My fiance, Ricky, and I had dreamed of living together in a mountain town so when we arrived in Canada with two year working holiday visas we were stoked for adventure and to see where it would lead us. Our first month was spent wandering around British Columbia, going to festivals and speaking to people about where to find great snow and a “Canadian” mountain town.
We volunteered for Shambhala festival located on a farmstead along the Salmo River and caught the Greyhound from Vancouver to make our way there. On the way the bus pulled through the town of Nelson and as we entered the vicinity of town we caught the first glimpse of its beauty… nested in the valley along Kootenay Lake. Once we were working at the festival we began to meet the local people from the Nelson area. They were the most friendly, accommodating, welcoming people! By the end of the ten days out on site we truly felt that we should spend some time in this place.
We found some volunteer gardening work along Longbeach Road where we settled for the next month and in that time we began to fully be absorbed into the beautiful community. I was offered a yoga teaching position in town at what was The Health Collective and is now Sante Holistic Health Centre. (A space that offers a holistic approach to health and wellbeing with a variety of practitioners specialising in osteopathy, yoga, massage therapy, nutrition, art therapy and acupuncture.) I also began to work at Empire Coffee, serving delicious Stumptown coffee, organic teas from The Tea Guy and baked goods from the in house bakery. Ricky started labouring for a couple of local concrete and carpentry businesses.
Whitewater Ski Resort
One of our biggest interests was learning about the local ski hill, Whitewater Ski Resort. We had heard alluring stories of dry fluffy powder, also known at Kootenay Champagne, the wild and rugged terrain and the food. On the last day of the early bird lift ticket sales we committed ourselves and bought our season passes! The next day we moved into a spacious one bedroom apartment on Baker Street. Step by step and before we knew it we were settled in for the winter season!
The town of Nelson consists of six main areas: Downtown, Uphill, Rosemont, Fairview, North Shore and Blewett and the population is roughly 10,000 residents. Nelson is also a main business centre for the entire surrounding area as far as the East Shore, Kaslo, the Slocan Valley, Salmo, Castlegar and all the little gems in between, which quickly increases the population to close to 60,000. There are funky little cafes (Empire and John Ward), yummy restaurants (Yellow Deli and Yum Son), quirky shops (Moon Monsters, Woosha and Gaia Rising) and a few bars (Mikes Place, Cantina and The Falls) and venues (The Royal, Spirit Bar and Bloom) for live music and nightlife hosting local and international DJ’s, musicians and performers. There are numerous yoga and wellness studios and Front Street Dance and The Moving Centre for all of your movement and dancing desires! It’s a very community oriented town where people support each other… a little safe haven. I found it super easy to meet people and was comfortable to hitchhike around the area. During the ski season Ricky and I hitched up and back from the mountain daily, and made good friends along the way.
Whitewater Ski Resort, located in the Selkirk Mountain Range, was a magical gem and with only three lifts and no on mountain accommodation it has kept its local charm and trusting atmosphere. I will never forget being able to leave my bag and shoes under one of the tables or in an open cubbyhole for hours and hours knowing that everything would be there when I returned… my faith and trust in humanity had been reassured and it made me feel so great! The base lodge provided all the basic services you would need plus some of the most delicious food I have ever eaten at the Fresh Tracks Cafe! The previous owners of Whitewater developed a series of cookbooks, Whitewater Cooks, with amazing recipes such as the Glory Bowl and the Ymir Bowl plus so many more that offered skiers the opportunity to eat fresh, healthy and energising meals for the same price as eating out in town! Amazing! The most epic part of Whitewater was the spread out, wild and rugged terrain! With only a handful of groomed runs, I quickly had to learn how to ski not only in fresh powder snow but also in amongst the trees, facing obstacles, chasing those fresh lines, which were never hard to find since I usually had so much of the mountain to myself! Total bliss!
Four Stunning Seasons
As the winter season ended and spring arrived Ricky and I found ourselves grounded, and since each season was so distinctly different from the next we were intrigued to see what there was to explore in this mountain life! In spring as the trees blossomed and the days became longer, the water roared after the snowmelt at Cottonwood and Fletcher Falls and we adventured to discover the Saint Leon hot springs nestled on a mountain side, a three kilometer hike from the road into the woods. As spring shifted to summer the hot days and evenings were spent splashing in swimming holes and having BBQs with mates on the local beaches. As summer neared an end and fall began to introduce itself in all its colourful glory, we observed a black bear fishing for salmon, we explored the lake by canoe and hiked up to Kokanee Glacier and Monica Meadows, high above the tree line and entering Grizzly bear migration territory! Awe inspired spaces of pure wilderness!
And sure enough winter arrived again… colder, icier and snowier than before! Nelson became blanketed with snow and icicles for months! A beautiful frozen world!
It is crazy to think that over a year and a half has passed and I am still happily experiencing what this magical part of the world has to offer. Friends have come and gone as people pass through from season to season, but many of the locals remain. I am grateful for the ability to work within the community and experience the individual identity that Nelson town possesses.