Words by Steven Threndyle
Photos by Trent Bona, Dave Best & Neil Jackson
OK, are we ready to go? We’ve got our boots, check. Goggles, yep. Gore-Tex jacket and pants. Uh-huh. The fat skis and poles with powder baskets are in the box. A couple of changes of long underwear, some jeans, fleece, and t-shirts – yeah, I think we’re good to go. Rental vehicle’s got good winter tires; GPS is set, side pocket is full of maps and brochures… We’re ready to roll, let’s see what this Powder Highway is all about…
The Powder Highway is a bit of a combination of myth and reality. Where a nose for adventure combines with the desire to make dreams come true. What is the dream? Free falling down a powder choked bowl or open glade, snow hissing and vanishing in a vapour trail behind you, turn after turn of what’s become known as “epic goodness,” a feeling sensation that powder skiing aficionados come from all over the world to seek.
Kicking Horse Mountain Resort just outside of Golden, BC, and Fernie Alpine Resort in the southeast corner of the BC Rockies, and a Powder highway sojourn to both resorts and their respective towns embodies what a great road trip should be all about.
Here are five great reasons for gassing up the rental SUV:
- Snowfall—and Plenty of It: Due to a winning combination of mountain locale and micro-climate weather patterns, Kicking Horse Mountain Resort has become known as Canada’s Capital of Champagne Powder. When snow falls here, it’s not light – it’s what powderhounds call “blower” – the result of cold air temperatures and low humidity.
- Stunning Mountain Scenery: There isn’t a superlative yet that matches the view from the top of Eagle’s Eye restaurant at the summit of Kicking Horse Mountain Resort. There are mountains in every direction, due to Kicking Horse’s unique location intersection four different ranges, including the world famous Rocky Mountains in Kootenay National Park. There’s literally a new mountain vista around every corner.
- Mountain Terrain for Experts…and Beginners: Next to snow, what makes skiing and riding at Kicking Horse so special? The myriad ways in which you can get down the mountainside, and the utter feeling of stillness and solitude as you descend turn after turn, powder boiling over the knees. The great part? You really don’t need to be a black diamond skier to start hooting and hollering. Intermediate runs groomed in late afternoon provide the perfect platform for a fifteen centimeter dump of downy powder. With the right gear (and maybe a good instructor, who will simply tell you to ‘keep centred over your skis’ and ‘relax’) – you could have a breakthrough day you’ll be talking about for year.
- Real Mountain Town Culture and Vibe: B.C ski towns don’t get more authentic than Golden. This is a place where you might rub shoulders with local guys who, plant trees in the summer time or ride in helicopters to fight forest fires to sock away enough money and time to ski over a hundred days each season (this is where the real ski bums live). The history of Golden – just eight kilometres away from Kicking Horse – is inextricably tied with the greatest nation building project in Canadian history – construction of the Canadian Pacific Railroad from Montreal to Vancouver. Swiss mountain guides were hired by the CPR to lead ambitious travelers from all over the world to the snowy summits which stretch in every direction. The town has a wealth of natural history and cultural heritage that rival the epic snow conditions and mind boggling mountain scenery. In the past two decades, this scenery has led to the development of a vibrant four-season tourist industry.
- Easy Access from Major Airports: Both Kicking Horse Mountain Resort (and Fernie Alpine Resort) are accessible through Calgary International Airport (YYC), a major Canadian gateway that also serves the regional Airport of the Canadian Rockies. A wide range of rental vehicles are available. High performance skis and snowboards can be hired up at the hill