Big resort options with small-town charm.

Looking for a down-to-earth break from the glitz of big ski resorts? One that offers some of the world’s most dramatic and unspoiled ski terrain? It’s time to head to the Kootenay Rockies region.

Just a 20-minute drive from the Pacific Coastal Airline destination at Cranbrook’s Canadian Rocky Mountains Airport, Kimberley is one of the most underrated ski destinations in the  world — never mind southeast British Columbia.

The small, charming town of 7,400 was once home to the world’s largest lead-zinc mine. Today, skiers have golden experiences at Kimberley Alpine  Resort, featuring more than 1,800 acres of ski terrain with 80 named runs and glades. That’s comparable to a better-known getaway like the 2002 Olympic host resort in Deer Valley outside  alt Lake City, but the prices are lower and the line-ups far shorter.

At first sight of the Purcell Mountains in this vast, snowy landscape, you sense infinite possibilities. Backcountry ski touring, for instance, offers the ultimate escape.

Mark Yancey of Boulder Hut Adventures operates one of BC’s oldest backcountry lodges, accessible with a 12-minute helicopter ride. Even on a tight  chedule, you can enjoy a guided, catered ski tour adventure with certified guides amid 15,000 acres of unspoiled terrain. Single-day, half-week, and week-long options are available.

Beyond the  opportunity for relaxed camaraderie with family and friends and a digital detox, backcountry ski touring has a special natural appeal.

“It’s just you and the wilderness, like taking a walk in the  mountains,” explains Yancey, a Boston native whose passion for snow science grew in Kimberley. “Every run you ski is fresh powder. You’re not skiing tracks. It’s a pristine place.”

Boulder Hut’s  season runs January to April, and March is a good time for intermediate skiers to enjoy milder average temperatures -5 to -10 C and a deeper snowpack. Getting in 5,000 vertical feet (five runs) —  or more with expert groups — is extremely attainable.

Skiers and riders who love the resort experience have plenty of choices in Kimberley, which gets an average snowfall of

13 feet each winter. Five rarely crowded lifts at Kimberley Alpine Resort open the door to a full day of exciting skiing — and you can carry on at night too. The North Star Express high-speed quad enables enthusiasts to ski under the stars on one of North America’s longest lit runs (2,500 metres) from Thursday to Saturday (through March 10).

At all hours, the exhilarating feeling of virtual  solitude is another mega-plus for this largely undiscovered ski destination. The vibe among ski instructors, lift operators and other resort personnel is low-key, ego-free and friendly. Whether you’re charging through champagne powder or carving on world-class corduroy, the variety of terrain for all abilities is impressive. It’s no wonder Kimberley is hosting the Para Alpine World Cup  series (Feb. 7-11) and the Nor-Am finals (March 12-18).

Cross-country skiers will also love roaming around the converted mining and logging trails on North Star Mountain. There are more than 40 km of groomed double- and single-track sto explore, plus a 3.3-km night skiing loop. The comfortable full-service day lodge offers free hot cocoa, coffee and tea.

If you love augmenting snow activities with sweet flavours, Kimberley abounds with alternatives. Take a S’Mores Fat Biking tour on the Trickle Creek golf course, devouring your marshmallow-and-chocolate treat by a roaring fire. Or take a snowmobile or snowshoeing trek to the Kootenay House for a chocolate fondue extravaganza.

In Kimberley, the good times continue indoors. For a hearty lunch or an après-ski break, head to Stemwinder Bar & Grill at the foot of the slopes. With Tom Petty and the Rolling Stones in the background, tuck into pub fare that ranges from a giant platter of nachos to a Vortex Veggie Burger with guacamole, spinach and goat cheese.

Just off the town’s 1970s-built, Bavarianstyle Platzl, featuring cute boutiques and the world’s largest cuckoo clock, beer enthusiasts
gravitate to Over Time Beer Works, Kimberley’s first microbrewery.

“For our main beers, we have styles that are balanced, drinkable and flavourful,” explains head brewer Matt Philip. Drop $11 on a five-beer sampler with Mountain Standard golden ale and Right About Now, a moderately bitter East Coast-style IPA.

The Platzl is also home to Tap and Pedal, a contemporary gastropub that lures diners with its vast selection of whiskey, craft beer and colourful dishes, from wild boar meatloaf medallions to meat and spaghettiballs (yes, you read that correctly).

Want to double down on Deutschland style dining? Check out the Old Bauernhaus Restaurant, which offers traditional German cuisine in a reconstructed 370-year-old timber house imported from Munich. The multi-course Bavarian feast includes savoury wiener schnitzel, spatzle and bratwurst, and reservations are recommended.

When you’re done for the day, comfortable ski-in, ski-out accommodations  wait. The homey Trickle Creek Lodge has gorgeous mountain views, en suite kitchens, free wifi, a heated outdoor pool and hot tubs, and direct access to the ski slopes.

In this town with two hockey  rinks, a climbing wall and a curling club, there’s no shortage of things to do in the winter. Back in 1937, the Kimberley Dynamiters won the World Hockey Championship. Today, visitors to Kimberley can expect a championship-calibre experience on their ski getaway.

Story By Lucas Aykroyd
Photo Credit (left to right): Kimberley Apine Resort, Tourism Kimberley, and Tourism Kimberley