Skip to main content

Powder Towns on the Powder Highway

Sometimes it can be hard to reconcile just how different the “powder towns” along the Powder Highway are from each other.

Take Kimberley and Nelson. Kimberley reportedly boasted the first stoplight in the Kootenays, and still boasts that same single stoplight, alongside the only Powder Highway ski area fully inside City Limits and the most days with sun and sunlight hours in Canada.

Welcome to the Powder Highway; photo by Mitch Winton in Kimberley

Meanwhile, nearly 600-meters (1,969 ft.), or one heckuva ski run lower in elevation, moodier Nelson has boomed with skiers seeking world famous lodge meals at the fiercely independent and reliably deep Whitewater Ski Resort. Visitors who wonder why Kimberley is so delightfully chill also try to sort out just how Nelson supports a variety of vibrant restaurants, coffee shops, and artistic works.

Nelson’s Baker Street; photo by Mitch Winton

Fernie’s Rocky Mountain wall of ski hill vista looms over the town, and the windows rattle from the morning avalanche control blasting session. This blue-collar riverside ski town is about as different from Invermere’s Panorama as it gets. Top of the lift Fernie Alpine Resort views of the sprawling Elk River Valley and its mosaic of rich Rocky Mountain wildlife paradise are about as different as it gets from the gates of the Central Purcells up Toby Creek as seen from the top of Panorama Resort, where most of the jagged, glaciated peaks towering over this boutique ski resort community are well over 3,000-meters (9,853 ft.).

Fernie’s 2nd Avenue, downtown centre; photo by Henry Georgi

Situated at 1,023-meters (3,356 ft.) above sea level in the southern Monashee Mountains, the high elevation, simply ski-and-bike town of Rossland with its deep snows, great coffee, and hard-rock mining history could not be more different from the powder town of Golden. Golden’s convergence of rail, road, and rivers in the vast Columbia River Valley mirrors the grand collision of the Purcell, Selkirk, and Rocky Mountains that all loom over the river town. The town’s rail lines, TransCanada highway, and forestry mills demand a lot of attention in between the endless option ski sessions offered by three majestic mountain ranges.

Looking out to Rossland from the slopes of RED Mountain Resort; photo by Mitch Winton

Just as Golden’s original Whitetooth Ski Area grew into Kicking Horse Mountain Resort, Revelstoke’s Mount Mackenzie Ski Hill was the chrysalis for Revelstoke Mountain Resort, whose 1,600-meter (5,249 ft.) vertical drop is the highest in North America. Big like everything is big Revelstoke. Big river, big mountains, big vibe.

Views of Revelstoke and the Columbia River, from Revelstoke Mountain Resort; photo by Mitch Winton

Whether you like big or small, rockin’ or quiet, dark and deep, or sunny, light and fluffy, blue collar or red carpet, there is a “powder town” for you along the Powder Highway.

Views of Kicking Horse Mountain Resort from Golden; photo by Dave Best

Why not try them all?



Know Before You Go – Plan ahead so you can travel safely and responsibly. Familiarize yourself with weather, road conditions, general alerts for travellers and provincial health orders & recommendations.

Related Stories
~ 4 Reasons to Ski-Ride the Powder Highway this Winter
~ 7 Tips to Get You Started: Exploring the Powder Highway’s Backcountry
~ 72 Hours in the Columbia Valley this Winter 
~ 72 Hours in Fernie this Winter
~ 72 Hours in Golden this Winter
~ 72 Hours in Kimberley this Winter
~ 72 Hours in Nelson this Winter
72 Hours in Revelstoke this Winter
72 Hours in Rossland this Winter
~ Keeping it Old School: Our Community Ski Hills on the Powder Highway
~ Kootenay Winters: Why We LOVE Them
~ Our Kootenay Mountain Culture
~ Our Kootenay Winter Celebrations: Along the Powder Highway
~ Planning your Powder Highway Trip: Local Tips
~ Powder Highway 101

~ What’s New on the Powder Highway?

Story by Dave Quinn. Top/cover photo Mitch Winton in Kimberley’s Platzl (downtown centre).   

Words by Dave Quinn. Born in Cranbrook, BC; Dave is a wildlife biologist, educator, wilderness guide, writer and photographer whose work is driven by his passion for wilderness and wild spaces. His work with endangered mountain caribou and badgers, threatened fisher and grizzly, as well as lynx and other species has helped shape his understanding of the Kootenay backcountry and its wildlife.

Please tag your images with @PowderHighway and @KootRocks on Instagram to be featured in a future social post.  For travel deals and specials – sign up for our Consumer Travellers Newsletter

Get Social and Share Your Adventure
With Us By Using #KOOTROCKS