Outdoor lovers descend for Coldsmoke

With a wealth of great terrain and some excellent snow, there’s plenty for backcountry skiers to love about Nelson.

  • Feb. 22, 2011 4:00 p.m.
Part industry trade show

Part industry trade show

With a wealth of great terrain and some excellent snow, there’s plenty for backcountry skiers to love about Nelson. But organizers of the Coldsmoke Powder Festival say there’s another reason they keep coming back for another run: we’re just too awesome.

“Nelson’s just a cool little town,” enthuses Phil Bridgers of Spokane-based Mountain Gear Inc., which hosts the annual four-day festival in partnership with Arc’Teryx Equipment and Whitewater Ski Resort.

“It’s fun to do something in an area where they get it.”

Now in its fifth year, Coldsmoke takes its name from the light, fluffy snow Whitewater is known for, explains resort administrator Veronica Reid.

While the festival features a mix of indoor and outdoor activities — from races and clinics to film festivals and a buffet dinner — that famous powder is always the star of the show. And Reid says there should be plenty of it to enjoy when the festival opens Friday.

“It’s looking good in the forecast,” she says. “We’ve got a lot of snow coming this week, and a lot of sunshine for this weekend.”

Coldsmoke kicks off with a day of clinics at the ski hill and an opening film festival at the Capitol Theatre, then swings into full gear over the weekend with more clinics, demonstrations and two competitive events per day.

Saturday’s ROAM Randonnee Rally is a four hour ski touring race, where contestants must head uphill as well as down, without ski lift access. While challenging and popular, Reid says it’s not quite as spectator-friendly as the afternoon’s Valhalla Pure Powderkeg Slopestyle, where contestants take two runs down Whitewater’s Powderkeg, with top marks going to those who make best use of the slope’s natural features and jumps. Or, as Reid puts it, “the one who takes the craziest line and goes the biggest.”

Sunday kicks off with a relatively low-key poker run, followed up by the Gerick’s Banked Slalom — a high-speed race on a track filled with twists and turns.

In addition to the four events, there’s extra glory for the King and Queen of Coldsmoke: the best male and female athlete who make it through all of the races.

But while there’s plenty for experienced powderhounds to do, Reid says there’s also a full slate of activities for those still getting the hang of Kootenay mountain culture.

“You get a lot of people who are keen on learning more about touring. A lot of our clinics are geared towards people who don’t have a lot of backcountry experience but want to learn,” she says.

Organizer Bridgers has his own pitch for Nelson’s uninitiated: “It’s beautiful terrain you get to traverse around in and travel. Just incredible scenery,” he says. “And then you get to ski fresh, untracked powder — leave a fresh track wherever you go.”

This year’s Coldsmoke Powder Festival runs Friday to Monday at various locations. For registration and scheduling information visit coldsmokepowderfest.com or stop by the Whitewater office.