The 'vibe is high' at Whitewater
There’s more to snow than shovelling.
Nelson residents dismayed at the latest snow dump, or struggling with seasonal depression, have plenty of winter activities waiting for them as part of Whitewater Ski Resort’s 41st season, and according to marketing manager Rebeckah Hornung, “the vibe is high” at the local mountain.
“I think sometimes people forget Whitewater’s hanging around up here, and there’s so much happening all the time,” she said.
“I can’t speak for others, but even just driving up in the morning and seeing Ymir Peak glowing in the distance, you already feel centred and in a better place.”
This year they’ll be hosting their Community Day on Friday, Jan. 13, an event which raised over $10,000 for Nelson CARES and an avalanche awareness charity last year.
During the event, lift tickets will be just $10 for residents of the Slocan Valley, Nelson, Castlegar, North Shore, East Shore, Kaslo, Salmo and Ymir. All funds received will be funnelled into the local community: this year they're raising funds for the Whitewater Ski Team and the Civic Theatre.
Following that there will be a Winter Carnival on the weekend of Jan. 21 and their biggest event of the season, the Kootenay Coldsmoke, on the weekend of Feb. 24.
The events will involve fireworks, ski and snowboard competitions, educational clinics, live music and feasts prepared by their new head chef Luca Paola. All of the music bookings will be done by Paul Hinrichs, with Nelson band Devils You Don’t booked for the carnival.
And though the skiing is world-class, Hornung believes it’s really the resort’s communal character that keeps people coming back.
“Of all the places I’ve ever worked, Whitewater has always been my favourite because of the character of it. It’s a different type of feeling you get than when you go to a cookie cutter resort, and Nelson isn’t so bad either.”
In fact, the hill’s relationship with their local town is symbiotic.
“We always try to keep our ties with the local community strong, so for instance we have a great relationship with the Nelson Brewing Company. We even have one run called Faceplant, which is named after one of their most popular beers, and last year we did the 40th anniversary Bent Pole collaboration.”
They also offer Oso Negro Coffee and Silver King Tofu, to name just a few of the local companies they’ve partnered with.
And if you don’t like skiing or snowboarding, there’s all kinds of other options to divert you: cross-country skiing, multi-use trails, fat tire biking and clinics where you can learn about things such as back-country survival and avalanche awareness.
This year’s season has been strong, with good snow and busy chairlifts, and there have been some updates this season that have been a hit with visitors — most notably the addition of five new female washrooms.
“It doesn’t sound like a big deal, but it is a big deal. It keeps the women happy, but it also keeps the men happy because they’re not waiting for the women while there’s good snow to be had.”
The resort is also emphasizing their lesson options, with multiple specials on offer for everyone from beginners to experts.
One skier taking advantage of the hill this weekend was four-year-old Eli Phoenix, who came up with his mother Drea and his brother Zeki, who is a member of the Nancy Greene Ski team.
He completed his first run of the Little Mucker on Saturday morning.
“It feels like super fun,” he said, adding that he ultimately aims to “go fast”. He spent the run tucked between his mothers’ legs.
“It was a little nerve-wracking but Eli did awesome,” Drea said.
“I’m sure by next year he’ll be faster than me. I love it here because it’s awesome for families, it’s really friendly for families, and my oldest son also comes here, which keeps him out of trouble. It’s a good lifestyle.”
And people aren’t shy about sharing their enthusiasm. One young Whitewater fan named Teija left a note for the staff that is now posted outside the lodge’s coffee bar.
“I love your hills so much that I always want to ski here, every day. I like it when it snows. I even like it when it is not snowing,” she wrote.
“I really like your hot chocolate. I like seeing the icicles grow outside the windows. I want to eat one of them.”