Story by Sarah Deveau
INVERMERE, BRITISH COLUMBIA — The Columbia Valley region in British Columbia is well known as Calgary’s backyard mountain playground. From May to October, Alberta licence plates in Invermere, Radium and Fairmont usually outnumber the BC plates, as Calgarians take advantage of the short drive (three hours) to experience beautiful Lake Windermere and stay at the many golf resorts or kitschy motels.
Not being a skier, I wasn’t convinced Invermere was the ideal destination for a family weekend in January. After all, the Panorama ski resort, just 15 minutes from Invermere, is the area’s usual destination for winter travellers, and I’m not one for hurling down a hill.
As it turns out, I shouldn’t have been worried about being snowbound. January and February are party time in the area, which hosts the annual Winter in Motion Festival. The festival encompasses the myriad events and activities that take place in the Columbia Valley throughout an eight-week stretch. It kicks off with the annual Snowflake Festival, featuring a Taste of the Valley event, fireworks, family skate and a curling bonspiel. The fireworks were impressive, and the many families in attendance seemed to enjoy the music and jovial atmosphere before the show.
The beach plays host to a number of events throughout the festival, including a pond hockey tournament, ice fishing derby and even a snowgolf event (yes, they really do golf in the snow — no white golf balls allowed). It’s also home to the Lake Windermere Whiteway, the Guinness world-record holder for the longest naturally frozen skating trail. Some residents use the Whiteway for commuting between Windermere and Invermere, while visitors can skate or ski a portion of the more than 30 kilometres of ice-skating and classic cross-country ski trails.
BC Winter Fest a Family Treat
For our weekend adventure, we chose to stay the Copper Point Resort, which offered a special Winter in Motion package. My husband gazed longingly at the snow-covered golf course, visible from our balcony and also from the outdoor hot tubs and indoor pool that kept us busy for hours. The resort is a popular choice for families because of its spacious suites, and location between Radium and Fairmont at the top of a long hill that winds into the valley that houses Invermere. It’s the perfect home base if you’re going to spend time in all three towns.
Wildlife viewing is a popular activity in the region. We caught a few glimpses of a family of deer walking across the course during our stay. We had to stop the car twice to allow a large herd of bighorn sheep to cross the highway, and pulled over at one of the scenic roadside turnouts to take photos.
We were sad to leave the valley, and dragged out the adventure by visiting the Olde Tyme Candy Shoppe in Radium before heading to the hot springs.
[box_light]Read “Perfect Weekend at Radium Hot Springs” by Vacay.ca’s Jody Robbins[/box_light]
Both the Radium and Fairmont hot springs resorts offer their own special weekend activities during Winter in Motion: the Radium Hot Springs Winterfest and Fairmont Fire and Ice. We enjoyed our time at the Radium Hot Springs – and enjoyed it more when it turned out to have tired our girls out enough for them to sleep most of the way home to Alberta.
MORE ABOUT VISITING THE COLUMBIA VALLEY
Winter in Motion Festival: The event runs each January and February. Details can be found on the Columbia Valley Chamber of Commerce’s website.
Olde Tyme Candy Shoppe
Address: #5, 7527 West Main Street, Radium, BC
Radium Hot Springs
Telephone: 1-250-347-9485 or 1-800-767-1611 (toll free)
Copper Point Resort
Address: 760 Cooper Road, Invermere, BC
Telephone: 1-250-341-4000 or 1-855-926 7737 (toll free)
Panorama Mountain Resort
Address: 2000 Panorama Drive, Panorama, BC
Telephone: 1-800-663-2929 (toll free)