Mountains for all their beauty and wonder can seem remote and inaccessible. Not at Kicking Horse Mountain Resort. I like to think of Kicking Horse as a base camp for summer alpine adventures, without actually having to sleep in a tent to enjoy the mountains, shell out for a heli-drop, or slog uphill for hours before you get a glimpse of the alpine. Instead you can stay in a slopeside condo or hotel suite, stroll over to the Eagle Express Gondola, and in less than 10 minutes be whisked along with other hikers, mountain bikers and alpine enthusiasts from the valley to the upper reaches of the craggy Dogtooth Range, covering more than 1,200 vertical metres in an ascent that would be an all day effort for the average person on foot. At Kicking Horse, it’s all about alpine accessibility. Bowls and basins that are covered deep in snow during winter, become alpine meadows resplendent with wildflowers awaiting hikers, photographers and nature lovers. Wintry windswept ridge tops, become warm sun-dappled, peak to peak hiking routes in summer. The views of the Columbia Valley are as jaw dropping as the panorama of mountain summits and glaciers that unfolds in all directions.
For those craving some air beneath the feet, Kicking Horse’s new via ferrata gives people a taste of mountain climbing without the arsenal of equipment, skill and experience normally required to scale peaks. Via ferrata originates from World War I when Italian soldiers equipped mountains with fixed lines and ladders, an ingenuous and relatively safe way to ascend difficult or otherwise un-climbable cliffs. When fighting ended the via ferrata was forgotten, until mountaineers began restoring and repurposing these routes for recreation, launching a new form of mountain adventure. This form of alpine adventure is catching on in Canada. Last year Kicking Horse launched a via ferrata experience on the north face of Terminator Peak. It consists of steel rungs and cable drilled into the rock, suspension bridges, and bridges that span heart thumping chasms. Climbing via ferrata always gets the adrenaline thumping, however it’s extremely safe. You’re always attached to the mountain for protection, with a climbing harness and leash tethered to the cable meaning anyone from fit grandparents to grandkids can experience the thrill of scaling alpine rock. Kicking Horse offers two via ferrata routes; Ascension delivers you to the summit of Terminator Peak in a half-day outing, while Discovery provides a shorter alternative that exits lower down Terminator Peak’s easily walkable ridge. However both routes start with an exhilarating crossing of a 30 m long suspension bridge that spans a steep chute that skiers know as Think Twice.
Kicking Horse Mountain Resort also offers up some of the most scenic and spectacular lift accessed mountain biking in North America, with an extensive network of trails that includes switch backing single track in alpine meadows, steep rock slabs that test how far you can hang over the back tire, and beginner to intermediate trails that wind down from the Eagle’s Nest to the base area in more than 1200 metres of vertical drop riding that will have your forearms burning and your stoke anticipating the next run . There’s smooth and flowy Pipestone, which feeds quickly into the swooping burmed chicanes of Dragon Chaser, with western anemones and Indian Paintbrush blossoming trailside. And to keep you honest, there’s Chute to View, Home Run, Showdown, and the black diamond- rated Rock and Roll, just a few of the dozens of trails to choose from. Kicking Horse is also close to the cross country trails of Moonraker, home to roughly 60 kilometers of X-country single track, located just a short drive or bike ride from the resort base area.
Bike Trail for all ages/abilities at Kicking Horse Mountain Resort
And talk about alpine dining. Once the outdoors has stirred your appetite you can sit down for lunch at the Eagle’s Eye Restaurant, and order from a menu that boasts Alberta beef, mushroom Tagliatelle and other specialties from chef Mathieu Bocher’s kitchen. To top it off, every seat in the house offers unparalleled mountain vistas.
Kicking Horse is also your summer base camp for wildlife viewing. Boo the Bear has made his home at Kicking Horse Grizzly Bear Interpretive Centre since he first arrived as an orphaned cub 15 years ago. The 20-acre fenced enclosure, provides shady forest, meadows and naturally running water for Boo, enabling visitors to safely observe and better understand grizzly behavior and ecology with the help of interpretive centre manager Ross Prather and his staff.
Kicking Horse may be renowned for big vertical skiing and boarding, but it’s also a summertime base for fresh air mountain experiences, from hiking and mountain biking, to via ferrata and wildlife viewing. Best of all, you can pack in as much mountain adventure as your heart and mind can take, then be back in the village in time to watch the sun set with a cold beverage, appetizer, and a soak in the Jacuzzi.
Words by Andrew Findlay
Photos by Dax Justin & Dave Best