5 Secret Places to Ski in Canada January 20, 2009 12:07

We all know the big players on the block with their multi mountain spanning resorts, gravity defying trams , and mountainside McMansions. But what about the hills of our childhoods? You know the ones with the rickety 2 person chair that you nearly froze to death on, or the t-bars that worked you out more on the ascent than the ensuing descent ever did? We’ve rounded up the 5 best places to Ski in Canada where the powder runs deep, the tickets are cheap and the lifts run slow.

1. Castle Mountain . Nestled in the last valley of the Canadian Rockies before you hit the never ending expanse of the prairies is Castle Mountain Ski resort. Castle’s location is both a virtue and a curse, a curse because it is the last stop for warm moist pacific air to drop its powder before turning into gale force Chinook winds that tear the doors off the farmers trucks to the east. Sometimes this phenomenon doesn’t wait for the prairies and decides to blow early threatening the lives of skiers riding the chair up the mountain while taking the snow with it. However with 2,833 feet of vertical, the wide open bowls and chutes are sure to reward the persistent especially on a big powder day. The big bonus is the lack of people to share your stash with and with 299 inches of snowfall per year there will be lots to go round. Castle is the type of place where locals ski in their coveralls and blue jeans still pass for snow pants. There are modest development opportunities if you happen to fall in love and build a cabin there.

2. Powder King. There are rumors that at one time Environment Canada refused to publish snowfall amounts from Powder King because they didn’t believe single snowfall amounts could be so high. But modern recording equipment proved the locals right. One might assume the cubicle dwellers at Environment Canada were hardcore ski fanatics trying to keep the place a secret. With 2,017 vertical feet to ski, crowds so thin that your morning tracks are erased by afternoon and Atco trailer luxury, Powder King is definitely authentic. With modest on-hill real estate opportunities you might just want to stake a claim to this powder stash and build a cabin there.

3. Shames Mountain . Located on the north edge of the middle of nowhere Shames Mountain boasts the highest amount of snowfall for a lift serviced hill in North America. In their inaugural season (1990) 72 feet of snow fell. With access to phenomenal backcountry and stunning views, this mountain truly is a hidden gem. The lore of this place alone make the trip to Terrace and subsequent shuttle to the hill worthwhile. Snorkel skiing anyone?

4. Hemlock Valley . When you think local mountains in the lower mainland, Grouse, Cypress and Seymour are sure to pop up. But there's one more. Hemlock Valley. Located an hour and a half east of Vancouver this little gem gets all the snow the Pacific can throw at it receiving 30 -35 feet of snowfall on average. Not a bad spot to build a ski cabin if you live in the lower mainland.

5. Whitewater Whitewater is a classic just 15 minutes up the road from picturesque Nelson in the West Kootenays that attracts 45 feet of snow on average every year. And that's dry powder or cold smoke as the locals call it not the wet concrete of the coast. The two double chairs are by no means modern but hey you’ve got earn your turns somehow and the ample groomers, glades, bowls, chutes, tree skiing and affordable lift tickets are well worth the slow ride up.