Travel: Looking for Happy Hans in Kimberley 

Mascot for Kootenay town too busy enjoying himself to act as spokesman

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Happy Hans probably won't be able to meet you on a Saturday either. That's his day for ice-fishing. He swears the rainbow trout caught at nearby White Swan Lake are the most delicious in the world (although his wife says if the Jagermeister runs out before he catches one, Happy Hans comes straight home).

Sunday might work, but you'd have to come up and find him on the ski hill. Happy is a ballsy skier, probably in the double black diamond glades to the far left of the Tamarack Chair. The pine beetle is to thank for making the trees bare and the runs there like skiing in a black-and-white forest of skeletons. He might be cutting tight turns in the steep chutes and knee-jamming moguls off the Easter Chair, or linking fast GS turns on the long, corduroy-groomed cruising trails like Rose and Boundary leading down from the North Star Express. Every Thursday, Friday and Saturday evening, Kimberley lights up the runs under the North Star chair between 5:30 and 9 p.m., creating one of the longest lit trails in North America.

Kimberley's snow is dry and fluffy; an average of 400 cm of true champagne powder fall every year. Although Kimberley doesn't have the accumulation that Whistler does, it never rains in the winter in Kimberley, so the snow doesn't tend to get icy. And with lift tickets priced at $60 and lift-lines virtually unheard-of, Happy Hans loves to ski Kimberley.

Of course, if you can't find him on any of the runs, check the Sun Hut. It's not marked on any trail map, but the Sun Hut atop Kimberley is legendary among local skiers and boarders. An adults-only ice-castle/lounge/igloo built each season by locals with shovels, enthusiasm and whatever fuels them, the Sun Hut is a short hike from the top of the Easter Chair at the summit of the resort. It's where you're likely to find skiers and snowboarders kicking back on customized "ice benches," soaking up the sun and telling stories of deep powder on runs like Rush and Bunker Hill. (You might also learn what puts the smile on Happy Hans's face.)

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