This past long weekend I traveled north of the border for the Kootenay Coldsmoke Festival at Whitewater Ski and Winter resort outside of Nelson, BC.  Nelson is a nice little town of 10,000 people where everyone is a potter, painter, professional thinker, ski bum and coffee buff.  Everyone’s really friendly, half the people there don’t work, they get unemployment from the government and seem to do pretty well.  Socialism is hawt!

A few things about our neighbors to the north.  The beer there?  Yep, stronger.  Marijuana?  I’ll relay a little story here.  We met a friend while we were there, let’s call him Woodsman.  Woodsman lives in an even smaller town called Ymir (pronounced why-mer) and one night he’s hanging on his couch with a hooge bag of the herbs on his lap and there’s a knock at the door.  Woodsman here invites in the guest without so much as leaving the couch and that visitor happens to be a local police officer.  Here’s how the exchange goes, as related to me by Woodsman.

Woodsman (with hooge bag of herb in his lap):  Evening…

Police: How ya doing there, buddy?  What’cha got there?

Woodsman: Oh, this is just my hooge bag of herb

Police:  Yeah, I see that, you got a basement here in the house?

Woodsman: No, no basement, I have a crawl space, want to see it?

Police:  Sure thing, thanks (he has a look, nothing shocking in there, like, say, a hooge grow operation)  Well, thanks, you have a good evening now.

Woodsman:  You too, see you around.

But enough of all this about drugs and booze, we came here for one reason and that’s to ski and kick some Canadian mountain tail!

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This would be our playground for the next 4 days.  Whitewater Mountain is 500 acres of lift-served ski resort, but the real gem of this place is the open gates and backcountry access.

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Our main goal of the weekend was to summit Whitewater Mountain, and ski some of the delicious looking chutes coming off the face.

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They really played up the Canadian angle for this weekend festival, as seen in the name of the Saturday night party, the Buff-Eh,  this is outside the corner bar in the lodge.  The lodge is worth noting for lots of reasons.  The fod served here is without questions the best mountain food I’ve found anywhere and on par with some of the best breakfasts and lunches I’ve ever had.  We’re talking omelettes with sundried tomato, goat cheese, fresh basil and served with pesto mayo on a toasted english muffin.  The chili con carne was totally epic by all standards as well.  I can’t say enough how much it was appreciated.  The lodge itself is just a nice a-frame shape, beautiful wood beams and smelling like gear and good food.  The line above is for the bar which the majority of the mountain visits at the end of the day.  The vibe is very congenial and friendly and you just plop yourself down wherever you so feel and you can strike up conversation with whoever is sitting near you.

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A little in-bounds action to start with eh?  Dave hucking his meat off the ridge.  The snow on Saturday was perfect for hucking.  Nice dense sugar that just compressed nicely and allowed you to initiate a smooth turn out.

Sunday we had the pleasure of touring with a guide named Raman and Eric Pehota (Pay-o-ta)  Pehota’s a bad ass who has taken down many a first descent throughout BC and is a generally easy going, fun, nice guy who loves guns and makes his own beef jerky, and scores his meat not from a freaking safeway, but the land around where he lives.  He also told me that his son was landing switch 9s when he was 11, try that on for size.

Monday, however, Dave and I toured on our own, without the group.  Our goal was the summit and then ski down to a chute named First Choice.  There had been about 6 cm of snow the night before and the snow pack was stable for the ride down.

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You gotta get up to get down.  Some weather looked like it was going to sock in the summit and we were bummed because the day before had been the same way and we wanted some vis to be able to take in the surrounding Kootenay Mountains.

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I don’t know who sets the skin track up there, but they’re pretty psycho.  Underneath, there were areas of seriously rotten snow.  About 45 minutes before this pic was taken the downhill side of the skin track collapsed under me and I with it, into a tree well, causing the tree to shake off all the icy snow that covered it’s branches onto my head and body.  That was awesome.

The area around Whitewater was absolutely beautiful, like, boner-inducing-let-me-die-here-I’ll-give-it-all-up-and-move-to-a-yurt-and-eat-small-birds-for-sustinance beautiful.

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Dave looking for the angels.

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The night before this we were up pretty late with a bunch of whack-o Canadians dancing, drinking, and causing a ruckus.  It’s all about balance…and Kokanee, that stuff is the shizz.

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We got to the summit in good time and took a break to eat some food, and prepare for the ski down.  I don’t know if Dave is offering me a treat here, or subtlety giving me the finger……

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Epic

firstchoice.jpgEntering First Choice , not too may shots once we were inside.  We followed protocol and tucked into safe zoneson the way down and tried to ski the chute as quickly as possible.  A good amount of snow had blown in to the chute overnight making it ski about boot-top deep of just silky dense blower pow.

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Dave maching it out in the open bowl below the chute.

It was a great ski and fantastic way to end the trip.  I’m stoked to go back and explore the Kootenay region in the future.

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Pretty much sums things up, big smiles, big mountains.

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