Spring, it’s the time of year when the flowers bloom and everything turns green, unless you’re in the Canadian Rockies. If you find yourself in the Rockies come spring, you’ll quickly notice that the winter blanket of white snow is far from disappearing. In fact, spring in the Rockies offers some of the best skiing conditions. Not to mention the added bonus of starting après before sun down, not that you have to stop when the sun disappears, no judgments here!
Ever heard the expression “suns out guns out’ or “skies out, thighs out”? We are pretty sure they were first said by a hardy Canadian spring skier wearing a sleeveless shirt and shorts while laying down a killer line in the Rockies. Warmer temps bring out some of the best and most amusing spring skiing fashion trends, again, no judgments. The warmth of the sunshine isn’t just great for tan lines, but also works its magic for ultimate snow conditions. One thing that’s reliable in the Rockies is epic corn snow. Corn snow, or “hot pow” if you will, is a descriptive term for the glorious snow that coats our backyard all spring long, it’s fast, warm, and punch-able for ultimate control.
Spring is the ideal time to celebrate in the mountains. Everything from live music, pond skims, themed races and festivals make their way onto the calendar come spring. Fernie Alpine Resort welcomes April with live outdoor music and an unforgettable Festival that goes by the name of Fernival. A film festival kicks of Fernival followed by the famous Raging Elk Powder, Pedal, Paddle Relay, what better way to fully embrace spring that in a multisport multi-season relay. Fernie wraps up their season with the Coca Cola Slope Soaker and live music. If spring skiing is half about skiing and half about socializing, Fernival is exactly where you want to be. Strictly skiing more your style? Kimberley Alpine Resort has some of the longest days available for lap crushing by offering night skiing. Hop on the first lift at 9am and ski right until 4pm. A mandatory break of operations will remind you to eat, relax and enjoy some live music before getting back on the slopes at 5:30pm when night skiing kicks off. Nakiska is the place to see it all, and ski it too, Calgary’s closest mountain shouldn’t be missed! Nakiska is home to fun event weekends in April referred to as Spring Fiesta’s with family friendly activities and of course, the tube park will be open! The biggest crowd drawing event at Kicking Horse Mountain Resort is non other than the famous Wrangle the Chute Freeride World Tour 4 Star qualifier. Watch some of the most talented athletes tastefully choose lines to tackle with style in front of the stoke filled crowd. The after party is quickly becoming equally as famous, another reason to put Kicking Horse Mountain Resort on your spring hit list.
Combining long, warm, and snow filled days with awesome events sounds like the perfect reason to get to the Rockies this spring if you ask me. If you haven’t experienced spring the Rockies you don’t know what you’re missing and hopefully I’ve given you enough reasons to change that!
The past few years, I’ve found myself trading in watching the National Football League (NFL)’s championship game on a television screen for snow, summits and sunshine at Kicking Horse Mountain Resort, nestled along Canada’s famous Powder Highway in Golden, BC.
Sundays – especially Super Bowl Sunday – are typically when people sleep in, prepare for a day full of snacks, football and wrestle with your buddy over the best spot on the couch. Instead, a friend and I were turning off our alarms at 4:15 a.m. to hit the road and wind our way through the Rockies.
By sunrise all of our worries were buried in the snowbanks behind us, we began embracing what I call the “semi-ski bum” lifestyle. Let’s be real, this wasn’t the first (and won’t be the last) time I went powder hunting in the Canadian Rockies. On this Sunday, what better place to go than terrain affectionately named Super Bowl? With fresh snow on our minds, coffee in our hands and ski gear piled high in the vehicle, we slowly powered our way through a blizzard to arrive at Kicking Horse for 9 a.m.
As thousands of North Americans prepared pre-game meals and furiously cleaned their houses for Super Bowl parties, we were already enjoying our own Super Bowl with its steep and deep terrain located between Kicking Horse’s Terminator peaks, referred to as T1 and T2. This champagne-powder filled bowl is hidden out of sight from the gondola and had gained nearly a foot of new snow in most areas, giving skiers and snowboarders their pick of fresh lines and first tracks.
I wrapped up my last laps on the mountain and began the drive home, I also missed the first-ever overtime and most epic comeback in NFL Super Bowl history. But my day had turned out just the way I hoped it would when we set out that morning. Best of all, instead of waiting a full calendar year, I can re-live my favourite Super Bowl moments again next snowfall. I guess what they say is true… #ThisHorseRules.
Want to take a ride in our Super Bowl? Check out the video to see what it’s like!
Words & Photos by Dave Belyea
It’s snack time for Boo the Bear. Ross Prather approaches with a bucket of fish carcasses and kitchen compost. It’s a hot summer’s day and Boo has found a shady spot among the fir trees to laze away the afternoon. However the scent of a snack gets his attention; a grizzly’s sense of smell is so acute it can detect an animal carcass more than 30 kms away upwind. Under normal circumstances such proximity would be perilous – man with bucket of food, hungry 275 kg grizzly bear steps away – if it wasn’t for the electric fence separating the two.
Boo the Bear has made his home at Kicking Horse Grizzly Bear Interpretive Centre since first arriving in 2003, when he was orphaned after his mother was shot by a poacher. Over the years Prather, refuge manager, has gotten to know this wise old bear well. The specially built, 10-hectare fenced enclosure, found on the Eagle Express Gondola lift line and accessed in summer via the Catamount chairlift, provides a natural habitat for Boo, with forest, meadows and a running stream.
Ursus arctos horribilis – the grizzly’s Latin name is enough to strike fear into the hearts of even the most seasoned wilderness traveler. However the opportunity to observe this animal up close is a thrilling experience, enabling visitors like my family and I to better understand grizzly behavior and ecology with the help of Prather and his staff. At times Boo stays deep within the confines of his enclosure, perhaps eating dandelions and digging for springtime bulbs in a meadow, or hunting for squirrel or marmots. However when curiosity gets the best of him, or the dinner bell rings, he approaches the fence. We’re lucky today. Boo lumbers out of the forest, snout pointing upward, his powerful shoulders rippling, lustrous silver-brown fir gleaming in the sun. It’ hard to overcome the urge to retreat as Boo comes close, but the fence keeps us safe.
A male grizzly typically ranges a territory of between 350 and 800 square kms, but Boo seems content with his home at Kicking Horse Resort – for the most part. Occasionally his urge has gotten the best of him.
“Boo gets a little randy in springtime,” Prather says, adding that he has left his enclosure a few times in the past in search of a mate.
However he always comes back.
Meal time is over. A horsefly buzzes courageously nearby and Boo shakes his massive head. Oblivious to my family and I observing from a few metres away, he strides the fence line before angling back into the forest and finding a nice muddy pool in which to cool himself. He lowers into the brown water, rolls from side to side, then emerges again, fir dripping with water, then disappears into the cool of the forest. Life is good for Boo and we’re thrilled to share a few moments with him.
Disclaimer – Andrew visited Kicking Horse Mountain Resort to see Boo in 2016, Ross has since left his position with Nicole Gangnon taking over as Grizzly Bear Ranger Manager. Visit Kicking Horse this winter to see Nicole and her team caring for Boo.
Bucket list checker? Kicking Horse Mountain Resort has more than a few noteworthy check marks that you’ll want to add to your list. Kicking Horse is home to Canada’s highest restaurant, has the most in bounds chutes in North America and hosts the 4th biggest skiable vertical in Canada. Need I say more? This mountain resort stays pretty humble about all its braggable features, but these aren’t the only reasons Kicking Horse Mountain Resort should be in your ski vacation cards.
The vast terrain at Kicking Horse Mountain Resort is jaw dropping. The choices for skiable terrain are endless. Kicking Horse is family friendly with many groomed leg burners to boot, but if you’re here to get rowdy you won’t be disappointed. Out of the 120+ runs, 45% of them are for advanced skiers and riders and 15% are rated for experts. This means that more than half of the mountain is ready to push your limits and fulfill all your adrenaline junkie dreams. Four distinct ridgelines separate the resort into bowls and various sub ridges and faces. The unique collection of terrain means there is always a powder stash somewhere, although this shouldn’t be much of a worry since the average snowfall is 750cm! Whether it’s technical spines, gladed trees, sneaky chutes, big bowls or groomers you’re after you can guarantee you’ll find it here. With terrain choices bursting at the seems it seems silly to leave the resort, but if you’re craving a backcountry tour grab your avalanche gear and an equipped friend and check out some of the equally impressive slackcountry.
Vistas in all directions encompass you as you step off the Golden Eagle Express Gondola. It will make you feel although you’ve stepped onto another planet, a planet filled with peaks galore. Looking down the valley you’ll see the town of Golden nestled in the Rockies Trench as you peer across from the Purcell Mountain tops. Do a 360 spin and try to find a boring view, we dare you. To take the view to the next level, yes it’s possible, head up the Stairway to Heaven Chair and climb the black Stairway to Heaven Whitewall staircase (only if it’s open) for the view! Even if you head back down the stairs, it’s worth the small work out to see some incredible peaks. Sounds a bit too good to be true? Kicking Horse is the ultimate skier playground, and it’s very real.
Best way to enjoy that view? Dinning at 7,705 feet (2,350 meters) sounds pretty ideal. Eagle Eye Restaurant is the highest restaurant in Canada, most definitely making it a checklist item! From the delicious list of entrées to the custom cocktails, this place is a haven for hungry skiers and sightseers a like. Don’t leave with out trying the truffle fries and a tasty specialty coffee or one of the signature Great Canadian Caesars.
Needless to say, if Kicking Horse Mountain Resort isn’t on your current “must ski” list, it probably should be. The massive amounts of inspiring terrain will keep your ski cravings curbed, although the more you ski, the more see that can be skied! This place might be a little addicting, but in the best way possible. Tired legs are happy legs and with 1,260 meters (4,133 feet) to conquer lap after lap we can guarantee you some pretty tired legs.
Photos by Abbydell Photography, Jeff Bartlett & Emile Lavoie
Thirteen hundred vertical meters is a pretty daunting mountain of vertical for four year old legs. I’m sitting in the Black Diamond Cafe at the base of Kicking Horse Mountain Resort with my wife Lisa and two daughters Sabine and Zola, one soon to turn four, the other a few months shy of her seventh birthday. I point to the trail map unfolded on the table in front of us and pinned down with a few steaming mugs of espresso coffee.
“You see that green line that snakes down from the top of the mountain? That’s what we’re going to ski,” I tell them.
My kids are used to Mount Washington vertical, our home mountain – 505 metres. They look at me with those profoundly trusting expressions that can melt a parent’s heart. Moments later we’re sitting in the Eagle Express Gondola scraping frost off the windows so we can see the spectacular view of the Columbia Valley below. I point out the snowed under enclosure that’s home to a hibernating Boo, the resident grizzly whom we visited the previous summer. Then higher up the aforementioned green snake, otherwise known as It’s A Ten, crosses beneath the gondola lift line.
“There it is again,” I say.
“What?” Zola asks.
“The green snake,” I reply.
“Oh,” Zola says, shrugging her shoulders.
Before long we’re shuffling out of the gondola at the top station beneath high clouds and patchy blue sky. My goal was modest; to take my kids on an adventure from the top of the Eagle Express to the bottom. Like all adventures with kids, it had to include a small package of incentives. First stop would be the Heaven’s Door Yurt Cafe for a hot chocolate.
Clicked in to our bindings, I give our youngest a ski pole tow across the flats to where ‘It’s A Ten’, begins rolling down the ridge into Crystal Bowl. I assume the blocker position skiing close behind Sabine while she locks into that sustained power snow plow that only young malleable knees can sustain for any amount of time. Zola, three years older and three times faster, zips ahead already impatient with the pace being dictated by her assertive younger sibling. I was the youngest in a family of four and therefore like Sabine started things early whether I wanted to or not. So far, so good. No tears. The run opens up in Crystal Bowl into a wide strip of corduroy with room for the girls to roam. Zola and her mom are waiting outside the yurt awaiting incentive number-one. Sabine and I slide to a stop next to them a few minutes later and we shuffle inside for a hot chocolate, preceded of course by the unwrapping of kids ski clothing that we will soon be re-wrapping again. After a lazy pit stop in the yurt, it’s time to resume the adventure. Back on the green snake, Zola and Lisa charge ahead. Sabine and I fall in with another father and daughter duo descending at a similar pace.
There is plenty of mountain to share, but it’s as if the two youngsters are magnetized, turning toward rather than away from one another. After a few near misses I urge Sabine to ditch pizza for French Fries and zoom past her rival to give herself some space. Speaking of French Fries, that’s our next incentive – chicken strips and fries.
“I love skiing,” Sabine says, looking up at me as we glide past the steep drop of ‘Bubbly’ and onto the wide open ‘Blaster’.
Music to my ears. By the time she power plows her way cross slope to where ‘Downshift’ rejoins ‘It’s A Ten’, the mood suddenly shifts the way it can unexpectedly with children. Sabine suddenly sprawls on the snow and refuses to get up. Lisa produces an emergency granola bar ration.
“We have to keep going Sabine. See the lodge way down there? That’s where we have to go,” I say, unconvincingly, realizing that is must sound like work to her.
It’s hard to imagine how far that must appear to Sabine at this point, bushed from a week of family Christmas late night celebrations. Lisa and I take shifts skiing ahead with Zola and coaxing Sabine down the last few pitches. By the time we reach the ski rack in front of Whitetooth Grill, she is flailing on the snow in a spectacle that would kill any aspiring parent’s desire for a family.
All is forgotten minutes later when we’re seated in the warmth of the Whitetooth Grill around plate of nachos and a basket of chicken strips and fries. Therefore, I’ll chalk it up as a successful family adventure.
Words & Photos by Andrew Findlay
Follow Andrew’s adventures on Instagram – @afindlayjournalist
Ski towns are generally run on a couple of simple rules;
There are no friends on a powder day
The 20cm rule (cms may vary by town)
To put it another way, ski towns are run by snow. And lots of it. Those epic powder days that ski bums dream of. Those drool worthy runs where you feel as if you’re literally floating through the snow. Those moments longed for with snow hitting you all the way up to your face. YES! Your face. We don’t let opportunities like those pass us by in a ski town, hence why when Fernie Alpine Resort or Kicking Horse Mountain Resort receive 20cms or more of snow in a short period of time, it’s not uncommon to see ‘gone riding’ signs posted on closed shop doors and why there isn’t even time to give your friends a call before heading up to the resort – every man for themselves! After all, that’s why we choose to live here – why haven’t you?
Here are some of our best envy inducing recent powder moment. What are yours? Tell us about it in the comments.
Are you kidding me?
All the pow
I can’t even..
To die for
This is too much
It’s not even fair
Can I get a snorkel over here?
That’s it. I’m done.
Wake me when it’s winter.
Photos by Brad Lorriman, Robin Siggers, Powder Matt and Abbydell Photography
Imagine arriving at a crossroads and finding a sign that reads Powder Highway. What would you do? Well, you’d take that road, of course. Say it once or twice out loud. “Powder Highway.” It has an alluring sound, doesn’t it? A sort of “I dare you not to drive it,” quality that spells road trip.
There are few things I enjoy more than loading skis into the roof box, packing a change of long underwear, extra gloves and toques, bags of chips and whatever other road trip indulgences you desire, then hitting the highway. The Powder Highway cuts through the Canadian Rockies and Columbia Mountains, a region of such staggering density in skiing and snowboarding opportunities, be it resort, cat, heli and backcountry, that you’ll be struck with an option paralysis of the favorable kind; a too-much-of-a-good-thing problem that we skiers and boarders love to have. Assemble your favorite winter superlatives – steep, deep, blower, big vert, cruisy, epic, etcetera – and that pretty much sums up the Powder Highway.
At Fernie Alpine Resort, the lifts service five alpine bowls in the legendary Lizard Range of the Canadian Rockies blessed with snow as light as the down in your puffy jacket.
Kimberley Alpine Resort, a little off the beaten track, has always been a breeding ground of ski racing talent with its fall line groomers and spacious terrain.
At Kicking Horse Mountain Resort, the Eagle Express Gondola shuttles skiers and boarders to the top of the Dogtooth Range in the Purcell Mountains in a more than 4000 vertical foot butterflies-in-the-stomach ascent. From the top terminal, choose your adventure. A cruisy top to bottom groomer that will have the legs burning, or perhaps a boot pack to the top of Feuz Bowl or T1 followed by a drop into a spicy 45 alpine chute.
Then there are the towns, archetypal ski communities. Not cookie cutter prefab creations but towns with heart and history.
Fernie, with its main street lined in heritage buildings, steeped in the tradition of 19th century mining, where skiing has a long history dating back more than 50 years. Kimberley and its quaint Bavarian motif, also oozing with colourful mining and pioneering history.
And Golden near the confluence of the Kicking Horse and mighty Columbia River and at the foot of Kicking Horse Mountain Resort, where a tradition of mountain adventure has its roots in the golden era of railroading in Canada when Swiss guides arrived in the late 1800’s to explore the vast wildness of Canada’s mountains, many of them settling in and around Golden.
While a love of skiing will lead you to the Powder Highway, the towns, real mountain towns full of real mountain people, will steal a piece of your heart. On a rest day, after exploring between Fernie and Kimberley, drive up the beautiful Columbia Valley, next to frozen lakes and wetlands that spring to life in summer. Pull into the HQ of legendary Kicking Horse Coffee in Invermere, where the smell of roasting beans drifts in the air. Fill up with a mug of Kick Ass coffee, relax, and dream about the turns and terrain that awaits at Kicking Horse Mountain Resort. A little further north, slip into Radium Hot Springs, and watch wild Big Horn Sheep scale the surrounding cliffs. How many more reasons do you need to explore the Powder Highway? Next step – pack your ski bags, load the vehicle and hit the road – your idea of the perfect winter road trip will be changed forever!
Words: Andrew Findlay
Photos: Love Street Media, Raven Eye Photography, Antoine Caron Cabana, Henry Georgi, Brooke Wilson & Tourism Golden
On B.C’s aptly-named Powder Highway, lifetime memories are created from epic moments that might only last a few seconds. Moments like that epic face shot at Fernie or Kicking Horse, when the snow fell like puffy diamonds from the sky and where your body was on auto-pilot, screaming straight down the fall line ais if guided by an invisible hand. Up and down, up and down. You’ve heard the clichés before—about needing a snorkel to breathe, and now you’re burrowing through a tunnel of white, crouching down to extend the fantasy for just a few seconds longer.
That, in a brief paragraph, is what the B.C Powder Highway experience offers. The Powder Highway – originally a marketing vehicle cooked up by Chris Elder of Fernie Alpine Resort and Dave Nicholls of nearby Island Lake Catskiing – is a woven fabric of main roads, backroads, and sideroads in southeastern B.C that encompasses everything from deluxe cat-skiing operations to under the radar local ski hills to prestigious alpine touring lodges for skiers with big heart, lungs, and quads.
Start your exploration by flying into Cranbrook’s Canadian Rockies International Airport (YXC). Pile your baggage and gear into an SUV or well-equipped rental car for the short drive to Kimberley Alpine Resort, less than twenty minutes from the airport. It’s the perfect resort to get your ski legs under, with challenging glades, steep bump runs, and mellow cruisers.
Next, pack up and set your GPS coordinates for the powder-famous Fernie Alpine Resort. Here, the Lizard Range—the storm-battered alpine ridge above town that resembles a lizard’s back—catches over 11 metres (37 feet) of snow annually from passing storms. Similar to Colorado ski towns like Telluride or Crested Butte, the historic red-brick town of Fernie is an authentic Canadian winter sports town.
Further adventure awaits farther north at Kicking Horse Mountain Resort just west of the Continental Divide near Golden, B.C. Monster bowls, jaw-dropping steeps, endless cruisers, and the best mountain scenery in North America from the deck of the Eagle’s Eye restaurant await. Kicking Horse is a massive playground that offers big vertical, consistent steeps, and a terrific range of ski in and ski out options right up at the resort.
And those are just the lift-serviced resorts. Add in 13 cat ops, 9 heli ski companies, and a mind-boggling 21 backcountry lodges and you have likely the greatest concentration of powder options anywhere in the world.
Words: Steven Threndyle
Photos: Brandon Hartwig, Brad Lorriman, Abbydell Photography, Love Street Media, Antoine Caron Cabana
August 11, 2016
Matthew Bailey from www.mustdocanada.com recently visited Kicking Horse Mountain Resort to experience the Via Ferrata, ride the bike trails and of course, visit Boo the Bear. Here is some of what he had to say, to read the full story, visit mustdocanada.com.
“…We curled our way around rock ledges as we moved along the ridge-line that divides the Rocky Mountain trench from the Purcell range. We climbed up and down and straddled the face of the mountain while looking down at the incredible scenery. At one point, we also crossed Gut Bridge, which was just a line of metal cable that you have to walk across. If a suspension bridge doesn’t scare you, this just might. Everything is so safe though so it’s a good time to test your fears!
After a couple of hours, we made it to the top of Terminator Peak, which offers absolutely stunning views of the surrounding area. In one direction, we saw Roger’s Pass while in the other direction we saw as far as the Columbia Icefields. Everything was so clear and vivid. It’s the kind of scenery that draws you in and never wants to let you go. I could easily sit down and just stare at the view for the entire day. It’s that beautiful…” Read the rest in his post on mustdocanada.com.
Next up came Boo & biking;
“….I’ve been riding mountain bikes ever since I was a kid but this was the first time I rode one down an actual mountain. For those looking for a mountain-rush during the summer, I can’t think of a better way. For me, going downhill with a bike versus ski’s is much more terrifying…but I was up for the challenge.
First though, my wife Karla and I wanted to see Boo, the resident Grizzly bear. Since Karla wasn’t going to be joining me for the mountain biking, we decided to explore the Grizzly refuge in the morning. Plus, this is when Boo is more active. I don’t blame him. With 25ºC weather and a thick fur coat, I wouldn’t want to be under the sun either….” Read the rest on mustdocanada.com.
1) Eagle’s Eye at Kicking Horse Mountain Resort
How to get there: Ride the Eagles Express Gondola from the Plaza to the summit, step outside and see the Eagle’s Eye Restaurant walkway in front of you
What you’ll see: Spectacular views of 6 National parks surrounding the resort (and eat a delicious meal as well).
2) Lost Boys Lookout at Fernie Alpine Resort
How to get there: Ride the Timber Chair to the top and walk a short distance past Lost Boys Café over to the Lost Boys Lookout
What you’ll see: Amazing landscapes of the surrounding peaks of the mountains and of the town of Fernie below.
3) Kimberley, B.C – Lois Creek Trails
How to get there: Parking is available at Centennial Hall. To enter Lois Creek Trails go to either the North End of trail Street, the intersection of 8th and Elko Street or at Centennial Hall at the old Legion Tracks.
What you’ll see: Gorgeous mountain vistas and a variety of wildlife along the trails.
4) Lizard Lookout at Fernie Alpine Resort
How to get there: Ride the Elk Chair to the top and walk a short distance into Lizard Bowl
What you’ll see: Stunning views of the Elk River & town of Fernie
5) Via Ferrata at Kicking Horse Mountain Resort – The Ultimate Mountain View
How to get there: Ride the Eagles Express Gondola from the Plaza to the summit, step outside and proceed to Eagle’s Eye, look for the tent to meet up with your guide and group. Once everyone is there you’ll do some training and head right over to the suspension bridge taking you to the Terminator Peak for the climb of your life!
What you’ll see: If you’re brave enough to turn around and take a look behind you’ll see a stunning stretch of mountains while hanging off the Terminator Peak including 6 National parks, the resort below you and Eagle’s Eye Restaurant off in the distance.
NEW this summer – try the Hanging Glory Suspension bridge! More information.
Photos by Alpenglow BnB, Dave Best
Feature Photo: Dax Justin