daily to Nelson. Airport transfers are also available from Spokane Airport (in WA state, USA). 

A car provides the most flexibility for experiencing the whole famous 'Powder Highway' in BC, and allows you to visit multiple resorts. We're a fan of self-drive as you can stay in the local towns like Nelson and Rossland and enjoy a true mountain town vibe.

If you were partaking in a multi-resort ski holiday without your own wheels, there are transfers that run from Rossland to Nelson every Wednesday and are only an hour in duration. Good way to ski both Red Mountain and Whitewater on the same trip!

When To Go

Historically, the best snow is mid-February to March. The resort receives fresh snowfall until the start of April during most years. Its location in the Southern part of BC means it’s super cold in January (down to - 8 degrees). 

Facts & Figures

Mountain Information   Lifts   Terrain    
Base Elevation 5400ft / 1646m Gondolas 0 Beginner 10%  
Summit Elevation 6700ft / 2045m Express Quads 0 Intermediates 32%  
Vertical Drop 2044ft / 523m Quad Chair 1 Advanced 58%  
Skiable Area 1184ac / 958ha Triple Chairs 1      
Annual Snowfall 40ft / 12m Double Chairs 1      
Longest Run 1.86 miles / 3.0km Tow 1      
Operating Hours 9.00am – 4.00pm          
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