Complete Guide to the Columbia Valley in Winter: Epic Things to Do, See and Eat!

There are so many reasons to plan a winter visit to the Columbia Valley. Enjoy snowy mountains, sunshine, frozen lakes, and pleasant hot springs all winter long. There are views in every direction and a friendly mountain culture. 

A trip to the Columbia Valley in the winter is the perfect side trip on a road trip from Vancouver to Banff. It is also the perfect destination for a week-long trip with access from nearby Cranbrook (1 hour) or Calgary (3 hours). 

It is known as the warm side of the Rockies making it a great option for a winter getaway with a bit warmer temperatures.

skating on WIndermere Whiteway

We were guests of Columbia Valley Tourism for the week. All opinions are our own.

Complete Guide to the Columbia Valley in Winter

Where is the Columbia Valley

The Columbia Valley is home to Radium Hot Springs, Invermere, Panorama, Windermere, Canal Flats and Fairmont Hot Springs. It is located approximately 3 hours from Calgary and 90 minutes from Banff. It is a mountain corridor between the Rocky Mountains and the Purcell Mountains. It is located right next to Kootenay National Park in British Columbia.

What to do in the Columbia Valley in Winter

A winter wonderland awaits in the Columbia Valley, the skies are blue (or grey and snowy) and the ground is crunchy! For those who love the outdoors, this is my new top recommendation for a weeklong trip. Spend a few days skiing, fat biking, enjoy outdoor skating, eat some great food, hike in nature, try ice fishing, and enjoy the authentic winter vibes of British Columbia. 

Columbia Valley - Windermere Whiteway in Winter
Drone shot of Windermere Whiteway
Columbia Valley - Markus and Lindsay on Windermere Whiteway

Skating in the Columbia Valley

Lake Windermere

Lake Windermere Whiteway is the world’s largest skating path (and Guinness world records holder) and our biggest reason for coming to the Columbia Valley in the winter season. It is a plowed path that runs from Kinsmen Beach in Invermere and loops across Lake Windermere offering 30 kilometers of trails for skaters, cross-country skiers, walkers, and fat bikes. 

There is just something about idyllic blue skies and skating across a frozen lake that I could not wait to enjoy with the kids. Lake Windermere is maintained by Toby Creek Nordic Ski Club. Get the latest info on the trail conditions on their facebook page.

Lake Lillian

Lake Lillian offers a skating track that is also maintained by the Toby Creek Nordic Ski Club. It is just outside Invermere on the way to Panorama Mountain Resort.

Community Rinks and Ponds (Outdoor rinks are open when the weather is favorable):

  • Frank’s Rink  (Edgewater)
  • Radium Rink (Radium Hot Springs)
  • Mill Pond (Radium Hot Springs)
  • Eddie Mountain Memorial Arena
  • Canal Flats Arena
  • Panorama Resort Skating Rink
Columbia Valley Skiing

Skiing and Snowboarding

The Columbia Valley offers epic powder, untouched tracks, and family-friendly skiing opportunities for downhill skiing and cross-country skiing. It is the perfect location for all levels of skiers and snowboarders. There are views in every direction and plenty of empty space making it the perfect winter getaway for anyone who loves snow!

Chair lift on Panorama Mountain Resort
Views on Panorama Mountain Resort
Learning area on Panorama Resort

Panorama Mountain Resort

Panorama Mountain Resort has 3000 acres of terrain for all skill levels and sees visitors from all over the world. It has a small base with a large beginner area and a huge amount of terrain for blue and black diamond level skiers. We loved Panorama so much that I don’t think we will ever want to go anywhere else. It is known for having the most amount of space per skier in all of North America! Enjoy the runs with ease as they are mostly empty!

There is a hotel at Panorama ski resort called the Approach Hotel which offers ski in / ski out with just a 20-second walk to the lift. No hiking for 20 minutes to get from a parking lot to the mountain. That was another huge bonus for us. 

The après scene offers great eats, we enjoyed dinner at T Bar and Grille. There is also a great breakfast buffet at Alto that is $30 for adults and $20 for kids. 

Panorama Mountain Resort also offers extensive hot pools for guests staying on the mountain.

Fairmont Hot Springs Resort
Fairmont Hot Springs Pools
Fairmont Hot Springs Ski Hill

Fairmont Hot Springs Resort

Fairmont Hot Springs Resort is the best small mountain ski hill I have ever been to. It is family-friendly and a great place for learning. There are no lines, beautiful views, and a small base making it perfect for kids! The bonus is that even those not staying locally can use the hot springs with a lift ticket. We loved the warm soak before heading back to Radium.

Radium hot springs in retro swimsuits
Radium hot springs kids retro suits
Columbia Valley - Radium hot Springs

Hot Springs

The Columbia Valley is known for its hot springs. Make sure to put these on your itinerary.

Radium Hot Springs Pools

Radium Hot Springs is iconic to the area. It is a beloved Parks Canada site and a stunning place to warm up and relax, especially in the winter. Rent one of the retro suits for $2.50 to pay homage to its 100 year history! Hours: 9am to 9pm

Fairmont Hot Springs

Fairmont Hot Springs is Canada’s Largest Hot Springs pool! It has two pools, one large and one small, as well as seasonal cold pools. Pool entry is included in winter ski lift tickets. Hours: 9am – 9pm

Shopping in the Columbia Valley

The towns in the Columbia Valley offer quaint shopping experiences. Check out: Main Street in Fairmont, Main Street in Invermere and Main Street in Radium.

Columbia Valley Hoodoos

Winter Hiking and Snowshoeing

The Columbia Valley in winter offers plenty of hiking (as well as Fat Biking) opportunities. Make sure you are aware of the conditions before you head out. Snowshoes or spikes may be required depending on the conditions.

Here are some of the winter trails to enjoy in the Columbia Valley:

  • Hoodoo Trail
  • Windermere Whiteway
  • Markin-Macphail Westside Legacy Trail
  • Lake Lillian
  • Panorama Mountain Resort snowshoe trails
  • Nipika Mountain Resort
  • Fairmont Hot Springs Resort

Where to Stay?

Approach Hotel Panorama Resort Family Room

Panorama Resort:

Hotel accommodations with ski-in / ski-out access at the Approach Hotel. Perfect for families, rooms have beds for 6! Parking is convenient outside the hotel just a 1 minute walk or in the lower level with the gondola coming up to the base of the mountain.

Radium Hot Springs - Bighorn Meadows Resort

Radium Hot Springs:

The village of Radium offers a variety of motel-style accommodations in town. There is also condo-style accommodation with a full kitchen at Bighorn Meadows Resort. We liked that Bighorn Meadows Resort offered condo-style 1 bedroom units and we saw the bighorn sheep every day!

Kicking Horse Cafe Latte Flight
Apres Ski on Panorama Mountain Resort
Steak from HorseThief Pub

Where to Eat?

Screamers Ice Cream Cafe (Radium) – Grab a latte, a breakfast treat or an ice cream in this retro cafe. They are open for breakfast and lunch.

Big Horn Cafe (Radium) – Pastries and lattes are the draw here

Wildside Pizzaria (Radium) – Excellent Pizza and uniquer toppings. Try the Donair Pizza

T Bar and Grille (Panorama Resort) – Apres ski staples and beverages (all ages until 10pm)

Horsethief Pub & Eatery – Pub fare (all ages until 10pm)

Black Forest Restaurant – Known for its German vibes and steak and schnitzel. (Invermere)

Alto Kitchen and Bar (Panorama Resort) – Buffet Breakfast stop to fuel up before hitting the slopes. Buffet breakfast is available from 8am to 10am. They are also open for lunch and dinner.

Kicking Horse Cafe (Invermere) – Have you ever had a latte flight? If not, head into Kicking Hose Cafe! This is where Kicking Horse Coffee is made.

What to Pack?

Proper gear is essential to a comfortable visit in winter. It was as cold as -18 when we were there. At that temperature, the snot in your nose starts to freeze. We had wool base layers, mid-layer insulator jackets and hardshell jackets. We also had fur hand warmers, balaclavas, good-quality gloves, and toques. 

How to Get to the Columbia Valley

The easiest way is to travel by car. This allows the freedom to explore on your own and make stops along the way. Grab a rental car on arrival at the airport if you are flying in. There are also local shuttles that can bring you into the area. 

Flying into Calgary International Airport ( YYC) – grab a rental car and then drive 3 hours through Banff and Kootenay National Park. Panorama Mountain Resort also offers airport transfers in the winter months.

Whether you are visiting for a long weekend or even longer, there is something for everyone to have a great time with all of the outdoor activities in the Columbia Valley.

winter guide to the columbia valley british columbia

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