The grassroots gathering of backcountry skiers and snowboarders will descend on Whitewater Ski Resort for the annual Kootenay Coldsmoke Powder Fest once again. The event-pushed later in the season this year-turns the tiny town of Nelson, B.C., into a party March 5-8.

The festival features four days of activities. Clinics are available to allow beginners to give the backcountry a try. Competitions bring on the adrenaline, and photography allows even armchair skiers some thrills. Add demos, some beer drinking, and the event is complete.

More than 30 clinics offered during the festival can introduce participants to telemark skiing, backcountry basics, routefinding, or touring on snowboards. Women's Ski Days offer alpine or telemark skiers a way to improve their skills in an all-female group. Specialty clinics tackle terrain challenges such as trees or steeps. 

Four competitions determine the king and queen of Coldsmoke, who win prizes including a Whitewater season pass for 2011. The ROAM Randonee Rally, which serves as one of the selection races for the Canadian National Ski Mountaineering Team, requires competitors to grunt up 2,000 or 4,500 feet in elevation. The Valhalla Pure Boondocks Booter funnels head-to-head competition with a boot pack up a run with a slopestyle descent. Gerick's Dually Banked Slalom gives competitors two runs down a gauntlet of banks, jumps, and gates. Those looking to compete in something less grueling can join a ski tour to pick up poker cards in the SCARPA Poker Run.

Socials round out the event. The highlight-the Cold Shot Photo Faceoff-shows the work of five photographers and their athletes capturing winter in the Kootenays.

Ticket packages for the Kootenay Coldsmoke Powder Fest are available online. The packages range from the Full Monty-which includes three full day clinics and three lift tickets plus social events-to packages limited to social events or one day of clinics with a lift ticket.

More information. Or call 800-666-9420.