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Where to See the Best Winter Alpenglows in the Kootenays

The term alpenglow originates from the German word alpenglühen, which describes the rosy pink-red light on the skyline peaks at dawn and dusk. Some believe alpenglow is simply a result of the Earth’s atmosphere acting as a filter when the sun dips below the horizon and the sunlight takes on a rosy hue as it travels through the air.

Another theory suggests that alpenglow is the result of light from a sun already well below the horizon shining up into space, and the colour is a result of diffuse sunlight reflected off and refracted through atmospheric moisture and dust acting like a kajillion tiny mirrors and crystal balls.

Winter alpenglow over the Canadian Rockies in Golden; photo by Dave Best

Whatever the cause, the mountains of the Kootenays offer some of the best alpenglow on the planet, especially when they are draped in a canvas of brilliant white Kootenay Cold Smoke.

In valley towns like Cranbrook & Kimberley, you can watch the Purcell Mountains to the west wake up with the morning sun, then watch the iconic Fisher Peak and the Steeples in the Rockies get their sunset glow on.

Fisher Peak in the Canadian Rockies, viewed from Marysville/Kimberley; photo by Shannon Harrison

A unique setting to enjoy an alpenglow is from the steamy winter warmth of Fairmont Hot Springs Resort public hot springs pools. While the sunrise alpenglow across the valley is a better show, there is something magical in looking way up at frozen, inhospitable, glowing sunset peaks of the Rockies from the comfort of a natural, rejuvenating hot spring.

The famous ivory bowls of Fernie Alpine Resort seem to loom right over the historic town center, and downtown Fernie offers a great chance to see sunrise alpenglow with a toasty bagel in one hand and a freshly roasted coffee in the other.  Or at the top of the alpine resort itself – at the Lost Boys Cafe (top of the Timber Chair), offering expansive views of the Elk Valley.

Early morning glow from the top of the Timber Chair at the Fernie Alpine Resort; photo by Henry Georgi

The Dogtooth Range and Kicking Horse Mountain Resort catch the first rosy rays of alpenglow on the Purcells to the west of Golden, while the last evening colour lingers on Mount Seven and the Canadian Rockies to the east.

Morning winter alpenglow rays from the top of Kicking Horse Mountain Resort and looking south to the Columbia River Valley; photo by Mitch Winton

The Kimberley Alpine Resort offers one of the only sanctioned resort up-tracks for ski touring and snowshoeing in the region. A trek to the mountaintop and Tower 18 is a popular destination for alpenglow and sunrise seekers.  Snap a photo of the classic T-Bar, or views across the valley flower to the Canadian Rockies in the background.

And, from the Rossland Range Recreation Site evening alpenglows shine brightly over the valley below.  Or be greeted by a pink morning alpenglow from RED Mountain Resort’s Granite Mountain webcam. The best part, you can view these daily (weather/Mother Nature pending).

Granite Mountain Webcam; photo courtesy of RED Mountain Resort

Revelstoke enjoys a similar sunrise stunner view of Mount Begbie and its glacier staring into the sunrise just south of town, and the peaks of the Selkirks around Revelstoke Mountain Resort light up as the sun disappears below the mountains to the west.



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Top/cover photo: Dave Best – Views of the Kicking Horse Mountain Resort with Winter Alpenglow Skies above the Canadian Rockies (east of Golden).  

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.

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