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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
~ 4 Reasons to Ski-Ride the Powder Highway this Winter
~ 5 Things to Do with the White Stuff
~ 6 Safety Tips for your Powder Highway Road Trip
~ 9 Tips to Keep your Family Safe on the Slopes
~ 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 at Panorama Mountain Resort this Winter
~ 72 Hours in Revelstoke this Winter
~ 72 Hours in Rossland this Winter
~ Cozy Up in a One of the Kootenay Authentic Cabins this Winter
~ Family Fun on the Powder Highway
~ Getting into Hot Water: Kootenay Hot Springs
~ Invermere’s Whiteway and All Things Winter
~ What’s New on the Powder Highway?
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.