Whitewater Ski Resort is famous for is its lodge’s incredible home cooked meals, dishes ranging from curry bowls to gourmet burgers to yam poutine that would look more at home on the menu of a classy restaurant than on a ski hill. However, “home cooked” is also the perfect description of something else the resort is known for—the Cold Smoke Powder Festival, one of the quirkiest backcountry events around.
Celebrating its sixth year this past weekend under 20-plus cms of fresh snow, Cold Smoke is an annual, three-day festival celebrating all aspects and levels of backcountry snow shredding in the form of clinics, competitions, events, beer-drinking and, of course, costumes. Want to learn how to ski steeps? They have a class for that. Moguls? Trees? Tele turns? Check, check and check. Between laps through waist-deep Selkirk pow, skiers and snowboarders of all ages and abilities attended workshops ranging from basic avalanche skills to Kootenay-style freeskiing, skills the dumping snow gave them a chance to practice immediately after class.
The competition portion of the festival started on Saturday morning, with participants lining up for the ROAM Randonee Rally, a 4,500-foot-gaining rando race along a course circling the resort. As the last racers finished, the attention moved to the Valhalla Pure Powderkeg Slopestyle. It was during this event Whitewater proved it has no shortage of crazy little freeriders; in the first few runs a young local skier threw a 50-plus-foot double backflip, and the event descended into an impressive huckdoll tommy fest from there. Although there were as many small straight airs and pow turns as anything, other runs included spins, corks, frontflips, and a massive inverted seven that came dangerously close to airing over the entire course. One “King of Cold Smoke” hopeful—the “King (or Queen) of Cold Smoke” is an Iron man-esque category where individuals compete in all four events for an overall score—even stomped an enormous backflip in his full rando-race setup.
The two most unique events, however, were on Sunday—the Poker Run and the Backcountry Olympics. The Poker Run is a combination rando-race and poker game; teams of two race between five stations, drawing cards at each, and the best hand at the finish wins. The Backcountry Olympics garnered the most excitement, however, an event where teams of three tour up to a checkpoint, find a buried beacon, then construct a rescue toboggan from materials they’ve carried with them to pull a team member to the bottom. Once down, they must start a campfire, fry an egg, and eat it—you don’t eat it, you don’t finish.
Unfortunately, since the after-party on Saturday was sold out (the $55 ticket included, among other things, a historical photo slideshow, fire dancers, drinks, live music, comedians and, of course, a buffet put together by Whitewater lodge’s famous café) and we couldn’t make the awards ceremony due to the necessary grueling drive back to Revelstoke, the only thing our Cold Smoke/Whitewater experience lacked was a properly quirky ending. However, after such an incredible and pow-filled weekend I can’t see myself not coming back, and I imagine it will be just as fun—and home cooked—next year.
Photos by Phil Best, http://www.bestphotos.ca/.