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Whitewater: Small-town vibe, big-time fun

New chair, more terrain kick off winter jammed with events

A relatively undiscovered little gem, Whitewater Ski Resort in British Columbia is beginning to get a reputation—for a good reason.

With epic powder snowfalls of 40-plus feet annually, nationally-acclaimed, award-winning cuisine, little to no lift lines and a unique charm of life unhurried, the rewards at this sweet stop along B.C.’s famous Powder Highway are “pure, simple and real deep” and some epic fun as well.

“It’s all about the snow, good times, good people, and good food—and that’s really what it comes down to—just the grassroots of skiing,” says Anne Pigeon, Operations and Marketing vice president.

And it’s not just skiing that’s filling up Whitewater’s 2011 events calendar. With plenty going on for winter enthusiasts in everyone, from beginner to expert-advanced, skiers to boarders to off-piste adventurers, Whitewater has lined up a perpetual winter celebration, which kicked off December 24 with the addition of the new Glory Ridge chair down the mountain’s voluptuous backside.

Opening to rave reviews, the new chair is the first in 17 years, which providing access via a mere 11-minute ride to “a sprawling, 180-degree mountain side of world-class glade and tree skiing.” Nearly doubling the mountain’s in-bound advanced and intermediate ski/ride terrain (a rare achievement by ski industry standards), the lift has opened up eight new runs over 749 new acres with a vertical rise of 2,042 feet.

Brian Cusack, Whitewater general manager, says combined with the resort’s other two lifts—the Summit and Silver King doubles—Whitewater will offer Canada’s best lift serviced deep-powder skiing.

The effort to install the giant lift was above and beyond ordinary, propelled by not just a little enthusiasm from the resort’s new Calgary-based owners, longtime Whitewater skiers Dean Prodan, Andrew Kyle and Mitch Putnam of Knee Deep Developments and executed by a skilled team of technicians from Summit Lift Company from Fernie, B.C.

“It took us roughly half the amount of time it would normally have taken for a chair this size,” says Summit owner Randy Gliege, a 25-year veteran in the lift installation business. Gliege and his company, who installed lifts for the 2002 Salt Lake City Winter Olympics and were featured on National Geographic TV’s “World Toughest Fixes” last spring, hired one of BC’s biggest helicopters to install the lift’s towers this past summer.

“Installing a lift is a huge undertaking,” says Pigeon. “The Summit crews operated in all sorts of horrendous weather and only shut down a few times, in deluging rains this summer and fall. You’ve got to be tough to be on those crews. The guys were phenomenal.”

However, the lift itself may surprise you. It’s a refurbished three-person chair from Vail, Colo., deliberately fixed-grip for slower speeds.

“We want to grow to meet our guests’ needs without taking away from the laid-back atmosphere that is Whitewater,” said Brent Malyshhas, snow school director who is new to Whitewater this season. “Even the diehards are loving it; they were a little skeptical about it changing the out-of-bounds terrain they’d been skiing for so long, but it’s really been a big hit with everyone.”

A Nelson, B.C. native, Malyshhas’ family moved away when he was young, but he returned to attend Selkirk College for a degree in ski resort operations and management. After graduation, Malyshhas instructed in Colorado and Switzerland, before landing back in Canada, four hours north of Nelson, in Revelstoke.

“I got a call from one of my professors saying the new management [of the mountain] was really making things happen, and that they needed a snow school director, so here I am,” said Malyshhas. And, as a testament to the undeniable allure of Nelson and Whitewater, he makes the four-hour commute from Revelstoke where his wife still works.

The new management—Calgary-based Knee Deep Development Corp—bought Whitewater in 2008, and has developed a $45 million-dollar, 10-year expansion plan, including the $2 million Glory Ridge chair.

Here’s a guide to some upcoming Whitewater events.

Jan. 29, Whitewater Winter Carnival

Snow sculpting competitions, X-Country Team Sprint Race, marshmallow roasting and more, culminating in the Snow Ball Apres Party, featuring live music, torchlight parade and fireworks!

Feb. 25-28, 4th annual Kootenay Coldsmoke Powderfest

This backcountry touring fest focuses on in-bound clinics for all skill levels. Other activities include the G3 Skigraphiks Competition cocktail party, filmfest, ski races, the crowning of Coldsmoke Royalty, and the Crazy Rager After-Party Monday night.

March 20, 6th Annual Tribute Throw-down Railjam

A celebration of the rails! A free event for spectators, lift tickets are half-price for competitors, with registration beginning at 9:30 and competition at 11 a.m. Categories are youth 16 and under, men’s and women’s open.

March 19, Hippie vs. Retro Day

Come dressed as a free lovin’, tree huggin’ hippie or go retro with a bright pink, skin tight one-piece ski suit! Live music starts at 3:30 p.m.

March 26-27, Kootenay Zone Finals

Hoot and holler as Canada’s future ski stars—11- and 12-year-olds, from the renowned Nancy Greene (Canada’s top ski racer in the 1960s, who won Olympic and World Cup titles) program, battle for the finish!

March 2-3, Beach Party Weekend

This weekend promises big fun, including the ever-popular Big Splash and Dummy Downhill. You may even get a tan!

Varied Dates, Powderhound Experience

A 2 day off-piste and powder-based ski and board clinic, aimed at getting you to rip the pow!

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