In December of 2015 I embarked on my final expedition of the year in the Columbia Valley of British Columbia, Canada. This place is a blessing for anyone looking for a mix of renegade adventure, outdoor family activities, relaxation, and big mountain fun.
The last time I visited the Columbia Valley I was about 21 years old, on a snowboarding trip at Panorama Mountain Resort with one of my best friends. This time around I teamed up with The Weather Network to explore and document outdoor activities found in the area. Prior to leaving on an expedition, I always have some level of preconceived notions of what the expedition will be like. I think about the itinerary, who I will meet, what I will be doing; and I can honestly say every aspect of this expedition shattered my mind. The main hub of the valley is the town of Invermere, in Kootenay National Park, which served as a base for this expedition while we stayed at Copper Point Resort.
Before I get too deep into this, let’s get some thing straight about Copper Point Resort. Until the moment I stepped into my room I thought all hotels were more or less the same: same hard mattress, same pillows that will never be like home, same cookie-cut bathrooms, same generic hotel-room look with barely enough room to enjoy it… MY EXPECTATIONS WERE BLOWN AWAY BY COPPER POINT. Without giving away too much, I stepped into what I thought was literally an upscale condo – I had two fireplaces, three bathrooms (which had TV’s in the mirrors), full amenities, and after twelve seconds of admiring the room I was thinking of ways to pitch them having me live there as a resident ambassador for Copper Point. Since then I have stayed in hotels and motels which will never measure up. This is by far the best place to stay if you visit Invermere.
The first day of the expedition began at Panorama where I was to go paragliding (for the first time in my life). The plan was to ski off the summit of Panorama Mountain (almost 8,000ft) and paraglide to the base. Many people have asked if I was scared or if I had any fears prior to doing this and to be honest, I wasn’t afraid of the paragliding itself – I was more freaked out by the fact that I haven’t been on skis since I was in Grade 9. The last time I wore skis I skied into a tree and broke my thumb. Who the hell skis into a tree thumb-first? I do. Anyways, I pulled up my socks, told my mind to shut up, got my gear and headed to the top of the mountain. There I met up with maybe one of the most renegade-badass human beings I have ever met. His name is Max Fanderl (FlyingMax.com), who has competed in the Red Bull X-Alps. We went up the chairlift and at the summit I did a quick interview with The Weather Network and then we got suited up. We began skiing off the summit and I remember the moment the wind picked me up and I was soaring above the trees and mountain within moments. This was the most surreal feeling I have ever had and I couldn’t believe how the mountain looked from above. The weather conditions were perfect – little to no wind, the trees were all dusted in snow, and it is a moment I will never forget.
I have never snowmobiled up until we arrived at Toby Creek Adventures. Upon arriving at base camp the folks from Toby Creek were like “Here’s your machine,” and pointed to a snowmobile directly in front of me. After a couple seconds I replied with, “What, are you joking.” Initially I had assumed I’d be taking photos off the back of a snowmobile while someone else drove…So this was AMAZING news because it allowed me the opportunity to try something new but also to get Point-Of-View photos with my GoPro. I got a run down on how to pilot the snowmobile, mounted the GoPro to my helmet and we all geared up for the day. We rode up to the Paradise Mine on Brewer Mountain in the Purcell Mountains, which was about a 4 hour/half-day trip. Along the way we stopped in several places to admire the spectacular views, and one of these locations included a frozen ice waterfall.
“What the hell is snowbiking?” I asked myself on my way to Radium Snowmobile and Snowbike Rentals in Invermere, BC. I figured it was much like fat tire biking, which is basically a bicycle with fat tires, for enhanced traction on snow. I was wrong. As it turns out, snowbikes are a modified dirtbike. But instead of having tires, they have a large ski on the front and track on the rear (the one I rode even had nitrous) – like OMG. As if I needed that much power. I met up with Steve Langevin, a former pro snowbiker and operator of Radium Snowmobile and Snowbike Rentals. We ascended up Brewer Mountain on a tear. Being on a snowbike feels like you are surfing on clouds – conditions were ideal that day and we were literally surfing on 4 feet of powder on the side of a mountain. After connecting with Steve that day we became very close friends. Steve has a certain attitude about life, sports, and nature that makes you want to be around him. We naturally became buddies and this is a day I’ll never forget. Steve, I love you man.
Skiing, Snowboarding, Fat Tire Biking.
While I was on the expedition I also had the opportunity to get back on skis, try fat biking for the first time and even get a day of snowboarding in at Panorama Mountain Resort.
I had never been ice fishing prior to this day. The Weather Network and I headed out to the middle of Windermere Lake where we met up with Reel Axe Adventures, who were burrowing into the ice and setting up fishing poles. We didn’t know how thick the ice was but seeing the confidence from the folks at Reel Axe eased our tensions. After about 10 minutes we started getting bites and after a couple hours we ended up with a pile of fish. I liked this experience so much the next time will be in a hut and will be a several-day endeavor.
I’m sure you’ve noticed by now that a common theme from this expedition was TRYING NEW THINGS. I always want to push boundaries and get out of my comfort zone every time I go on an expedition and my time in the Columbia Valley proved to be my most adventurous and athletic expedition to date. From family fun to solo outdoor activities, it is the perfect place to plan your next trip, any time of the year.
If you visit the Columbia Valley:
Have fun at: Panorama Mountain Resort (Skiing/Snowboarding/Fat Tire Biking), FlyingMax.com (Paragliding), Toby Creek Adventures (Snowmobiling), Reel Axe Adventures (Ice Fishing), Radium Snowbike and Snomobile Rental (Snowbiking)
Travel planning & additional resources: Destination British Columbia | Official Tourism and Travel Website for BC Canada