A Trip to Kimberley, BC
Words, Photos & Video by Colin Wallace
If adventure, endless mountains to explore, and untouched powder are on your list of things to do, then a trip to Kimberley, BC is in order. Kimberley is nestled in between the Rocky and Purcell mountain ranges deep in the southeast corner of BC, making it the perfect breeding ground for hot summers and deep powdery winters.
It’s a typical Rockies snowpack north of town; shallow and dry, but the Purcells to the south yield some of the deepest, driest powder I have ever been hit in the face with.
The riding around Kimberley is tech. Tight, steep trees with lots of gullies and creeks to test anyone’s machine and ability. There aren’t any groomed trails or warm up cabins so come fully prepared with a few basic tools, tow rope, warm clothes and lots of food and water because you will be on your own. Kimberley is famous for dry, deep powder and we weren’t disappointed when we arrived. Brandon Wiesener’s 146″ Freeride from Bow Ridge Sports was on the pipe all day, climbing through perfectly spaced trees. The larch trees offer a different kind of aesthetic from the dense pine you may be used to; larch trees lose their needles in the fall after turning to a majestic shade of yellow that appears to glow in the early morning and evening light. The bare trees make it easier to see around them to make your next move when negotiating a tech side hill or climb. Although the snowpack may be thinner than coastal or northern areas, the sun and generally colder temps keep it dry and light; perfect for bouncing down a pillow line or slashing into a deep turn.
If you can’t get it in Kimberley it’s probably because you don’t need it, but if you encounter snowmobile mechanical difficulties there is an Arctic Cat as well as a Yamaha dealership twenty minutes down the highway in Cranbrook. Other than that, Kimberley has all the amenities you would come to expect from any mountain town: groceries, gas, hotels, hardware stores, and a good mix of restaurants to satisfy anyone’s cravings after a day in the mountains. For a relaxed atmosphere with an original menu and eclectic spirits selection, The Pedal and Tap restaurant and lounge is located in the pedestrian area downtown; kick back with a microbrew and get your fries mucked up. If taking in a bit of history while you dine interests you, the 350 year-old German farmhouse up towards the ski hill is home to The Old Bauernhaus restaurant and will keep you distracted until you dig into your authentic German meal made from fresh ingredients.
Accommodations in Kimberley are first rate with a one-stop shop website (www.kimberleycondos.com) that guarantees to have something for every need and budget from condos to luxury homes. My stay in Kimberley was spent at the Purcell Lodge condo; our unit featured two bedrooms with separate entrances and bathrooms/showers, with a shared and fully-stocked kitchen (just bring your own food) and living room. Parking was not an issue for a truck with two sleds but a large enclosed trailer might pose a problem. The Purcell lodge would be an excellent location for a family vacation if part of your family does not sled, as it is also a ski-in, ski-out location at Kimberley Alpine Resort.
Kimberley has an interesting history. The discovery of Galena on North Star Mountain (currently home to Kimberley Alpine Resort) led to a settlement named Mark Creek Crossing in 1891. A year later and across the valley from North Star Mountain, four prospectors discovered one of the largest lead/zinc deposits in the world on what is now called Sullivan Mountain; in 1896 the name of the settlement was changed to Kimberley in anticipation of the same mining success as Kimberley, South Africa. The first shipments of ore from the Sullivan mine to the smelters in Nelson and Trail started rolling down the train tracks from Kimberley in 1900 and large scale production started in 1923 following a takeover by Cominco in 1910. Cominco operated the mine until 2001 when it shut down; although there are rumors of an even larger deposit of lead/zinc that are currently being explored by local resource companies. Today Kimberley’s economy thrives on hard working local entrepreneurs and their businesses to attract tourism and thus move forward after generations of relying on resource extraction.
The city of Kimberley is accessible from Calgary via two different routes: heading south towards Crowsnest Pass and turning west through Fernie, or heading west on the Trans-Canada and turning south at Castle junction through Radium. Both routes travel through passes and take roughly four hours each.
If you have had enough of crowded sledding areas, busy parking lots and whooped-out suspension-eating trails, Kimberley is a hidden gem in the Rockies offering a more relaxed family orientated atmosphere that escapes the hustle and bustle of other tourist towns bombarded by the weekend effect. Head over to www.tourismkimberley.com for more information on the town and links to weather, accommodations, restaurants and other activities.
Check out this video from our days riding Kimberley:
– Count C-Dubula