Tucked away in southern interior British Columbia in a powder vortex lies little, legendary ski town of Nelson, home to Whitewater Ski Resort. Take note that Nelson is not your ordinary ski town, and Whitewater is not your ordinary ski hill.
Nelson makes an impression, on every level. The kind of place that inspired last season’s acclaimed, creative ski movie Valhalla, from Sweetgrass Productions. It may not host the biggest ski area or most well-known hotels and high-speed quads, but it nonetheless offers the best of everything: terrain to powder, dining to unique local culture that mixes small town values with discerning tastes.
If you are a skier, there is nothing you need that Nelson and Whitewater cannot provide, not to mention in a memorable, discerning, charming, must-come-back-again kind of way. The most popular establishments in Nelson embody the free-spirited nature of the town, something that manages to be practical yet entirely whimsical at the same time.
Here are a few of the locals’ favorite hotspots, each offering a focused and fabulous experience.
1. COFFEE: Oso Negro
604 Ward Street
Nelson, BC, Canada
Once you’ve had the coffee at Oso Negro, it is entirely possibly that for the rest of your life, you will be relegated to ordering pounds of the renowned, locally roasted, legendary blends right to your door. Oso Negro takes its coffee very seriously, and its beans are coveted around Canada and by those in the know.
The cozy café is situated in an old house, right in town just one block off the main street. The establishment serves its own roasted coffees, and sells 20 different blends of unforgettable beans. One stop here each morning on your way to the ski hill will set you up most properly for the big, deep powder days that have made the area so famous.
Once you’ve had the coffee at Oso Negro, it is entirely possibly that for the rest of your life, you will be relegated to ordering pounds of the renowned, locally roasted, legendary blends right to your door.
Copyright: Oso Negro
2. BREAKFAST: Fresh Tracks Café, the Day Lodge at Whitewater Ski Area
Whitewater Ski Resort, Nelson, BC V1L 5P7, Canada
The dining options at the Whitewater’s down-to-earth, base area lodge are definitely not what people have come to expect from a ski resort. Far from overpriced, generic cafeteria food, Fresh Tracks Café offers the best—and inarguably most convenient—skier’s breakfast you may ever eat. A hearty, culinary experience, the day lodge actually retains renowned chefs who serve up a fabulous, high-quality menu, offer catering and have published a series of popular cookbooks, Whitewater Cooks, based on the ski area menu and natural foods. After just one meal here, you may very well end up buying it (available at the ski area or online).
Breakfast offerings include hearty fresh breads, breakfast sandwiches, protein-packed egg dishes and other options that the staff will happily amend to accommodate any vegan, celiac/gluten sensitivities or allergies.
Fresh Tracks Café's breakfast poutine, famed for being just what the doctor ordered after a long night out.
Copyright: Fresh Tracks Café
3. APRÈS SKI: Mike’s Place
The Hume Hotel, 422 Vernon Street Nelson, BC V1L 4E5
Après ski, like so much else in Nelson, is not just a one-dimensional experience. Even though a huge portion of the town’s residents, and nearly all visitors, are fixated on skiing throughout the winter months, the scene at Mike’s brings all the aspects of town into one eclectic, English-style pub in the center of town. Artists, business owners and skiers galore crowd into the cozy, but simultaneously spacious, tiered bar and restaurant in the afternoons for fun, social hour and cheerful imbibing to celebrate another day in Nelson.
In addition to what are bound to be intriguing conversations and characters, Mike’s offers pool tables, big screen TVs, a focus on locally-brewed beers from the Nelson Brewing Company and an outdoor, year-round patio for the hardiest patrons.
The scene at Mike’s brings all the aspects of town into one eclectic, English-style pub in the center of town.
Copyright: Mike’s Place
4. DINNER: All Seasons Cafe
620 Herridge Lane, Nelson, BC
Nelson may seem like it is in the middle of nowhere, but it is packed with well-traveled foodies who call it home… or are perhaps just passing through. These are the palates that head chef Amanda Skidmore caters to at the All Seasons, a restaurant which prides itself on adjusting its menu to highlight local produce each season. The menu as a whole is a fusion of influences from around the world, from Italy to Mexico to homegrown Canadian cheeses, meats and seasonal vegetables.
The select wine list highlights a relatively extensive collection of Canadian wines from famed nearby regions such as the Okanagan Valley. With a cozy, intimate setting and well-trained staff, the All Seasons is the perfect place to experience Nelson’s high-end culinary passions and relaxed, friendly vibe at their best.
5. BARS: Spiritbar
The Hume Hotel, 422 Vernon Street Nelson, BC
As much as Nelsonites love skiing deep powder, they also like to have a good time off the snow—and show a good time to every visitor. Spiritbar, however, is not your average, half-hearted, small ski town dance destination. Kitted out like a sleek club in the midst of an urban scene, Spiritbar has concerts, DJs and good times packing the schedule all winter long. Promoting long nights with dancing, music and a raucous, ready-to-party crowd, you can get your late-night fix, dance the lactic acid out of your leg muscles and see a side of sleepy Nelson that most people don’t expect.
Spiritbar has concerts, DJs and good times packing the schedule all winter long.