My Town

I would say that the City of Nelson sort of suffers from an identity complex, except that suffering isn’t a part of life here. For a town hiding in the mountains with only ten thousand people in it, Nelson, British Columbia is pretty certain that it is a big city… just a big city with not many people or buildings. For example, per capita, the number of phenomenal places to eat makes it so that there is room at a table someplace for you at any given time… and one is not left wanting for whatever their first choice of cuisine might be. The bonus being that at most places, you can likely sit down and order “your usual” if you so wish and the server, whom you probably know by name (heck, you probably know their dog’s name too) will already be bringing you a glass of your favourite wine. The phrase “step into my office” in Nelson generally refers to the space next to you at your chosen coffee shop, of which there are also enough to keep an entire town full of high energy snowboarder slash DJ slash bellydancer slash hairdressers happily caffeinated. Which is important, because the afterparties in Nelson generally have afterparties to attend, and those DJs are expected on the Hill bright eyed and bushy tailed early (ish) the next morning.

Resident DJ Adham Shaikh... hard at work.
Those who are visiting Nelson for the first time usually comment on how lovely it is that people are so friendly and tolerant of each other. Young and old, dreaded hair and perfectly coiffed, king cab truck and New Zealand shredder, indeed, we are simply one big happy family, complete with the politics, sibling rivalry and a crazy Great Aunt Harriet to keep life from getting stale. This feeling of camaraderie comes from a united understanding of what one gives up when choosing to live the Kootenay lifestyle. “Needs” such as daytimers, eyelash curlers and Prada pumps are traded in for a feeling of relaxation and the education on what is truly important in life. And the heels can be put in the closet for one of the many gallery openings or wine tastings that will come up. For those who were part of a jet set in one form or another, what makes the transition to mountain life here painless is the cosmopolitan style that many inhabitants continue to exhibit and celebrate, it just seems that a sense of style becomes more individualized and unique, which is what true fashion is about after all. Anyone who has felt stifled before by society’s rules of engagement are suddenly thrown into a world of experimentation. This is probably a good explanation as to why artists and the like flock here like divas to diamonds. Nelson is highlighted as the "Number One Small Town Arts Community in Canada"and every July, August and September mark three months of exhibitions throughout the downtown core in a variety of galleries and local businesses. Each month has a separate grand opening, (usually the first Friday evening of the month), which includes nosh, live DJs and musicians and artwork for locals and visitors to enjoy as they stroll through downtown. Nelson also has regular farmer's and street markets where the local cirque performers come out to play and local artisans can be found selling a unique and diverse variety of arts, crafts and imports.

The West Kootenay region, where Nelson is situated, is part of the traditional territories of the Sinixt (or Lakes) and Ktunaxa (Kutenai) peoples. Known as "The Queen City", it is acknowledged for its impressive collection of restored heritage buildings from the glory days in the regional gold and silver rush of 1867. Francis Rattenbury, a noted architect most celebrated in British Columbia for the Parliament Buildings in Victoria, the Vancouver Provincial Courthouse, and the second Hotel Vancouver, designed chateau-style civic buildings made of granite, as well as many of the local houses which stand today. By the 1900s, Nelson boasted several fine hotels, a Hudson's Bay Company store and an electric streetcar system. The local forestry and mining industries were well established. Although the majority of these buildings were faced with aluminum facades in the 60's, by 1985, the downtown was completely restored. The transformation marked the beginning of Nelson's ongoing transition from a resource-based town to an arts and tourism town.

Boarding at WH2O
We don't have a McDonalds. Or a Starbucks. Right... it's OK... take a moment. Nelsonites have a fierce pride in their local shops and eateries, small art galleries, and impromptu theatre venues. This lakeside city is about forty-five minutes away from the site of the annual Shambhala Music Festival, an internationally known artistic music festival that many skookum DJs have been quoted as saying is their favourite one to play. It is also home to the Nelson Brewing Company, the restored Capitol Theatre (a regional hub for the performing arts), and the studios of Kootenay Co-op Radio, a co-operative community radio station started by local volunteers. We are also really proud of what we call our extreme mountain culture which pretty much boils down to a lot of time spent doing crazy things in the great outdoors. Hiking, mountain biking, rock climbing and bouldering are on many people's To Do lists, and by far the most popular part of life in the Koots is the Whitewater Ski Resort, which provides access to 396 vertical meters of beginner to advanced terrain. It is true however, that some people really only go for the food. It's that good. The resort also provides access to hundreds of kilometers of off-piste skiing and back country touring. The Nelson area is home to over 20 cat-skiing, heli-skiing and ski-touring operators, and hundreds of kilometers of cross-country trails are available for the Nordic skier.

Shambhala 2011 cr. Stephen Huang
Basically Nelson is not a town that it is easy to become bored in. Just hanging out on the main street in the downtown core makes for some worthwhile people watching and you don't have to wait long before you make a new and interesting friend... especially if one wears a suit (a man in a suit is considered very exotic here). Inspiration is everywhere you look, in every conversation you have and it makes for a pretty wonderful place to live and to create. All in all, a nice place to call home :)