The Arrow Slocan Region of British Columbia offers so many incredible wintertime activities, you’ll need a truckload of gear to enjoy them all.
By Vince Hempsall
It’s not unheard of for residents of the Pacific Northwest to bring two pairs of skis on their winter sojourns: one pair of fatties for those deep pow days and one pair of skinnier sticks with sharpened edges for shredding groomers. When it comes to visiting the Arrow Slocan region in south-eastern British Columbia, though, visitors could benefit from having an entire quiver: nordic skis, skate skis, a resort set-up with locked heels and sharp edges, and wide backcountry skis or a splitboard to shred the world-famous “coldsmoke” snow, so named because it’s so light and dry, skiing through it is like floating on white vapor.
It’s also a good idea to pack a swimsuit.
Nestled in the Selkirk Mountains, an easy four-hour drive north of Spokane, Washington, the Arrow Slocan region is the perfect destination for winter enthusiasts because of the plethora of recreational activities available. Within the 100 kilometer long Slocan Valley there are 80 kilometers of groomed nordic and skate skiing tracks spread out between five different areas. There’s a community-owned ski hill, multiple snowshoeing trails, two hot spring resorts, as well as four backcountry lodges and a heli-ski operation that access tens of thousands of acres of pristine off-piste skiing. And, there are dozens of restaurants and accommodations in the quaint communities throughout the valley that appeal to every type of traveler.
The southern end of the Arrow Slocan region is 80 kilometers from the Canadian/American border and there you’ll find groomed nordic trails that skirt the Slocan River as well as the community of Crescent Valley with its iconic Frog Peak Café. The northern tip of the region encompasses the village of Nakusp, the Summit Lake Ski and Snowboard Area, the community-owned Nakusp Hot Springs and the luxurious Halcyon Hot Springs resort.
Below are some suggested winter activities to enjoy in the Arrow Slocan region of British Columbia and where to stay to rest up from your outdoor adventures.
Whatever your preferred mode of transportation through the white stuff, the Arrow Slocan region delivers. You’ll find 10 kilometers of groomed skate and classic ski trails at the Hills Nordic area between the communities of Nakusp and New Denver, plus a groomed section on the Hills Rail Trail. The Wensley Creek Ski Trails, located just east of Nakusp, include eight kilometers of set ski tracks and there’s a nordic skiing and snowshoeing loop at the Summit Lake Ski area. Plus, you’ll find a number of groomed sections on the flat and scenic Slocan Valley Rail Trail and K&S Historical Trail Network.
For downhill enthusiasts, Summit Lake offers a truly unique experience. The hill has been around for 61 years and it’s so core, volunteers run it and local taxes help subsidize it. One of the seven runs has floodlights on it and every Friday the hill offers night skiing but the locals aren’t satisfied doing the same line over and over: instead they don headlamps and tackle the other pitches.
For the really big descents, you’ll want to check out the heli-skiing offerings of Canadian Mountain Holidays, which uses its Kootenay Lodge in Nakusp as a base to access the world-class terrain in the surrounding mountains. It’s not unheard of for their guests to bag multiple 1,000-foot runs off an assortment of peaks in a single day. Alternatively, visitors can stay at elevation at various backcountry lodges. Valhalla Mountain Touring lodge is accessed via snowcat from the community of Hills. Sol Mountain Lodge and Ice Creek Lodge are both accessed via helicopter from staging areas near Upper Arrow Lake. And Valkyr Adventures, also accessed via helicopter from the hamlet of Burton, has three different backcountry offerings including Hilda Hut, Lequereux Outpost, and Valkyr Lodge.
Aside from skiing, there’s unlimited snowmobile terrain in the region as well as snowshoeing opportunities including the Jackrabbit interpretive trails located a five-minute drive from Nakusp.
One of the best parts about playing in the Slocan Arrow region is staying in the region. There’s nothing better than spending the day skiing, sledding, or snowshoeing in and around the local mountains and then enjoying a soak at the Nakusp Hot Springs or Halcyon Hot Springs before falling into bed in your room adjacent to the pools. There are even private Airbnb accommodations just north of Nakusp that offer personal hot spring pools.
In fact, you’ll find a number of cozy, boutique Airbnb offerings throughout the region including one near the village of Slocan that’s owned by Conor Hurley, a backcountry ski guide who regularly takes skiers and splitboarders into the alpine. Other popular Airbnbs include Kootenay Lakehouse, located on Upper Arrow Lake, that offers 180-degree views of the surrounding mountains, and Forest Cabin, which is nestled in an old growth forest five minutes from Nakusp we beautiful views of Saddleback Mountain and Arrow Lakes.
Other unique accommodations include the Winter Hunter Cabins on Slocan Lake in the tiny village of Silverton and the Adventure Domes in New Denver. Located near popular cross-country ski trails, these dome-shaped cottages are cute on the outside and stylishly modern on the inside.
You’ll find a number of cozy, boutique Airbnb offerings throughout the region that offer incredible views of the surrounding mountains, as well as inns, hotels, and a variety of B&Bs that put you on the doorstep to winter adventure while offering a cozy respite when the day is done.