Many skiers and riders access [R499R, Whitewater Resort]'s famed Kootenay backcountry via its lifts. You can catch the Summit Lift up to 6,700 feet and skin up another 1,300 feet up the south ridge line to Ymir Peak or drop into the popular west-facing slope loaded with steep tree skiing that leads back to the resort's access road.

The Summit Lift aids skiers in getting to the top of the resort to head into the backcountry. You can buy a single ride ticket for $20 if you don't have a season pass.

The resort also preps skiers and riders for heading into the backcountry, especially since the area is known for big snow falls that tally up to an average of 45 feet per season. Several avalanche programs introduce backcountry tourers to potential hazards. The resort also teaches backcountry touring clinics and courses that guides skiers into the backcountry with an eye toward picking safe routes in avalanche terrain.

Whitewater does not permit hiking or skinning within the ski area boundary before, during, or after operating hours through Apr. 15. Recommended routes to hike to skin up outside the ski resort are posted in the day lodge with current avalanche information. All skiers and riders heading into the backcountry should carry and know how to use a beacon, probe, and shovel.

The third annual Kootenay Cold Smoke Powder Festival takes place Feb. 20-23 at Whitewater and in Nelson. The event celebrating backcountry features clinics, films, parties, and competitions. Check out the clinic schedules online.