Nelson, BC

DON’T BE SURPRISED if, as you’re approaching the parking lot of this midsized resort in the Selkirks, just south of the historic town of Nelson, BC, you think you see a yeti. Powder-caked, plank-wielding hitchhikers are common along the access road en route to Whitewater, owing to the myriad, out-of-bounds lines off the mountain’s backside, which lead skiers and snowboarders through prime terrain and to the highway’s edge. It’s common courtesy around here to pick them up and get them back to the ski base.

Whitewater is foremost a locals’ hill, supported by the townsfolk of Nelson, where one out of every three residents carries a season pass—but its 48 trails, 1,300-vertical-foot grade and 45-50 feet of snow per year are easily worth crossing an international border for. Two double chairs serve the resort’s north and south faces, which are located in the shadow of the storm-trapping Ymir ("WHY-mur") Peak. Head to the Silver King chair for rolling beginner runs and cedar-studded cruisers, or the Summit chair for hollowed-out bowls, swollen mogul seas and 35-degree pitches that dive headlong into a powder-cloaked forest. Down at the bottom, on the second floor of the post-and-beam lodge, you can refuel at the uncommonly good Fresh Tracks Café, where the lowbrow corndog fare you might expect from a modest ski resort’s menu has been abandoned in favor of puffy, warm samosas and seared wild coho salmon with salsa verde aioli.

For nonskiers, the late-19th-century mining and logging town of Nelson, set on the shores of Kootenay Lake, is an ideal setting for wintertime strolling, stuffed as it is with picturesque Victorian homes, stone storefronts and cozy coffeehouses. To unwind, take a side trip to the mineral hot springs in the little village of Ainsworth, 45 minutes up the road. After a long, leisurely dip, you, like the Portland steamboat captain who founded the town in 1883, might just fall in love with British Columbia and never come back.