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Kamloops – Multifaceted Jewel of the Thomson Valley
Located just 3 ½ hours drive from Vancouver, Kamloops is nevertheless a world away in terms of climate, lifestyle, and without any doubt, pace of life. Summers tend to be hot and dry, with temperatures averaging around 28-degrees Celsius. Its location right on the Thomson River means that visitors can easily take the edge off these hot summer days by enjoying a wide variety of watersports. In fact, the town punches far above its weight when it comes to sports in general, with excellent facilities for a range of sports from golf to downhill skiing. A number of prominent sportspeople who have achieved national and international acclaim, including the Olympic skier Nancy Greene, call the Kamloops area home.
Meeting Place of Rivers and Cultures
Simply by looking at a map one can note that Kamloops is at the confluence of two tributaries of the mighty Thomson River, just before it empties into Kamloops Lake. What one won’t be able to tell from the map is that the town and area is also a meeting place of cultures. The town’s name is of Shuswap First Nations origin and means, appropriately enough, “meeting of the waters”. The local Shuswap bands play a prominent role in town and regional affairs, with the annual cultural highlight being the Kamloopa Pow Wow. This is one of the largest celebrations of First Nation art and culture in Canada and is held every summer. Its popularity among people across the nation, and the fact that it is held in peak tourist season, means that hotels and motels in the area are often fully booked some time in advance.
The city has taken care to preserve its downtown core, which features a number of historic buildings that have been lovingly renovated. Free maps and brochures detailing a historic walking tour can be picked up at the Kamloops Museum.
Canada’s Tournament Capital
Kamloops has adopted a number of monikers, but the one that has seemed to really stick is “Canada’s Tournament Capital”. Despite being a town of modest size, it often hosts national sports tournaments ranging from curling to the World Fly Fishing Championships. The purpose built Tournament Capital Centre is often a focus of attention and can host sports from table tennis to international swim meets. It lies close to the sprawling campus of Thompson Rivers University, which opens up its student residences in summer to visitors who would like a change from the typical hotel accommodation to be found in town. McArthur Island Park is another excellent venue. In addition to its soccer, golf, football, and baseball facilities it also has direct access to the Thomson River for water based events.
Easy River and Lake Access
The defining feature of Kamloops is that it is right on the Thompson River. This great site, with the potential for easy access to the river, and by extension Kamloops Lake, has been well-used. A number of parks line the riverfront, right from the downtown core and extending outward. These offer great vistas over the water as well as launching spots for watercraft of various kinds. Best known among the parks is Riverside Park, which offers tranquil greenery, a very popular beach and even a pier for those looking for a tame way to get a view from out over the water. It is just a short walk from most of the downtown hotels. Those who are a bit more adventurous have any number of ways to explore the river and lake, including kayaking, wakeboarding and even diving if you know exactly where to look. Kamloops Lake is 18 miles (29km) long, so the overcrowding that can be an issue in some places is usually not a problem here for wakeboarders and water skiers. Scuba divers may find that the smaller lakes, especially Shuswap and Little Shuswap Lakes, offer better opportunities than Kamloops Lake.
Winter Travellers Not Left out in the Cold
All this talk of swimming, boating and other watersports should not give travellers the wrong impression. Kamloops and its surrounding areas also have a lot to offer winter visitors. The massive Sun Peaks Ski Resort, second in size and popularity in British Columbia only to Whistler-Blackcomb, is just 45 minutes from Kamloops along the scenic Heffley Louis Creek Road. At the end of this short journey, powderhounds will find not just some of the best ski terrain and conditions in Canada, but also a purpose-built pedestrian-friendly village with all the hotels, bars and other nightlife to make for a great ski trip or weekend away. Sun Peaks Resort’s inland location results in the dry powdery snow so prized by skiers and boarders everywhere, so slap on some sunscreen and goggles and make your way to the top of its Sundance Express chairlift for a great day on the slopes.