Bill Sones drops into a trackless ski slope at a local backcountry skiing area. Could this area be used to promote Nakusp as a winter tourism destination?

Nakusp’s winter tourism potential

Does Nakusp have potential for more winter tourism?

Cresting the ridge, the view was incredible. Below us, to the south, a sea of clouds stretched through the valleys from Arrow to Slocan Lake. The sun was out and a little-tracked white canvas dotted with trees lay below us.

I was in a popular local touring area with local veteranarian Bill Sones. I got in touch with him after a few Google searches for Nakusp ski touring turned up his name in association with a non-profit backcountry hut society.

Being an avid backcountry skier, I asked if he could take me out for a day. I met him at his home on Superbowl Sunday, where we drove to the trailhead and then hopped on his snowmobile for the ride to the ski touring area on a network of groomed logging roads. It was a zone used by both backcountry skiers and snowmobilers, with each sticking to their own side of the valley.

Our destination was the heart of a sub-alpine basin surrounded by thinly-treed slopes. A group staying at the hut had already set a number of skin tracks, so climbs were easy and the descents gentle and safe given the moderate avalanche hazard that day. We skied three laps of boot-deep powder on top of a smooth surface — not bad considering it had barely snowed in weeks. It was Superbowl Sunday, so there weren’t many people around.

While there I talked to Sones about ski touring around Nakusp — namely how I found it really hard to find information about where to go. I found a few descriptions of tours in the Trout Lake and Retallack areas, but nothing for around Nakusp, except for a couple of mentions of the area we were in — an area Sones asked me not to name in the newspaper, though most people reading this probably know where I’m referring to, and a search for “ski touring Nakusp” mentions it in the first result.

I had already been wondering about Nakusp’s potential for winter tourism. That’s probably because I came here from Revelstoke, which has blossomed as a winter destination since the ski resort there opened in 2007 (not to mention the thriving snowmobile tourism industry).

In my six weeks in Nakusp, I’ve enjoyed a powder day at Summit Lake, been cross-country skiing at Wensley Creek and the Kuskanax Trails and visited the hot springs. The trails have been quiet and the locales very low key.

While out with Bill Sones, I said I was thinking about an article about Nakusp’s winter tourism potential. Backcountry skiing and snowmobiling are growing industries and here’s Nakusp, with a great little backcountry hut in an fairly accessible location surrounded by lots of great ski touring and snowmobiling terrain.

Sones response was simple. The hut isn’t promoted because the society that runs it doesn’t want it to be too busy. It’s maintained by a small group of volunteers who bring up the propane and firewood and more people would mean more work keeping the place supplied.

They also don’t want the area to get too busy and tracked up, hence keeping it on the down low. Knowledge of the hut gets out by word of mouth and they want to keep that way.

While that may be great for the locals who go play in the area in the winter, what about the portion of the population who makes a living off tourism? Nakusp has a great summer tourism industry, but in the winter – outside the K2 Rotor Lodge – the town is very quiet.

I spoke to both Peter Welkering, the owner of the Brouse Creek Bed & Breakfast, the vice-president of the Nakusp & District Chamber of Commerce, and a director with the West Kootenay Tourism Alliance. I asked what kind of efforts there were to promote Nakusp as a winter destination. “Everybody’s talking about it because they’re suffering for the winter,” he told me.

He pointed to the Nakusp Arrow Lakes Winter Guide pamphlet that the Chamber of Commerce produces in cooperation with Kootenay Rockies Tourism. The pamphlet has photos of all sorts of winter recreation opportunities — snowboarding, heli-sking, cross-country skiing, curling, hockey, snowmobiling, fishing, tubing and more. It has maps of all the local Nordic trail networks but there is no mention of the backcountry area Bill Sones took me to.

He brought up the challenges of promoting Nakusp — notably the access. If you’re coming from Alberta, you have to contend not only with two major mountain passes along the Trans-Canada Highway, but also the ferry crossing. Coming from the Okanagan, you have to take a ferry and the winding Monashee Highway. “It’s unpredictable that if you come on the Friday, that you could make it back on the Sunday,” Welkering said.

The other challenge is working with locals to promote the local recreation areas that they don’t want promoted. Welkering suggested building new huts if local groups wanted to keep existing ones quiet.

“If people don’t want strangers going to their huts, we need to build huts they can use,” Welkering said. “You have to put a lot of things into place before you start developing a certain area.”

A few weeks later I spoke to Cedra Eichenauer, the manager of the chamber of commerce. I brought up the idea of my article and we talked about promoting Nakusp in winter.

Her thought was that without a big tourism draw in place like a major ski resort, Nakusp could position itself as a quiet destination where you make your own adventure — whether it be Nordic or alpine skiing, snowmobiling, snowshoeing, fising or simply coming to relax in the hot springs.

This got me thinking that maybe Nakusp could follow in the footsteps of Smithers, B.C., where the Bulkley Backcountry Ski Society worked to create the Hankin-Evelyn Backcountry Skiing Recreation Area. It’s a non-motorized recreation area with cross-country skiing and snowshoe trails in the valley and access to the alpine above. There’s an overnight hut and a warming hut for day-users.

Nakusp has an area perfectly suited for this, but as best as I can tell, the desire is to keep it a locals secret. Developing a new area would require a significant organization to gain the permissions and raise the money needed to build infrastructure. It doesn’t have to be non-motorized.

How you boost winter tourism while still maintaining the peaceful nature of the community and without over-crowding the trails is a balance that would have to be reached.

 

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

People participating at a Remembrance Day event in Nakusp in 2016. Photo: Jillian Trainor
Scaled-down Remembrance Day event to take place in Nakusp

People are asked to physically distance and wear masks if they attend the event

A view of proposed seniors housing on Vernon St. Illustration: City of Nelson/ Vendure Retirement Communities
Nelson seniors housing project to start construction in the spring

Private development on Vernon Street will provide assisted living services as well as housing

test tube with the blood test is on the table next to the documents. Positive test for coronavirus covid-19. The concept of fighting a dangerous Chinese disease.
Interior Health records third COVID-19 death

A new community outbreak was reported at Okanagan Men’s Centre in Lake Country

NAV CANDA is considering closing its station at the West Kootenay Regional Airport. Photo: Betsy Kline
Nav Canada considering closing station at West Kootenay Regional Airport

The organization is conducting a service review at Castlegar’s airport

Internet service in the West Kootenay is improving thanks to provincial government grants. File photo
COVID-19 support program brings faster internet to rural communities

The province has provided grants to local internet providers

Sooke’s Paul Larouche enjoys gold panning along the Sooke River, looking for small treasures. (Aaron Guillen/News Staff)
VIDEO: Island man finds niche audience by gold-panning on YouTube

Paul Larouche, 29, with over 215,000 subscribers, opens up about his journey

CBSA. (Black Press Media File)
4 sentenced in B.C. steroid smuggling, distribution ring that spilled into U.S.

Canadian Border Services Agency announced the results of a lengthy investigation it called ‘Project Trajectory’

Search and Rescue Technicians carry a stretcher to the CH149 Cormorant during a 442 Squadron Search and Rescue Exercise in Tofino on February 28. (Photo by: Cpl Joey Beaudin, 19 Wing Imaging, Comox)
Father and son found dead after weeklong search near Pemberton

The father and son had set out for a day of mushroom picking last Thursday

A full moon rises over Mt. Cheam on Saturday, Feb. 8, 2020. (Jenna Hauck/ The Progress)
Rare full moon, Daylight Saving makes for a uniquely spooky Halloween – despite COVID-19

We can’t host costume parties but this weekend is still one for the history books

A woman wears a face mask and plastic gloves while browsing books as a sticker on the floor indicates a one-way direction of travel between shelves of books at the Vancouver Public Library’s central branch, after it and four other branches reopened with limited services, in Vancouver, on Tuesday, July 14, 2020. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck)
B.C. reports 234 new COVID cases, 1 death of senior who had attended small birthday party

Roughly 5,700 people are isolating due to being exposed to a confirmed case

A study by SlotsOnlineCanada notes there is at least 88 hours of top-rated horror movies for Canadians to consume this Halloween. (Unsplash)
Spooks and Chill study reveals Canada’s favourite horror flicks

88 hours of top-rated horror movies can fill COVID-19 Halloween

A nurse performs a test on a patient at a drive-in COVID-19 clinic in Montreal, on Wednesday, October 21, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson
Interior Health reports seven more COVID-19 cases

Eighty-nine cases remain active, none of whom are currently hospitalized

Burnaby RCMP responded to a dine-and-dash suspect who fell through a ceiling in March 2020. (RCMP handout)
VIDEO: Suspected dine-and-dasher falls through ceiling of Burnaby restaurant

A woman believed to be dashing on her restaurant bill fell through the kitchen ceiling

A can of Canada Dry Ginger Ale is shown in Toronto on Thursday Oct. 29, 2020. The maker of Canada Dry Ginger Ale has agreed to pay over $200,000 to settle a class-action lawsuit launched by a B.C. man who alleged he was misled by marketing suggesting the soda had medicinal benefits. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Joseph O’Connal
B.C. man’s lawsuit over marketing of Canada Dry ginger ale settled for $200K

Soda’s maker, Canada Dry Mott’s Inc., denied the allegations and any liability

Most Read