Discovering Kimberley is like a pioneer’s epiphany. After driving in from Radium Springs via flat valley roads along the Powder Highway, you start to ascend into more hilly topography meandering amid the Purcell Mountains. The quaint township gradually reveals itself with Alpine-looking bungalows interspersed with a few shops, and then you come upon the beautiful Bavarian-themed Platzl, the town’s central entertainment district. Just four km (2.5 miles) up the south-facing hill is the under-the-radar ski area, Kimberley Alpine Resort – the locals’ backyard and a holidaymaker’s haven (http://skikimberley.com/) – By Louise Hudson (http://onetwoski.blogspot.
1. Kimberley Alpine Resort
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With 68 trails, 12 glade runs, five lifts and nearly 2,000 acres of terrain, Kimberley Alpine Resort acknowledges the region’s Scandinavian skiing heritage. Original settlers brought their love of snowsports to the East Kootenays, developing the Kimberley Ski Club back in the early 1930s. The modern resort derives from the 1970s when local craftsmen helped build the rustic day lodge and other facilities. Unlike most ski resorts in North America, Kimberley Alpine Resort (KAR) is staffed by many locals of all age-groups for whom this is a sociable and sporty community facility as much as a ski destination. This means insightful tips and tactics available from everyone working in the resort. Ask someone to direct you to the signature Sunpit which is an ice castle constructed each season in the forest just above the sign for Purl Run on Vimy Ridge – great for spring picnics with a bottle of wine!
2. Kids’ Kimberley
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With cheaper lift tickets and more affordable Sports School packages than neighbouring ski resorts on the Powder Highway, Kimberley is a key place to learn both skiing and snowboarding – and under 5s ski for free. If you stay at Trickle Creek Lodge, the bunny runs are literally outside the door with a handy ski locker room just by the hotel’s back entrance. Expect to see lots of local kids and beginner adults learning here and, after lessons, convening for snacks, lunch or warm-up drinks in the Slopeside Coffee and Deli. When the bunny run becomes too easy, there is a long but gentle green run, The Alpine Slide, on the front side of the mountain. And with 20 percent beginner terrain and 42 percent intermediate, there is a lot of scope for gradual progression (http://skikimberley.com/
3. Kool Kimberley
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The Black Forest area is prime for powder in the meandering meadows among the glades. Accessed via a long snowy road, when this area gets mogulled, it is more suitable for advanced skiers. But engulfed in light dry powder it is a great place for eager intermediates to get to grips with off-piste skiing and riding. The resort is entirely below the tree-line, which gives great snow ghosts after storms and useful visibility markers when the weather is socked in.
4. Kimberley Krowd
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Best way to find your footing hill is to join a Mountain Host tour. These are free and they are typically led by enthusiastic locals with a vast knowledge of the skiing as well as the history and contemporary culture of the area. Tours head up at 10:30am and 1:30pm daily from the Northstar Quad base area. Other orientation options include guided ski touring with family-run Boulder Hut Adventures. This experience combines pristine Purcell powder with a stay at the 4.5 star Trickle Creek Lodge, from where you practically walk right onto the helicopter – adding 15,000 acres of backcountry bounty to the 2,000-acre resort skiing.
5. Kimberley Kootenays
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If you go skiing or riding with the hosts, they will probably show you Kootenay Haus Mountaintop Bistro, a high altitude warming hut and picnic spot. This used to be part of a small mountainside town at the site of the old mining operation. It’s sometimes used as a ‘haunted haus’ at Halloween.
6. Kimberley Kingdom
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Along with skiing and snowboarding, Kimberley offers cross-country on 33km of track, dog sledding, snow shoeing, snowmobiling and winter fat biking. Two-hour winter bike tours take advantage of winding forest trails with a scenic stop-off for S’mores-roasting at a warming fire. The wintry way is magically illuminated by celestial stars with the help of human-made headlamps. When I was a kid, I always wanted to go to ski resorts with skating rinks in order to extend the pleasure into the evenings and Kimberley doesn’t disappoint. A cute little rink is right between the Trickle Creek Lodge and the Polaris Lodge where all the guest service amenities are housed. Other evening activities include night skiing on Thurs, Fri and Sat from 5:30-8:30pm: an exciting extra, especially if you arrive late afternoon at the start of your visit. This is a mystical experience, offering serene skiing or riding on the floodlit lower slopes and the rail park – which incidentally has an old car, fully buried and re-purposed as a jump. This gels well with the name of the area: KAR PARK. Other fun features include the steep wallride and rainbow rail.
7. Krazy Kimberley
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The Stemwinder Bar & Grill is Kimberley’s top après ski offering, with casual food and drinks, and adult-only access after 8pm. There’s foosball, darts and Giant Jenga as well as weekend live music line-ups and regular Open Mic nights. Nearby is Montana’s Cookhouse, at the Trickle Creek Lodge, famous for ribs, wings and steaks (http://skikimberley.com/discover-kimberley/restaurants/).
8. Kimberley Komforts
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Having everything including the kitchen sink at the Trickle Creek Lodge means you can have a great self-catering vacation with groups of family or friends. The two-bedroom, two-bathroom suites are particularly spacious with huge beds, full kitchen and fireside living room with sofabed. North-facing rooms have balconies right on the bunny hill. A huge bonus is the big hot tub and pool area which overlooks the slopes and is a great way to morph from the active outdoor ski day into the more laid-back nightlife.
9. Kimberley Kuisine
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For Alpine authenticity you can’t beat The Old Bauernhaus Restaurant, a dismantled and rebuilt Bavarian farmhouse dating back to 1640. Just a few minutes down the road from Trickle Creek, it is a favourite haunt of hungry skiers who flock there for the fondues, wienerschnitzel, German noodles and other homemade delicacies (https://www.facebook.com/Old-Bauernhaus-Restaurant-211716418849134/). Further down the hill, the Bavarian theme is played out in the Platzl, which is home to the world’s largest cuckoo clock. Remember to put in a coin to get the yodeling town mascot to emerge!
10. Kimberley Kharisma
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Although the architecture is all in keeping with the Bavarian theming, many of the newest businesses are more modern. The Pedal and Tap is one of the most recent additions, a bike-themed trendy cocktail bar and healthy restaurant, serving vegan, vegetarian and gluten-free options alongside mainstream menu items. Its success has led owners to open The Shed which is more casual, focusing on beer and Bingo. Stonefire Pizza is a popular Italian, great for family dining or group gatherings. And there are lots of eclectic shops and eateries all along the postcard-perfect Platzl.