by Darren Davidson & r & & r & & lt;span class= "dropcap " & I & lt;/span & nland Northwest rippers yearning for a big hit of rowdy 'n' rustic should point their pickups northward. Just a three-hour tour up to British Columbia, Nelson's Whitewater Resort offers some of North America's most dependable deep-powder skiing and a welcome juxtaposition to the Big Boxdom that is slowly creeping into ski resorts everywhere.
Little but big, Whitewater packs every sort of terrain imaginable into a comparably compact zone serviced by two lifts -- yup, just two -- that appear to have time-traveled from the days of disco. They've got groomers, big bowls, glades -- you name it.
But freshman insurgents looking for face shots of the powder variety had best beware. The mountain is in truth geared toward intermediate and advanced skiers and snowboarders. Eighty percent of the runs are marked blue, black or double black, the latter being Whitewater's claim to fame. Two seasons ago, the resort busted open a ton of new tree skiing in its Diamond Glades area. But at Whitewater, the goods hide just beyond the boundaries. And this year, for the first time, the mountain is offering courses on how everyone from first-time tourers to veteran backcountry bums can get at it. The resort's Mountain Learning Centre has developed a Backcountry Touring Course that teaches the do's and don'ts of off-piste exploration -- a guaranteed adventure for Spokane-based weekend warriors and a wise investment in education, given the boom in backcountry touring at resorts everywhere.
For those with a bit of extra dough, a want for five-star shredding and a few extra days to spare, Whitewater offers reasonably priced packages with four nearby heli-ski and snowcat operators, including Selkirk Wilderness, the world's first cat skiing operation.
On the milder side, for families and seniors, Whitewater has a great Nordic trail system, all-day daycare and killer cooking. The resort has just published a cookbook revealing the secrets of a menu Ski Canada magazine called the best resort fare in the nation.
As for the village, well, that's where the rustic comes in. There isn't one. Aside from the newly renovated lodge and a big maintentance shop, Whitewater is dreamily devoid of development. But you'll find all the cozy accommodation, big-city dining and wee-hour boozing you want just 25 minutes down the road in Nelson. A city of just 9,800 located basically in the middle of nowhere, Nelson's cultural scene defies logic. There are more than 80 places to eat in the city and surrounding area, ranging from Mexican to top-chop steak shop to hippie health food. Louie's and the All Seasons are dynamite. Baba's is as fine an Indian restaurant as you'll find. For all-night apr & egrave;s carousing, hit the Rez, Mike's Place or Fluid-- the city's live music lineup is always packed on the weekends. For accommodation, try the Dancing Bear Hostel for quaint, the Hume Hotel for historic or, for the quintessential Kootenay experience, the Ymir Palace, a three-story former brothel just 20 minutes back towards Whitewater.
For info on tickets, travel and accommodations, visit www.skiwhitewater.com or call (250) 354-4944.
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