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!
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.
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
If you’re thinking of booking a ski getaway this winter, now is the time to do it! With Early Booking Vacation Offers available for Christmas and Family Week vacations, as well as special long stay savings packages and spring skiing trips with big savings!
Visit our Early Booking Offers page to book a getaway online or give our vacation specialists a call at 1-800-258-7669 to book over the phone.
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
Summer might be the best time to get outdoors and enjoy what the mountains have to offer in our amazing backyard in Canada. In recent years, ski resorts in British Columbia have made a series of additions, upgrades and updates to have family friendly activities for adults and the little’s as well as keeping the hardcore activities available for the summer thrill seeker.
Summer is a great time to escape the hustle and city bustle, to relax and recharge. The tranquility of fishing will help those kids forget all about the stress of making the grade at school and will help you take a real mental vacation from work. Fishing provides kids (of all ages) a great lesson about being calm and one with nature in an authentic environment. More information about fishing in Golden is on the Tourism Golden website.
- Take a Hike
No, we’re not telling you to get lost, but we are literally telling you to take a hike. Fernie, Kimberley and Kicking Horse all offer hiking in a mountain setting with amazing views at Fernie and Kicking Horse the lift accessed hiking provides some epic views you won’t on any regular old hike. For more information about hiking in mountain towns visit the Tourism Fernie, Tourism Golden or Tourism Kimberley websites and for more information about lift accessed resort hiking visit the Fernie Alpine Resort or Kicking Horse Mountain Resort.
- See a real bear up close (and learn too)
Perhaps one of the most unique aspects at Kicking Horse is Boo the Bear who lives year round at the resort and has made a name for himself as a local celebrity. Boo has an interesting story of how he ended up making his home at Kicking Horse, in the largest protected Grizzly Bear habitat in the world. While living at the resort he’s offered us humans a rare and special opportunity to learn about the life and practices of Grizzly Bears. Kids and adults of all ages will enjoy taking a Grizzly Bear Interpretive tour and learning about his life at the horse! Get more information about Boo and Interpretive tours on the Kicking Horse Mountain Resort.
- Monkey Around
The Aerial Park at Fernie Alpine Resort is a good introduction to find out how the little’s in your family feel about heights. They can try out the free kids aerial park, or if they meet the height restrictions can venture up in the trees. The lesson beforehand from our knowledgeable guides and extensive safety system will allow them to feel safe while far away from the ground! If you have a very adventurous little one (who is at least 10), use the Aerial Park as a stepping stone to trying the Via Ferrata at Kicking Horse Mountain Resort. Get more information and book the Aerial Park on the Fernie Alpine Resort website.
- Explore historic towns
Many towns in British Columbia have a strong history in mining and have museums or memorials in town to commemorative and conserve the memories. Along with learning about history, try out some of these unique town experiences;
- Visit Beanpod Chocolate (Canada’s Traditional Chocolate maker) in historical Downtown Fernie. Beanpod website.
- Walk the downtown platzl in Kimberley (also location of the Kimberley museum). More info.
- Walk with Wolves in Golden, a truly unique experience in the Canadian Rockies. More info.
- Visit the Heritage town – Fort Steele (near Kimberley, B.C). More info.
- Pop into the Clawhammer Press in Downtown Fernie. Clawhammer Press website.
- Take a golf lesson
Getting them started young is a great way to build impressive golf skills! Check out our websites to see about specials like ‘take a kid to the course day’, ‘family stay & play packs’ and family golf lessons.
- Sunbathe and Swim in the outdoor pools
Staying at ski resorts in the summer offers a full service experience! While many of our hotels have in house or nearby Spas to pamper, gyms to keep in shape and outdoor pools/hot tubs for the kids to keep entertained for hours! Shown in below photo – Lizard Creek Lodge at Fernie Alpine Resort.
- Eat all the food
It might be a bit of a hidden fact (although gaining more and more recognition), mountain towns are the best place to have great food! Each have their own unique restaurants, bars or cafes to check out – all come with an authentic mountain town vibe (guaranteed).
- Mountain Bike ON a mountain
Kicking Horse Mountain Resort is a great starting point to get the passion flowing for mountain biking, with a kid’s skills course in the base area set up each summer. Fernie Alpine Resort has also added a myriad of beginning trails over the last couple season to provide a gentle ride down the summer ski slopes. In addition to beginner trails, Fernie Alpine Resort along with the Fernie Trails Society and Fernie Nordic Club unveiled a new Peak to Park multi use trail last summer. Adding a different experience to the mountain biking game – ride the chairlift at Fernie Alpine Resort and bike your way back down to the town. More information about mountain biking at Fernie Alpine Resort and Kicking Horse Mountain Resort can be found on our websites.
- All the best fests
What’s your jam? Outdoor music? Farmers Markets? Hardcore racing events? There is something nearly every weekend in Fernie, Kimberley or Golden. Check out the online events calendars on the resort websites or town tourism websites to find out the schedule for this summer!
Photos: Tourism Golden, @calsnape, Cali Sammel and Patrick Majer.
That’s what the experts are saying. And while many people across Canada may be rolling their eyes, for winter outdoor enthusiasts it’s music to their ears.
What is La Nina anyways?
La Niña is the positive phase of the El Niño Southern Oscillation and is associated with cooler than average sea surface temperatures in the central and eastern tropical Pacific Ocean. (According to Wikipedia)
Okay, but what does that really mean?
According to Dave Phillips, senior climatologist at Environment Canada – “In B.C. there is a high probability that we can expect a more frigid winter. A little cooler, a little bit more snow..”
Read more about what exactly La Nina means and more from Dave Phillips on the CBC website.
For a longer and even more scientific explanation of La Nina visit the Weather Network website.
La Nina = Happy Skiers & Snowboarders
Don’t forget to order your Kicking Horse Season Pass before the end of the Early Bird Season pass sale on June 25th – order online through the RCR webstore now!
Try out the only gondola accessed mountain biking in the region at Kicking Horse Mountain Resort, with over 3,700 feet of variety, there’s downhill hardcore single tracks with multiple berms, jumps and wooden features as well as lessons and green trails offered for beginners! Golden, B.C has more amazing mountain biking options to offer, being located near Mount 7, one of the most challenging downhills in Canada! Not to worry if you aren’t into the challenge, there are over 100 kms of cross country trails on Mountain Shadows and Moonraker trail systems as well as easier road and mountain cycling. Don’t miss the annual Western Open – B.C Cup, this year on July 2nd & 3rd! Keep an eye on the online events calendar for more information.
There are ‘trails for everyone’ in Kimberley, 3 different trail networks offer everything from beginner riding with gentle, scenic cruises to some adrenaline pumped more difficult trails. With the newest improvements of the trails, the North Star Rails to Trails network is a 25 km long multi use track perfect connecting Kimberley & Cranbrook, perfect for families looking for an afternoon spent exercising outdoors in one of the sunniest places in B.C! Other trails to try are the Lois Creek Trails, geared towards beginner to intermediate riders, and the Kimberley Nature Park, one of the largest municipal parks in Canada for great for riders of all levels. Visit the Tourism Kimberley website for more information on biking in Kimberley.
One of the largest Bike Parks in the region with a recent focus on progression makes Fernie Alpine Resort’s bike park a favourite among the biking community, being voted in the Top 5 Bike Parks in Canada for the last 2 years. Offering cross country, downhill, single track and dual slalom trails accessible from the base area or chair lift as well as a number of green trails and lessons for any ability level to learn the sport or brush up on skills.
Fernie Alpine Resort isn’t the only place to ride in Fernie, along with a number of trails accessed from town, maintained by the Fernie Mountain Bike Club and the Fernie Trails Alliance there have been significant improvements made to a number of trails over the last few summer’s allowing even more people to enjoy scenery around this gorgeous mountain town! A favourite among the youngest generation of riders, Fernie also has a FREE dirt jump park with large & small jumps, bridges and obstacles to check out, located in town near the aquatic centre. For more information on Mountain Biking in Fernie, B.C visit the Fernie Tourism website
Our partner tour operator, Kicking Horse Powder Tours, has set up an exclusive pro-athlete hosted, fully inclusive, on-mountain lodge based trip at Kicking Horse this March.
This exclusive hosted trip is truly the real deal – you’ll get to ski some of the best terrain Canada has to offer and ski with an Olympic winter sports athlete from the UK.
Based out of Kicking Horse, the trip is open to all levels of skiers from intermediate to experts looking for powder snow adventures.
If you’d like to tie in a cat skiing experience to your trip, they’ve got an option for that too.