Nelson BC, what can I say other than you blew me away with your beauty and your vibe! Out of all the ski towns I’ve visited in the world, this place was outstanding. From the moment we drove in, seeing the perfectly snow covered trees lit up and lining the main street, I knew this place would be nothing short of magical and that some serious fun would be had.
Nelson BC is approximately an 8 hour drive from Vancouver, we chose to break this drive up as it’s a long way to go after a long haul flight from Perth, Western Australia. We drove from Vancouver airport 2 hours East to a town called Hope, we stayed the night in Hope in the adorable Evergreen Bed and Breakfast run by a lovely guy by the name of Christian. Our room was beautiful and Christian made us a delicious breakfast the next morning to fuel us for our long drive to Nelson.
Prior to leaving Hope we checked the Drive BC website to make sure the highway we wanted to take would be open, the weather was pretty crazy that day so we needed to be sure we wouldn’t be stuck. The drive was pretty hectic, the roads were completely snow covered at times and it was windy but we made it safely. We made sure the car we hired had winter tyres to cope with the adverse road conditions as it would be near impossible to make it without them.
Our main reason for visiting Nelson was so we could spend two and a half weeks snowboarding at the near by Whitewater Ski Resort. We also planned to do some split boarding in the surrounding backcountry. Whitewater Ski Resort blew us away, the conditions were all time and it didn’t stop snowing for the first 5-6 days we were there. Whitewater was like a magical unicorn, it’s incredibly pretty and has the most unbelievable and never ending terrain options. We had so many amazing tree runs and with a short hike from the top of the lift, we found many more. Whitewater was really busy one of the weekend days we were there, however, as soon as we got to the top, the crowd dispersed and we barely came into contact with anyone else the whole way down. What makes this resort even more incredible is that there is no phone reception which means in the lodge people actually talk and interact with each other and it’s beautiful! The lodge has great options for food, coffee and even a separate bar area for drinks.
One day we decided to go on a backcountry adventure to a route known as ‘White Queen’. To start this we caught the Silver king chair and used our split board from there. The walk up to white Queen was mostly spectacular, walking amongst the snow monster trees through the fresh snow was something else. The walk up was mostly mellow with a few steeper sections. As we approached the ridge it did get very cold and windy which I wasn’t really prepared for so we didn’t hang around the top for long. Since there had been a huge dump of new snow, the avalanche conditions were considerable that day which meant we had to be extra careful and stick to the tree line. This proved to be quite difficult as the trees were tight and the snow was deeper than I’ve ever experienced! It was hard to maintain flow as we had to stop frequently to pick our way down through the trees. Once section opened up beautifully and I was able to have a clear run with a few epic turns which made the whole thing worth while. We continued our way down until we hit the x country ski track where we were greeted by some cute doggos, we then made our way back to the car.
We also took part in an AST 1 (Avalanche Skills Training) which is one of the best things I have ever done. I learned so much about avalanche terrain and the best way to carry out a rescue should there be an avalanche. If you’re a regular back country skier/boarder I strongly recommend you book in to this course. I wont go into this too much as I plan to write a separate blog about the benefits of the course.
Although most of our time in Nelson was spent snowboarding, I did take a day off to explore the town and had an absolute ball wandering the streets and lane ways and walking to the lookout.
I actually spotted the lookout when we were driving and decided to explore it on foot. The path was snowy and slippery at times but doable. The view from the top was incredible the town of Nelson and surrounds was visible as far as they eye could see with a great view of the lake and the Big Orange Bridge. Over a small bridge to the right of the lookout is a beautiful park with a snow-covered playground. It was so peaceful at the top and I had the place all to myself. To get back down I walked around the back of the park past the town “pool” which looked more like a giant snow pit and back into town throughout the backstreets seeing some of the most charming little houses I’ve ever seen. Once back in the main part of town I walked down Herridge lane which has some impressive graffiti art on the walls. I walked to Nelson City Hall, a beautiful old stone building covered in vines. I then explored some shops in town even stopping in at the Salvation Army thrift shop to check for bargains.
Eats and Drinks
Nelson has loads of options for eating out, while we weren’t there long enough to try everywhere we did get through quite a few. Hands down my absolute favourite was the Library Lounge at the Hume Hotel, we ate here twice because it was so good. The restaurant is so charming with a nice ambience and big fireplace in the back corner, the menu had heaps of variety and the staff were super lovely. There was even a singer and guitarist playing some nice gentle music. The food was really tasty and fresh.
If you’re starving after riding all day then El Taco is a must! Come here to get yourself the biggest, meanest burrito for a really great price. Most people order takeaway however there is a small restaurant with a few tables out the back. There’s also a good section of beers and margarita’s so also a good options for just drinks.
If you’ve got a curry craving then you have to try Kootenay Tamal Kitchen on Baker Street. Our waiter was very helpful and steered us away from ordering the standard samosa and opting for something different as he wanted us to really experience the menu. We ordered the veg bajji and it was honestly one of the nicest things I’ve ever tasted. The food and service here was top notch.
Conveniently located directly across the road from our accommodation on Baker street was Rel-ish Bistro. We ate at Rel-ish once for breakfast and again for dinner. Both experiences equally as good. The salmon was perfectly cooked and delicious as was my wild west breakfast omelette. There was also a great selection of wines and cocktails. Staff were friendly and the restaurant was ambient with cute booth style tables.
If you’re looking to go for drinks or want to experience some Nelson nightlife then go to The Royal Hotel which is located on Baker Street. The Royal has something on most nights from DJ sets, quiz nights to live gigs, I know this because our air b&b accommodation was above the Royal and it gets Loud! A great place to meet friends or have some apres after a day on the hill.
If you’re keen to watch sport and play pool then try Mike’s place at the Hume Hotel. Mike’s place is a cool sorta hidden multi level bar within the Hume Hotel complex. A huge screen was playing ice-hockey and pool tables were located down the back. Good selection of drinks and cocktails. Uptown Sports Bar is another option to watch sport such as ice hockey, they have a big screen, pool table and the chicken wings smelt divine.
Don’t miss Backroads Brewery, also located on Baker Street, Backroads brewery is a funky little place with a cabin like atmosphere, perfect for after ski/board apres. Backroads has a great selection of beer to suit all tastes or you can try them all by ordering a paddle. This place gets super busy at night so best to go early to get a seat.
If you’ve got a few days in town and have been riding hard, I highly recommend taking a drive to Ainsworth Hot springs. The hot spring is about a 45 minute drive from Nelson but the drive is very scenic as you drive alongside Kootenay Lake. It costs $14 plus $3 for a towel which they refund at the end. There is male/female change rooms with lockers so you can lock away your belongings. It was so delightful to submerse my body in the hot water which contains minerals with healing properties like calcium and magnesium. The hot spring runs through a really cool cave which you can wade through until you get to hot. Theres also a freezing cold plunge pool if you feel like shocking your body and bringing on an early heart attack. Next to the hot spring theres a regular heated pool which is nice to hang out in when the hot spring gets too hot. The surrounding scenery is really pretty especially if everything is snow covered. Overall it was a really cool experience and defiantly helped with my sore muscles from long days on the hill.
I had the time of my life in Nelson BC and snowboarding at Whitewater Ski Resort. It’s a definite must see for anyone who loves to ski/snowboard or anyone who loves to explore cute snow towns. With it’s stunning surrounds and friendly vibe I can say with certainty I will be back, in fact, on our first night a man who we got talking to about the bush fires in Australia said “Welcome Home, it’s so good here you wont want to leave” and he couldn’t have been more accurate.