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Toques & Plaid: It’s Uniqueness to BC’s Powder Highway

There’s a sure-fire way to tell that winter has arrived in the Kootenays without looking at the weather. No, it’s not holiday lights or the light, puffy smoke rising from the chimneys of houses around town.

Nor is it the emergence of winter-spiced coffees and ales from our favourite local café or brewery.

As the cold weather descends upon our mountain towns, you’ll find us reaching into our closets and pulling out our winter coat-of-armour – the knit toque and flannel shirts and jackets, to be worn until the spring (or summer!) with a certain sense of pride.

What is it about the plaid-laden, cozy shirts and uber-warm headwear that make them so suitable for our Kootenay winters? Do oversized flannel jackets help hide those extra pounds from Christmas baking? Does wearing a toque all day mean we don’t have to worry about how our hair looks?  

I don’t think so. After all we’re mountain folk, and if there’s one thing we’re not, it’s sedentary. 

Toques are a must, when out exploring; photo by Zoya Lynch

It’s not rare to catch us out for a Nordic ski in the morning with our knit toques wrapped tightly around our heads. Then in the afternoon, cruising through the forests for a fat-bike ride or exploring by snow-shoe in our long-sleeved flannel jackets. Our distinctive outerwear will then take us to the restaurants and pubs without missing a beat or looking out of place. 

Fat-biking in Kimberley, photo by RipTide Studios

Even in the offices of our cities, the iconic checkered patterned clothing can be found everywhere. I swear, on my last group Zoom meeting, at least a quarter of attendees were wearing their favourite flannel shirts!

Beyond the versatility, flannel is also ridiculously comfortable.

“They are like stepping into a warm bubble bath or holding a hot cuppa cocoa on a cold day,” says Kootenay local Eva Boehringer.

In fact, flannel is such an ingrained part of our culture that Kimberley even has its own winter festival, Flannel Fest – Feb 13 (going online for 2021), that celebrates our love and passion for the greatest of winter outerwear.

Crowned 2020 King & Queen of Flannel Fest with Happy Hans, photo courtesy of Flannel Fest

“To me, flannel is just everything,” says Karen Cetinski, founder of Flannel Fest. “It just embodies the woodsy kind of experience. People put their flannel shirts and toques on, and they get out to the mountains, and they look as though they fit in there. I think it’s really for the love of the environment that we wear our flannel”.

Maybe that’s it. We belong in the outdoors, we live for the outdoors, and toques and flannel are like a match made in heaven for our Kootenay winters.

To assist you with which businesses are open along the BC’s Powder Highway, these communities maintain lists of their businesses: Castlegar, Cranbrook, Columbia Valley, FernieGolden, Kimberley,  Nelson Kootenay Lake, Revelstoke and Rossland.

Know Before You Go!

~ Take extra time to research and plan your trip in advance. Many of our tourism businesses and services have adopted new COVID-19 protocols and changes to their schedules or policies to ensure your safety. You’ll want to become familiar with them ahead of time.

~ If you normally travel with extended family or with several friends, consider travelling in a smaller group. Travelling with fewer people makes it easier for you to practise physical distancing in public, and may have less of an impact on the destination.

~ Consider a slower travel pace to help curb the spread. Instead of checking in and out of multiple destinations during one trip, choose one or two destinations and one/two accommodation properties for your entire trip (and explore all the things to do & see nearby).

Related Stories
~ Family Fun on the Powder Highway
~ How BIG is the Powder Highway?
~ Keeping it Ol’ School: Our Community Hills on the Powder Highway
~ Kootenay Winters: Why We Love Them
~ Learn to Ski or Snowboard on the Powder Highway
~ Our Kootenay Mountain Culture
~ Quintessential Powder Highway Winters

~ Powder Highway 101
~ Slackcountry Touring at our Powder Highway Ski Resorts
~ Support Local: Meet Our Partners – Winter Adventurers
~ Stay Local, Support Local in the Kootenay Rockies
~ Tips: How to be Safe & Responsible Traveller
~ Up the Ante: Powder Highway Cat & Heli Day Packages

Top/cover photo courtesy of Kari Medig. 

Words by Mark Locki. Mark is a photographer and writer based in Kimberley, BC. An avid traveller throughout the Kootenays and abroad, he enjoys exploring the natural world, camera in hand, seeking out compelling stories. He’s often found deep in the backcountry, running, climbing or on skis, challenging himself to discover new scenes and viewpoints. 

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