Why Nelson, British Columbia, is the perfect ski town

It’s easy to have a crush on Canada, especially if you’re a skier. The mountains, the embedded niceness, or the fact that they always seem to have fresh, locally grown food around, even in the dead of sub-arctic winter, can woo you.

Nelson, B.C. Photo: Nelson Kootenay Lake Tourism.
Nelson, B.C. Photo: Nelson Kootenay Lake Tourism

And nowhere is that more true than in Nelson, British Columbia, which sits on the West Arm of Kootenay Lake, minutes from the idyllic Whitewater Ski, deep in the Kootenay Rockies. Nelson is a ski bum’s paradise, and here is why.

The Amazing Mountains

The Kootenay Rocky region of the Selkirk Mountains might be some of the most jaw-dropping terrain in the world. The mountains are steep, spiny, and snow covered.

Posting up in Nelson puts you on the Powder Highway, the winding loop of highway in interior B.C. that gets you access to 70 different ski operators, including some of the guys who started heli skiing. The area averages 60 feet of light intercontinental snow. And because it’s Canada (aside from Whistler), crowds are minimal.

The Epic Local Hill

But you don’t actually have to venture far to get all-time skiing. Nelson’s local hill, Whitewater Ski Area, is 15 minutes up the road.

In bounds, hit zones like Catch Basin or Sprowlers. The backcountry terrain, including Ymir Bowl, is what pulled a lot of people to Nelson in the first place: it’s deep, complicated and incredible. Plus, the food is so good, that the on-hill restaurant has spawned a series of cookbooks with a serious following.

Excellent Coffee

What kind of coffee snob are you? Do you want locally roasted beans with a cult following? Head to Oso Negro.

Looking for Insta-worthy latte art and atmosphere? Try Empire.

The Amazing Food

Nelson is home to 10,000 people, but it seems like it holds just about as many good restaurants.

Residents claim that the food is better than in New York City, and it’s hard to argue with them. You can get eggplant tacos at Cantina Del Centro, or full-on southern BBQ at Smokewood. The hits are more frequent than the misses, and it’s hard to go wrong.

The wonderful People

Despite its wealth of resources, Nelson remains attitude-free. Strangers will chat to you on the chairlift, and give you tips about where to go hot springing. They’ll invite you to go out with them to the Spirit Bar that night, and you should. The best part of Nelson is the community.

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