British Columbia’s Kootenay region is home to some of the best powder skiing in North America. Off the beaten path and away from the crowds, Yamnuska’s guides will aim to find you the best powder skiing the Kootenay’s has to offer all while keeping your safety as our top priority. Tips on how to improve your powder skiing and splitboarding techniques will be provided while the guides expand your knowledge on travel through challenging and complex terrain and share their local knowledge of the area. This area stands out as one of BC’s best ski destinations and each day will have you challenging yourself, having fun and grinning ear-to-ear!
Over the course of 4 days, we will explore Kootenay Pass and the Whitewater ski area backcountry. Kootenay Pass sits at an elevation of 1780 meters and is the highest road-accessible mountain pass in British Columbia. There are five valleys to choose from and it boasts some of the best tree skiing in North America. Some options out of Kootenay Pass include Buzz’s Ridge, Cornice Ridge, Missile Ridge, and Lightning Strike Ridge Zones.
The Whitewater Ski Resort sits just outside of the funky town of Nelson and is home to amazing lift-accessible backcountry skiing that is world renowned for its powder skiing. A short 20-minute drive from town followed by a quick chairlift ride will take you high up into the backcountry. From here you have the choice of four valleys to ski from including Ymir Peak, Kutetl Basin, Evening Ridge and White Queen to name a few classics.
If deep, light powder and hidden gem ski areas are your thing, this is one adventure you won’t want to miss.
Thanks to our sponsors at K2 Skis and BCA who have generously donated gear and prizes, participants who take part in an Avalanche Safety Training course or Backcountry Ski public program before February 28, 2023, have the chance to win some incredible gear. So don’t wait…register now!
Day 1: Meet at the Oso Negro Coffee Shop at 7:00 am (PST). It is located at 604 Ward St, Nelson, BC V1L 7B1. We will complete our waivers, check the weather and avalanche forecasts, then head out for an appropriate ski touring objective. As soon as we hit the trail, we’ll be sure to do a companion rescue refresher.
Days 2 and 3: There is a multitude of backcountry ski options available in the Kootenay Region and we will select objectives that fit the group’s ability and energy. Based on conditions, our guides will choose either Kootenay Pass or skiing off the Whitewater Ski Resort for each of these days.
Day 4: Our final day will give us one more chance to explore all the Kootenays has to offer. We will aim to have you back at your vehicles by 2pm so you can begin the journey back to your original destination.
- Find as much good powder skiing/splitboarding as possible
- Introduce participants to ski touring in the Kootenay Corridor
- Refresh backcountry techniques and knowledge
- Have fun and do a lot of skiing. This program is built for you. We will do what best suits the group and what everyone is looking to accomplish while heading into the backcountry.
More skiing: If these dates do not work for you or you prefer to ski privately with a guide, we can customize a ski touring and backcountry skiing trip for you based out of the Kootenay’s.
Meeting Time and Place
Meet at the Oso Negro Coffee shop at 7:00am on the day one of the program. The Oso Negro coffee shop is located at 604 Ward St, Nelson, BC V1L 7B1. Each day prior to day one’s meeting location will be determined by your guide based on the conditions and the location for the day.
Please be dressed and ready for a day in the backcountry.
Guides and Group Size
Our instructors are certified professional ski guides who are licensed to teach and guide in the backcountry. There will be a maximum of 6 participants per guide and a minimum of 4 guests is required (contact us directly if you have a smaller group).
Transport to and from Nelson British Columbia is not included in this program.
Nelson, British Columbia is a 7-hour drive southwest from Calgary and a 4 ½ drive southeast of Kelowna, BC. Calgary International Airport is regularly serviced by flights from Europe and throughout North America.
Accommodation and Meals
Accommodation in Nelson is not included. A variety of accommodation options exist in Nelson. We recommend that you book your own accommodation well in advance as all levels of accommodation in Nelson fill up quickly.
Meals are not included in this trip. On top of skiing great powder, Nelson and the surrounding area have more restaurants per capita than foodie landmarks like San Francisco, Vancouver, and Manhattan. There is a wide variety of cuisine to satisfy any craving. Brunch to late night eats, snacks to multi-course feasts, there is plenty of awesome food to find on a plate here.
You will be responsible for your own lunch and hot & cold beverages for each day.
Equipment and Clothing
You will need to bring your own clothing, avalanche beacon, snow shovel, probe, alpine touring or telemark skis, poles, climbing skins, and a daypack. We have many of these items available to rent when available. We supply other group safety items. The equipment and clothing you bring will have a big impact on the quality of your ski touring experience. Please be sure to bring all the items listed. If unsure about anything please don’t hesitate to call and ask us!
Alpine Touring skis are essentially downhill skis with a special ski touring binding which allows the heel to lift whilst going uphill or across the flats and then ‘locks down’ to become a regular downhill safety binding. We recommend this system to anyone with a background in downhill skiing.
You need to bring:
- Skis We recommend a short (160 – 185cm) wide ski designed for powder skiing and ski touring. Please see the note under rental information if you are renting ski equipment.
- Climbing skins ‘Stick-on type’
- Ski Poles
- Ski boots
- Avalanche Transceiver – digital transceiver with triple antennae rentals available
- Avalanche shovel – collapsible metal shovel designed for companion rescue rentals available
- Collapsible probe rentals are available
- Daypack (large enough for spare clothes, lunch & equipment) rentals are available
- Sunglasses and ski goggles
- Thermos flask and water bottle
- Sunblock & Lip Cream
- Pocket knife
- Small Flashlight or Headlamp with fresh batteries
- Small Blister & 1st-Aid Kit
- Personal Toilet Items
- Hand Sanitizer
- Ear Plugs
- Small repair kit for bindings, skis or splitboard (this may include straps, nuts, bolts, small leatherman)
Additional gear info:
- Skis/splitboard: There are two viable backcountry systems, Alpine Touring and Splitboard.
- Alpine Touring: Essentially downhill skis with a special touring binding which allows the heel to lift when going uphill and then locks down to become an alpine binding for the downhill.
- Splitboard: If you are a rider and proficient on a snowboard, the backcountry touring version is called a splitboard. This is a snowboard that can be split to make two ski-type platforms for touring on the uphill ascent. The bindings have two positions and can be switched depending on whether you are climbing or descending. Split boards also use climbing skins for the ascent. For the downhill, the board is reassembled or joined to be in snowboard (ride) mode. If you are new to this system, you will need to practice the transitions of switching the board from touring to riding and back again. Your enjoyment will be vastly greater if you are efficient and practiced with this transition. For splitboarders, regular snowboard boots will work. A splitboard specific boot will give you more comfort when in touring mode and offer extra support to make sidehilling and traversing terrain easier to manage.
- Boots: Backcountry boots are different from regular alpine ski boots. In the backcountry, boots need to have an uphill mode that allows a free range of motion in the upper part of the boot. You should not use your regular ski boots for touring and walking uphill.
- Climbing skins: The glue on the base of the skin should be in good condition and the skins need to be properly fitted. Try the skins on your skis/splitboard to make sure they are the right length and width before you arrive.
- Ski poles: Backcountry poles need powder baskets on the tips.
- Avalanche Transceiver: A three antennae transceiver is required.
- Probe: A minimum of 240 cm in length.
- Shovel: A metal blade shovel is required.
We suggest bringing light clothing of varying thicknesses that can be ‘layered’ to achieve comfort and versatility. The most important consideration for clothing is the ability to regulate temperature as you change from periods of activity to periods of rest and from the ascent to the descent.
- Long underwear top and bottoms (light weight synthetic or wool)
- Warm pants (nylon blend, insulated, or fleece)
- Warm shirts (synthetic or wool)
- Medium weight fleece sweater
- Fleece Jacket
- Light insulated jacket or vest
- Waterproof jacket with hood (Gore-Tex or nylon)
- Waterproof pants (Gore-Tex or nylon, with side zippers
- Socks – ski socks (wool or synthetic), several sets
- Wool or fleece hat
- Waterproof ski mountaineering gloves or mitts
- Neck tube
- Casual clothing to wear in town
- Face Mask
Skis, Boots, Skins & Poles for ski touring can be rented from:
- Canmore: Gear Up – (403 678-1636)
- Calgary: M.E.C. – 830-10 Ave. S.W. Calgary (Tel: 403 363-0122)
- Lake Louise: Wilson Mountain Sports – (1-866-929-3636)
*Please note that your ‘DIN’ or ‘Release Value’ settings on your ski bindings are critical to your safety while skiing. Our expectation is that everyone arrives on programs with their ski binding’s release value correctly set. We have noted that some ski rental shops will not set release values on touring bindings. We advise you to rent from a shop that will set release values on your ski touring bindings unless you are proficient and comfortable setting your own DIN/release value. Failure to have Release Values correctly set could result in a serious injury.
Yamnuska has avalanche beacons, shovels, and probes for rent. Rental Gear
Please book as early as practical to avoid disappointment. We require a 35% deposit at the time of booking. The final payment is due eight weeks before the start of the program.
Risk is an inherent part of all mountain activities. We strive to manage and reduce it however, it is impossible to totally eliminate. Learn more about our safety and risk management approach here. Please note that you will be required to sign our waiver before commencing the program. Please view our sample waiver copy.
There are two basic types of insurance that most travelers need to consider: Medical and Cancellation/Trip Interruption Insurance. We offer our guests coverage for both and highly recommend you purchase it.
Emergency Medical Expenses Insurance:
It is wise to ensure that your health plan will cover you in case of illness or accident during your trip. Obtain extra coverage if necessary. There is no charge for rescue in the national and provincial parks, however, costs such as air or ground transportation, long-term care, and other services are not covered.
Cancellation/Trip Interruption Insurance:
We recognize that our guests’ schedules may change for many reasons; business, family, flight delays, injuries, and other unplanned events. For these eventualities, Trip Cancellation/Interruption insurance is a great way to protect your investment.
For all your travel insurance requirements we recommend the Simpson Group. This agency offers a wide range of travel insurance options including Trip Cancellation/Interruption, Travel Medical, and Personal Effect Loss for Canadian Travelers.
Please note that this coverage is for Canadian residents only. For guests who are not from Canada and who are interested in the ‘Visitors to Canada’ insurance package please contact the Simpson Group directly at JSimpson@simpson-group.com and reference your Yamnuska Mountain Adventure trip.
$1295 CDN includes ski guiding in the Kootenay Pass/Whitewater ski area and up to 2 single ride lift tickets to access the Whitewater Ski Area. Goods & Services Tax (GST) is extra.
Not included: ski equipment, avalanche safety equipment, transportation, accommodation, food, and beverages.
Trip Cancellation Insurance is available through the Simpson Group.
Please note you will be required to sign the Yamnuska Release of Liability, and Waiver of Claims prior to commencing the program. Please review the sample waiver prior to booking and call us with any questions.
Is it for you?
Participants are required to be at least intermediate skiers/splitboarders (i.e., must feel comfortable on blue runs in most conditions). Participants should be ‘hiking fit’.
We strongly urge skiers and Splitboarders to bring spare parts for their setups. Most of our guides are familiar with splitboarding sets ups, but each system is different, and our expectation is that guests will have basic knowledge on common Splitboard concerns (i.e., replacing toe straps on Splitboard bindings).