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Heading Down To Invermere From Panorama Mountain

Columbia Valley BC for a Winter Break

Head to the Columbia Valley BC in the winter for skiing, skating and long soaks in the Radium Hot Springs. It’s only a three hour drive from Calgary – and an unbelievably scenic drive at that through Banff and Kootenay National Parks.

Columbia Valley BC, located between the Rocky Mountains and the Purcell Mountain Range, is not just a winter recreation paradise. It’s got something for every one on a year round basis especially with a hot springs, Invermere Lake, mountain trails and some vibrant communities. 

Updated April 2020. This post includes some affiliate links. If you make a purchase via one of these links, I may receive a small commission at no extra cost to you. 

Driving through Kootenay National Park en route to the Columbia Valley BC
Driving through Kootenay National Park on route to the Columbia Valley
Stopped in our tracks by big-horned mountain sheep in Radium Hot Springs
Stopped in our tracks by big-horned mountain sheep in Radium Hot Springs

Columbia Valley BC – accommodation options

We elected to stay at Bighorn Meadows Resort – a luxury condominium complex in the town of Radium Hot Springs. From the comfort of our room we enjoyed awesome views of the Columbia Valley.

Other places in the Columbia Valley to consider are as follows:

In Radium Hot Springs Prestige Radium Hot Springs Resort would be another great choice.

In Invermere the Copper Point Resort offers well-appointed rooms. 

In Fairmont Hot Springs check out the Fairmont Hot Springs Resort.

Columbia Valley BC sunrise over the mountains
A view from our condo of the sunrise on the mountains

Meet the sheep

When you drive the Columbia Valley always keep a close eye out for bighorn sheep. They’re abundant and blend into the landscape unbelievably well.

We  had a chance to get up close to the bighorn sheep at our Bighorn Meadows condo There were plenty of them around with many of them busy licking the salt off the cars. We’d hoped for a thorough cleaning of our car but it wasn’t one of the chosen ones. 

Big-horned sheep licking the salt off the car
Big-horned sheep licking the salt off the car

Ski at Panorama Resort  in the Columbia Valley BC

On Saturday morning we drove up to Panorama Mountain Village for a day of downhill skiing. It was a decidedly cold start to the day – about -21°C at the base. Fortunately after lunch it warmed up – and on the sunny slopes it could almost be described as warm.

It was the first time I’d downhill skied at Panorama and what a treat it was. Granted it was a bluebird kind of day but nonetheless I’d rank the mountain scenery in the top 10 of all ski resorts that I have downhill skied (at least 30 of them).

Vistas were exceptional and the hill itself offers lots of vertical – 4,000 feet in total – and a wide variety of runs. There is a bowl you can climb to if you’re into hard core double blacks.

Columbia Valley BC and skiing at Panorama on a bluebird day
Skiing at Panorama Resort on a bluebird day
Stunning vistas and uncrowded hills
Stunning vistas and uncrowded hills
On a warm day this patio would be awesome for lunch
On a warm day this patio would be awesome for lunch

After skiing we decided to head right for Radium Hot Springs. The 14 km drive down from the ski resort (and up for that matter) to Invermere is a very scenic one. On a snowy day it could be treacherous – so don’t even think about driving it without good snow tires.

From Invermere it’s another 20 minutes to reach the Radium Hot Springs. The hot springs are actually located in Kootenay National Park so you need a park pass too.

Heading down to Invermere from Panorama Mountain
Heading down to Invermere from Panorama Mountain

Radium Hot Springs

I always get chilled after a workout no matter what the temperature is outside, and looked forward all day to the thought of immersing my body in a very warm pool.

We spent about an hour lounging in the water – looking for hot spots and checking out the 43.3°C/ 110°F hot tub for 10 minutes – the maximum time suggested. The outside temperature in the shade late in the afternoon was about -17°C (1.4°F).

We were cooked by the time we left Radium Hot Springs. 

Soak in Radium Hot Springs - one of the fun things to do in Invermere
Radium Hot Springs
Radium Hot Springs are the best place to be after skiing
Radium Hot Springs are the best place to be after skiing

Cross-country skiing (or skating) the Whiteway

The next day we traded downhill skis for cross-country skis. The plan was to meet up with Penny, the owner of Columbia Kayak and Canoe for a guided tour of the Whiteway.

Both John and I were very impressed with the Whiteway. It’s a skating rink for one – and about to put the boots to Winnipeg and Ottawa to become the world’s largest and longest skating rink. (They got certified by the Guinness Book of World Records).

It boasts 30 km of cleared ice. Basically it’s a giant loop around the entire lake with some shorter loops you can do as well.

Alongside it are track-set ski trails. The snow removed from the ice is piled up on one side to allow for cross country skiing. So not only can you skate but you can ski for 30 km. You can also fat tire bike the loop. A lot of hard work went into the planning of it but it’s become hugely popular.

After a few hours spent skiing a 12 km loop it was time to call it a day and head for home.

One of the access points to the Lake Windermere Whiteway
One of the access points to the Lake Windermere Whiteway
Cross-country skiing on the Whiteway
Cross-country skiing on the Whiteway

We found that the weekend went by way too fast as they always do when you’re having fun.

We both loved the Columbia Valley and can definitely see many more trips here in our future. The hiking in the regions sounds like it would be superb and after chatting with Penny I know I’d also like to canoe from Invermere to Radium Hot Springs and perhaps even on to Golden one summer or fall.

The stunning Columbia Valley
The stunning Columbia Valley

Further reading on things to do in winter in British Columbia

Click on the photo to bookmark to your Pinterest boards.

A winter weekend in the Columbia Valley

Disclosure: John and I were guests of  the Columbia Valley Chamber of Commerce but all opinions are my own. 



Leigh McAdam

Leigh McAdam is a Calgary based writer, author, photographer and social media enthusiast with over 61,000 followers. Her blog: HikeBikeTravel is frequently cited as one of the top travel and outdoor adventure blogs in Canada.

Author of Discover Canada: 100 Inspiring Outdoor Adventures
Co-author of 125 Nature Hot Spots in Alberta

This Post Has 28 Comments

  1. WoW I love those landscapes and I also love hot springs. I have always been thinking about visiting once during summer time, you might have changed my mind now it looks amazing during winter time.

    1. @Freya These mountains feel very different than the ones in the Banff area and the Columbia valley feels wilder and more remote – in a good way. There is so much to do in the winter that I wouldn’t discount a visit in the colder months.

  2. Just like picture postcards and paintings, Leigh. Gorgeous! I recently enjoyed the thermal waters of Budapest, and would love to experience the ones at Radium Hot Springs — what an awesome setting. Love the million dollar view from your room, too.

    1. @Cathy We loved our room – extra big, super comfortable and the big horned sheep added a nice touch. I mentioned to John when we were in the hot springs about Budapest – and I will definitely be including a trip to the baths when we finally get there.

  3. I moved to the Columbia Valley 11 years ago and it was the best move of my life. It is a great place to visit but an even more incredible place to live and/or work.
    The last 3 weeks have included Outdoor Curling, Snow Golf, Fishing Derby, Pond Hockey and much, much more.
    The golfing and fishing in the summer are unbelievable.
    And the year round hiking is out of this world.
    It is an outdoor paradise.
    I am glad you enjoyed it.

    1. @Rob Thanks for your great comment. I am very impressed at how much is going on in the Columbia Valley in the winter. I’d like to come back and skate the entire Whiteway and of course have several more blue sky days up at Panorama. I have yet to make it to Fairmont Hot Springs so I’d also like to include that place on my next visit. My husband made the same comment you did – about what a fantastic part of the world it was.

  4. Gorgeous view of the surrounding mountains. I love ski resorts that have both downhill and cross-country skiing. I agree that a jump in the hot springs is just the ticket after skiing. I will be doing some of that this weekend in southern Wisconsin training for a cross-country ski marathon. The hotel I have booked has an indoor hot tub.

    1. @Ted Panorama does have a lovely Nordic ski area that we tried a few years ago – but the lake is a 20 minute drive from the resort – not far really. I love anything that warms my core after a cold day outside – and wish I had a hot tub outside my back door in Calgary.

  5. Those hot springs are amazing! It must feel so thrilling to be swimming in warm water while the air is so frigid!

    1. @Kae Lani I have become a huge fan of hot springs. We did a similar outing last year – skied in -25C temperatures at Mt. Norquay and then immersed ourselves in the Banff Hot Springs which I think are hotter than the Radium Hot Springs.

  6. Absolutely beautiful winter wonderland! I’m not a big fan of frigid weather but I’d go outside just to enjoy this scenery. The hot springs looks so neat with that backdrop. I didn’t even know this part of BC existed. I love ski resorts that are not crowded and this looks like one we’d actually enjoy. Gorgeous winter photos, Leigh!

    1. @Mary Trust me I don’t love the frigid weather either but if I dress really warmly – and especially if there are hot springs awaiting then I feel happy. The Columbia Valley is super pretty and not nearly as well known as other areas in the Rockies.

  7. Very Nice post with useful & important summary. I do appreciate this very useful post. All are most Beautiful & gorgeous pictures.

  8. I love winter! But winter in the mountains is absolutely fabulous: the snow is white and clean, the temperature is stable and in sunny days with blue sky there is not better place to be. Amazing pictures and watching them was such a good start of my day! Thanks!

    1. @Agata Thanks for your enthusiastic comment. I love winter too as long as it’s not too cold for very long. We had such a good time this past weekend. A three day weekend would have allowed us to see a few more things that I missed in the area.

  9. This is now I love to see snow – when it’s pristine and has few footprints.
    Thirty-two kilometers? That Whiteway is impressive!
    Thanks for the tour, Leigh.

    1. @Marcia The community seems to have really gotten together to support the Whiteway and the Nordic Ski Club has had almost a five fold increase in members since the Whiteway opened to skiing.

  10. Despite previously being an avid skier, I’ve never skied at Panaroma, have heard good things about it though. The skating rink sounds incredible – that’s good exercise!

  11. Those views from your condo look unbelievable! Love the mountains and the hot springs must have been such a treat after being out in the cold!

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