Sample Tours: Rocky Mountains

The Powder Trail

Alberta and British Columbia are renowned for ski destinations with long runs and plentiful amounts of snow-especially powder. Consider a trekking holiday to different ski resorts and try out their respective terrains. It is a good thing that hot tubs, mineral springs and massage therapists are readily available at these resorts as you will be weary from the full days of skiing available in this part of western Canada.  The Powder Trail - it's your road to WINTER!  Many of the resorts on our Powder Trail tour are also participants in the Kootenay Rockies "Powder Highway".  Click here to view map of the Powder Highway in pdf format.

Duration:   16 Days
Total Distance: 1453 km/902 mi
Best For: Winter Sports Enthusiasts

Tour Map - Ski the Powderview larger map
Powder Skiing Canadian Rockies - Stock Photo
Day 1 - Castle Mountain Ski Resort (Pincher Creek, AB) - 225 km/140 mi
From Calgary, it takes about 2-2½ hours to get to Pincher Creek, Alberta, where you will find a less-known ski and wilderness resort nearby. The resort is about 3/4 hour away from Pincher Creek and 30 minutes from Beaver Mines.  full details

The resort is fairly close to Calgary, but it is not as crowded as the venues found in Banff National Park. There is less all-round development in the way of restaurants and support services at the hill. The lifts at Castle Mountain are generally older in technology and take longer to get you to the top, but once you are there, skiers say that you will like the experience of skiing down the interesting terrain.

Castle Mountain is also a little cheaper than other more popular resorts for a day's lift ticket. Preservation of the environment and skiers' enjoyment are both important considerations for this Resort and they make every effort to make sure that both planning perspectives are not compromised.

With permission from the ski resort, you can spend the night at the base of the hill. We know of no campgrounds close to Castle Mountain resort which are open over the winter. Alternatively, you may like to move on to Fernie after your day's skiing today so as to have a full day on the slopes there tomorrow.  

Fernie Ski Resort - British Columbia, Canada
Day 2 - Fernie Alpine Resort, at the south end of the Kootenay Rockies "Powder Trail" - 118 km/73 mi
Continue west on Highway 3 to the town of Fernie, British Columbia. This drive should only take about 1½ hours from Pincher Creek. From Fernie's Main Street, the alpine bowls are clearly visible. You will find Fernie Alpine Resort is just 5 km (3 mi) above the town and can be reached driving to the resort located at 5339 Fernie Ski Hill Road.full details

This resort is considered a "must ski" by powder enthusiasts. There are a total of 142 named ski runs, five alpine bowls with a plentitude of fresh powder, tree skiing and lots of long runs. The novice will find about 30% of all the runs are suitable for them, while intermediate and advanced skiers can split the remaining runs almost in half - 40% requiring intermediate skills and 30% needing advanced skills. 

For some added interest, the Resort offers all kinds of extra activities. You can go dogsledding or join a hayride that also includes a "cowboy dinner". Fernie Resort does not accommodate typical night skiing, although they do offer it daily during holiday periods and every Saturay from 4-9 pm (conditions permitting). Most resorts in western Canada allow snowboarding and Fernie is no exception. There are also opportunities for snowshoeing and cross-country skiing with 15 kilometres of groomed and track-set cross-country trails leading off from the Resort.

Needless to say, there is so much to do here, making for a full day of spectacular winter adventure. Note that overnight camping is not permitted on resort property. Snow Valley Motel & RV Park has sites available over winter.


Ice Climbing in Canadian Rockies - Stock Photo
Day 3 - Drive to Nelson - 315 km/196 mi
You will be driving into the Kootenay mountain range of central British Columbia. This part of the province has heaps of snow each season and, out of all the snow that falls, there is an impressive amount of untracked powder to ski. The resort bases are quite high, so the snow is great, but the weather is relatively mild.  full details

With the variety of terrain that awaits every type of skier, it could easily take a few days to explore it all. Many skiers come to this part of British Columbia just to ski, so they are not concerned that the services are limited and the resort atmosphere is simpler and more rustic. It will not matter one whit what you wear here, but people will notice if your ski technique is faulty. For this reason Nelson, Salmo and Rossland are great places to brush up on skills and learn new techniques.

Kootenay Lake does not freeze over in the winter and the ferry to Nelson operates year-round. From Fernie, follow Highway 3, and sometimes 95, passing through Cranbrook on your way to Creston. Continue north to Kootenay Bay and take the ferry across Kootenay Lake to Balfour.

If you are looking for something else to do in the area, Kokanee Glacier Provincial Park has many excellent locations for ice climbing. This is also dangerous avalanche country, but the glaciers are amazing to climb on and the backcountry skiing, snowshoeing, and snowmobiling is very enjoyable, as long as you take the appropriate precautions.

After a day of ice climbing, relax in the Ainsworth Hot Springs a few kilometres north of Balfour. These mineral springs offer an interesting and very different bathing experience. The pool is shaped like a giant horseshoe and you can swim into caves that are dark and very humid. Some people believe this pool is the very best mineral spring in all of British Columbia for rejuvenation after a day of physical activity. Public hours are 10.00 am to 9.30 pm, 365 days a year.

If you are not interested in pursuing some ice climbing, you can continue along Highway 3A on your drive to Nelson. Whitewater Ski Resort is located 19 km (12 mi) southeast of Nelson. Drive along Highway 6 until you see a sign for Whitewater Ski Resort, then drive east up the mountain for another 6 km (3.7 mi) to reach the parking lot.

The base of Whitewater is very high (1,640 m or 5,400 ft) ensuring an ample supply of dry powder and relatively few mid-season thaws. They have an annual snowfall of about 12 m (40 ft) here. The highest peak is Mount Ymir at 2,400 m (8,000 ft). Whitewater offers open bowls, as well as glades and chutes, to challenge the more advanced skiers. The best powder is found in the trees. Certainly, Whitewater Ski Resort has a significant number of runs specifically designed for tree skiing. Ski Canada magazine gives Whitewater Ski Resort the credit for "the Best Bowls, the Best Deeps, and the Best Glades" in Canada.

The Nelson Nordic Ski Club maintains many kilometres of groomed tracks at the Clearwater Creek Cross-Country Ski Trails and the Apex Busk Cross-Country Area. 


Skiing in the Kootenay Rockies - Stock Photo
Day 4 - Ski at Nelson
Take some time to explore the terrain at Whitewater Ski Resort and enjoy a day on the slopes.full details

After your day of skiing, drive to Salmo and stay the night.

Salmo is just a short distance south of Nelson along Highway 6. You can remain in the parking lot at the Salmo Ski Hill or find a parking lot in the town of Salmo itself.


Ski at Salmo, British Columbie
Day 5 - Ski at Salmo 40 km/25 mi
Salmo is a great ski destination! The Hill offers a wide variety of skiing experience - powder skiing, moguls, steep slopes as well as gentler runs, and a half-pipe to challenge the snowboarders. There are also plenty of cross-country ski trails available in this area. All these choices add up to a great venue for skiers of all skill levels. Of all the runs, 40% require advanced skills, and for the rest of the runs, half are suited for novices and half are intermediate. full details

This area gets a tremendous amount of snow in winter - over seven feet deep on average. 

An average winter's snowfall can bury trees on people's lots. The town of Salmo grooms many kilometres of trails and with that much snow, you don't have to worry about roots and rocks scraping the bottom of your skis.

Salmo is nicely central from the many interesting sites found in the area. Trail is only 35 minutes southwest of Salmo. There is a zinc smelter at Trail that offers tours. They make a variety of products at this smelter and it is a highly recommended place for a visit.  Winter tours are by appointment only.  Please contact the Trail Chamber of Commerce office in downtown Trail for more information.


Red Mountain Resort - Photo Credit: Red Mountain Resort
Day 6 - Move on to Rossland - 50 km/31 mi
Drive west from Salmo, through Trail, along Highway 3B to Rossland. Here, you will find the mountain town that has provided Canada with two gold medal winners in Olympic ski racing. Both Nancy Greene and Kerrin Lee-Gartner come from this area.full details

Red Mountain is the name for the ski resort in Rossland. It is simply a tremendous place to experience the winter sport of your choice. All the powder, the challenging terrain and the non-crowded runs make for a skier's paradise. If you want to ski out of bounds on the higher elevations, it is recommended that you hire a guide to go with you.

There are many snow-covered canyons down the backside of these mountains and it is possible to suffer a dangerous fall when you don't know the terrain. Rossland also has an excellent Nordic Centre with many kilometres of trails set in a veritable wilderness. There is also a multitude of other backcountry options to offer, such as snowmobiling and snowshoeing.

Whatever your choice, you will have a memorable day of discovering a varied terrain, skiing on pillows of fresh powder. Put on sunscreen and sunglasses and enjoy yourself.

See what's in store for you by viewing these great videos of Red Mountain -

Winter's Favourite Red Mountain
RED Sucks

People enjoying skiing together - Stock Photo
Day 7 - North to Upper Arrow Lake Ski Areas - 182 km/113 mi
In the morning, travel northwest from Rossland to where Highway 3B meets Highway 3. At the junction, turn right and travel northeast, heading toward Castlegar. At Castlegar, veer due north and follow the signs for Nakusp. You will enjoy the varied scenery in this area, as the road winds through mountain valleys and ends up beside Upper Arrow Lake. full details

Nakusp has abundant cross-country ski tracks set in valleys along with mineral springs. Halcyon Mineral Springs are close to an old ghost town that is on private land, although it is still available to the public, should you desire to have a look around. In winter months, access to the springs is limited to visitors who ski, snowshoe or snowmobile. The Wensley Creek Cross-Country Ski Trails near Nakusp are ideal for novice and intermediate cross-country skiers.The trails can be found off of Hwy 6 at the sign for Box Lake.

You will find a small volunteer-run ski resort in this area as well. Summit Lake Ski Area is 23 km southeast of Nakusp. Watch for signs as you drive north along Highway 6. Half of Summit Lake's runs are designed for the novice skier, but there are challenges here for the intermediate and advanced skier too.

Camping is available at Halcyon Hot Springs Campground. It is best to phone ahead. Call 250-265-3554.  

Ski the Powder at Nakusp
Day 8 - Optional Stay at Nakusp or Drive to Revelstoke - 102 km/64 mi
If you enjoy cross-country skiing more than the downhill variety, you may prefer to remain in this neck of the woods for one more day. full details

If you prefer to downhill or cross-country ski on the higher elevations, you can drive about two hours north of Nakusp on secondary Highway 23 to Revelstoke. The Galena Bay ferry is free and operates all year-round. The city of Revelstoke sits alongside the TransCanada Highway, just on the western side of the Roger's Pass - the highest pass in the Canadian Rockies. Revelstoke is also on the Canadian Pacific Railway line and the Columbia River flows through the city centre. The Canadian Pacific Railway needed to apply innovative feats of engineering to build a railway through this mountainous area. They had to construct a tunnel that spirals down through the inside of a mountain and they built extensive snowsheds that cover outside track descending on a fairly steady grade. The snow sheds are critical to continuous operation of the railway line as the Revelstoke area receives so much snow here every winter.

For those who are keen to ski powder, Revelstoke promises a tremendous adventure. Sno-cat skiing (View video) makes pristine powder available to every level of skier on more than 250 runs. Powder Springs Ski area is located on Mount McKenzie in between the Selkirk and Monashee Mountains. The area has vertical drops of over 330 m (1,100 ft) and their longest run is 6.7 km (4.2 mi). There are also many kilometres of cross-country skiing available at Mount McKenzie Cross-Country Ski Trails. The beginning of these extensive trails can be found about 6 km (3.4 mi) south of Revelstoke off of Highway 23. The Summit Road (very near Revelstoke itself) is another popular route to follow.

Since you will have spent half of the day driving, you may want to explore the town of Revelstoke - they have over 60 heritage buildings being restored in the town centre and a wonderful railway museum that describes the final stages of building the Canadian Pacific Railway. Europeans first settled in Revelstoke in the 1860s, during a brief and exciting gold rush. Then, along came the railway. The last spike required to secure both ends of Canadian Pacific Railway track being laid simultaneously from the prairies and the coast was driven in 1871at Craigellachie, a town very close to Revelstoke. If you are a fan of trains, be sure to pick up a copy of a brochure titled Railway Heritage Driving Tour. This publication points out twenty of the best spots to see railway history in this part of British Columbia.

As for winter sports, Revelstoke has so much to offer. A large portion of the population of Revelstoke hailed from Europe in the early part of the last century. The inhabitants enthusiastically built an impressively high ski jump and, as early as 1914, were training ski jumpers for excellence. Today, you will find many choices for outdoor activities. You can ski on the golf course in Revelstoke. The locals recommend this route for couples in a mood for romance. The route is gentle, but picturesque, as it meanders through groves of trees and along trails that take you down by the banks of the Columbia River. The River may be somewhat frozen, but you can still hear the flow of the water, especially since this spot in town is peaceful and quiet. Revelstoke is also becoming the most popular destination for snowmobiling. The best months for snowmobiling are usually found to be March, April and May.

There are many backcountry ski spots in the area. However, this is dangerous avalanche country. Therefore, it is essential for your safety to report your plans to the National Park wardens and wear a beeper.

Most campgrounds in the area close in October. It may be possible to overnight camp on the mountain at Revelstoke, however we suggest you check with their staff first.  Smokey Bear Campground Resort, 5km west of Revelstoke, is open year-round and they have a hot tube that's open all winter!

Skilift at Revelstoke, BC
Day 9 - Stay at Revelstoke

If you stayed for one day at Nakusp, you will want to drive on to Revelstoke and experience a day or two there.  

full details

If you arrived in Revelstoke on Day 8, perhaps you would like to stay for another day of skiing and sightseeing.


Revelstoke Mountains
Day 10 - Enjoy the Slopes at Revelstoke

 Enjoy an entire day on the slopes of Powder Mountain or the trails around Revelstoke.

full details

If you prefer to spend the day off the mountain, there are a lot of interesting places to visit around the Revelstoke area.

Gondola at Revelstoke
Day 11 - Ski One More Day at Revelstoke

Enjoy another day on the slopes or trails around Revelstoke. 

full details

If you prefer to move on, check out the snow conditions at Kicking Horse Mountain Resort near Golden.  You may like to try skiing there for a day before arriving at Lake Louise.

Lake Louise Sign - Stock Photo
Day 12 - Ski Kicking Horse Mountain Resort or travel on to Lake Louise - 227 km/141 mi
If you decided to stay another day in Revelstoke yesterday, you have two choices for this part of the trip. You can drive along the TransCanada Highway, passing through the town of Golden, to the world-class ski resort at Lake Louise.  Or, if the snow is good at Kicking Horse Mountain Resort (view video), 8 km west of Golden, you can stop there for a day of skiing.full details

Ski Magazine rates this resort as #1 for powder in all of North America. If they have received their typical amount of snow throughout the season, then it is a worthwhile skiing experience. They have the second longest ski-out in Canada (at 4,000 ft) and lots of interesting terrain to explore. Visit the Kicking Horse Resort website to get an up-to-the- minute report on the amount of snow available on the mountain. The Eagle's Eye Restaurant, built at the summit of Kicking Horse Mountain Resort is well worth the price of the gondola ride. The gondola itself offers a spectacular view in such a short ride and the view from the restaurant at the top is also awe-inspiring.  Our recommended campground in Golden is the Golden Municipal Campground who offer a discount during the winter to CanaDream guests.

If you choose to drive on to Lake Louise (view video), it is about one hour east of Kicking Horse Mountain Resort. The route winds back and forth beside a sheer cliff that falls down to the Kicking Horse River. Take your time and enjoy the scenery!

Lake Louise is a venue favoured for international ski racing events. However, there are numerous runs available for the novice to expert skier as well. There is a regular ski school as well as a ski-racing program operating here.  Parks Canada have a year round campground in the village of Lake Louise.

CanaDream Club partners on today's route are:

Golden Municipal Campground

Ice Skating on Lake Louise
Day 13 - Ski Lake Louise
Enjoy a day on the slopes of Lake Louise Ski Resort. If you have not pushed things too hard, try skating on Lake Louise itself. A skating rink is created on the lake by plowing an area of ice and sweeping off fresh snow.  full details

The space is well lit for nighttime skating and, as the rink is in a mountain setting, surrounded by snow-covered trees and plenty of stars visible to the naked eye, it has wonderful ambience. As well, the Chateau hosts a winter carnival in February. In a matter of a few hours, ice carvers have come out and completed their magic - numerous artistic, life-size sculptures dot the property of the Chateau Lake Louise.

You can walk around amongst the sculptures to get a good look. They are flood-lit at night, creating all sorts of colourful rainbows of light that refract through the sculptures and light up the snow.

There are a variety of pubs and restaurants in the town of Lake Louise. Or perhaps you would enjoy a typical Canadian winter evening. You can relax in your RV, read a good book, play a card game and listen to the hockey game (and snow reports!) on the radio.  The National Park campground close to the Lake Louise township has a limited number of powered sites available during the winter on a first come first served basis.


Bridge over Frozen Lake near Banff
Day 14 - Drive to Sunshine Mountain Ski Resort
Sunshine Mountain is just a short drive east along the TransCanada Highway from Lake Louise. There is a gondola ride up to the base of the resort from the main parking lot. This gondola is an enormous improvement over the gravel road and precarious bus ride that preceded it.  full details

In just 13 minutes, you are standing on the edge of 3,300 acres of ski runs covered with natural snow. Sunshine is right on the Continental Divide making for very interesting and varied terrain. This resort is very high up with a base elevation of over 5,400 feet and the longest vertical drop is over 3,000 feet. This resort offers ski lessons and a daycare for children between 19 months and six years old. Sunshine has one of the longest seasons for ski resorts in the area-from November to late May.

Of course, if you are more interested in cross-country skiing and would like to visit Kananaskis Country or Canmore, you can continue on past Banff and stop at the Nordic Centre in Canmore. This centre was built for the 1988 Winter Olympics and was designed to meet international and Olympic standards. For this reason, it is an incredible venue for a day of cross-country skiing, with most trails challenging intermediate and advanced skiers, although there are a few pathways that are suitable for novices. There is also a plethora of things to see in the town of Canmore - art galleries, unique boutiques and one-of-a-kind restaurants and coffee shops.


Ski Sunshine Village
Day 15 - Ski Sunshine
For those who stopped at Sunshine, stay one more day and enjoy your time exploring this alpine wonderland. full details

If you moved on to Canmore, you can continue driving along the TransCanada Highway  - ½ hour east followed by ½ hour south into Kananaskis Country. Nakiska has special clinics to learn more about snowboarding, telemarking and avalanche safety, as well as a few cross-country ski and snowshoe trails to try out. There is Ribbon Creek - suitable for beginner to advanced cross-country skiers. It can be found by driving 23 km south of the TransCanada Highway on Highway 40 - look for the sign to the Ribbon Creek Day Use Area. Another venue is at the Kananaskis Lakes - you can cross-country ski around the Lakes and follow the groomed trails off in the trees.

There are trails leading from the parking lots of the Inn at Kananaskis and the Kananaskis Hotel. William Watson Lodge is a ski area reserved for use by seniors. Seniors who use these trails find the scenery enjoyable and the skiing a satisfying experience. That does not mean the trails are easy or lacking a challenge. The Lodge is open for day use - sit by the fire and warm up while you eat lunch.

Overnight camping is available at the Mount Kidd RV Park and they can be reached by phone at 403-591-7700. They keep a few sites plowed for winter campers. The campground is just north of Nakiska, the ski resort built for the downhill events at the 1988 Winter Olympics.


Skis Mount Norquay Kananaskis Alberta - Photo Credit CanaDream
Day 16 - Return to Calgary - 188 km/117 mi
You can enjoy some skiing along the way back to Calgary at Mount Norquay. This is the ski resort that is closest to Banff and also offers great lessons for children and teens.  This is a family-oriented facility offering lift tickets that you can pay for by the hour. full details

If you traveled on to the Kananaskis area the day before, you may enjoy a few hours of skiing some of the shorter trails in the morning before heading back to Calgary.  Mountain View RV Park, just east of the city boundary off the Trans Canada Highway is open year round should you be looking for a place to stay tonight.  From there, it's an easy drive back to our Calgary location on Stoney Trail.