The best nearby hiking is in Kokanee Glacier Provincial Park , but the bed of the Burlington Northern Railway, built in 1893, provides an interesting nine-kilometer trek right on Nelson ’s back doorstep. Access the railway from the top end of South Cherry Street.
The many old logging and mining roads surrounding the city are great for mountain biking; one favorite is the Svoboda Bike Trail, accessed along Elwyn Street beyond the college. For bike rentals and a trail map, head to Gerick Cycle and Sports (702 Baker St., 250/354-4622).
Legendary powder and an off-the-beaten-path location makes Whitewater Winter Resort (250/354-4944 or 800/666-9420, www.skiwhitewater.com ) a hidden gem. The small resort 20 kilometers (12 miles) south of Nelson sits beneath a string of 2,400-meter (7,900-foot) peaks that catch an amazing amount of snow. Three double chairlifts access 18 marked trails (the Summit Chair opens up the best powder-packed slopes). The area’s abundant snowfall makes for a long season, but conditions are best in February and March.
Whitewater has no on-mountain accommodations—just the lifts and a day lodge with a cafeteria, rental shop, and ski/snowboard school. Lift tickets are adult $57, senior and youth $46.