Kicking Horse is known for some of the most interesting and technical terrain on the Powder Highway, but if you’re a novice snowboarder or skier, that shouldn’t scare you from earning your chops on the slopes.
A few starter runs on the Jellybean and Pony training hills are the perfect way to get things started whether you’re a first-timer or are coming back from an extended absence.
From there, our trainers from our snow school will work with you to figure out which hill to tackle next.
Our Catamount chair services a solid chunk of beginner and low-intermediate terrain (primarily green runs). This includes runs like Big Ben and Wolverine, heading down towards Beaver Tail and Crowfoot. Overall, it’s a great lift for to build your confidence, nail turns and improve general skill. Since most of our beginner and intermediate terrain is located below mid-mountain, it’s not a very daunting proposition if you’re a rookie.
When you’re ready to progress to longer runs and looking to work in some blue/intermediate terrain, take our gondola to up to Eagle’s Eye and use It’s a 10 (green cat track) to enter Crystal Bowl. There’s a mix of blue and green terrain available in Crystal Bowl (one of our personal favorites is a blue: Northern Lights) They can then use It’s a 10 to travel down the mountain (a 10 km long track from top to bottom!) to access more beginner runs in the lower mountain. Alongside this run, you have to check out Kicking Horse classic #43 Blaster as well, which is a green run.
If you’ve earned your chops and tackled this suggested lineup, that’s a solid day’s work. End your day back at Peaks Grill with a couple of beers to analyze the day’s runs and take a look at tomorrow’s conditions. There’s so much terrain to discover at Kicking Horse, you’ll find yourself with far more to conquer than you could ever do in one trip, but the best boarding/riding weekends are the ones that leave you wanting more!
Slowly and gracefully we take the final steps to the summit Terminator Ridge. We release our carabiners from the cable guide we’ve been following for the last three hours and soak in the moment. The fresh breeze atop Terminator Ridge rushes through our hair, the 360-degree view encompassed our vision with stunning peaks and a sense of accomplishment relaxes our adrenaline pumping veins. High fives, hugs and even a jump for joy, we did it!
Contently we walk back to Eagle’s Eye Restaurant for a celebratory beverage, where our journey as a gaggle of girls began not so long ago. Over tasty local brews, we relish our favorite moments from our Via Ferrata experience. Starting on the Hanging Glory Suspension Bridge certainly put us on the right track for adventure and helped us grasp trusting the cables and our own balance. Hanging out in the sheltered rock nooks on the spidery traverse offered time to soak in the terrain we were somehow able to work through with ease. The most adrenaline-pumping moment was mutually agreed upon as the Guts Bridge, a gripping experience walking over a single cable bridge, but the rush was enjoyed from the safety of our harnesses. And of course the magic of reaching the summit, but it wouldn’t have had as rewarding without the dotted giggles, toe curls, ladder climbs and spectacular views along the way.
Spending the day atop Kicking Horse Mountain Resort partaking in the Via Ferrata was the ultimate girls outing, here’s why:
It’s not your normal girls weekend, AKA it’s memorable and you’ll talk about it for years! No seriously, it’s not another bunch or night on the town, you’ll experience “firsts,” scary moments, laughable moments and there’s always bonding to be had when you are out of your element.
Earn your apres. Yup, you read that right! Surely after a few hours of gripping a mountain, you’re entitled to whatever beverage your heart desires and some tasty truffle fries from Eagle’s Eye to top it off.
Private booking for six people are available to keep your lady crew together for the experience. Nothing says new experience better than a supportive group of friends doing it together.
It’s the perfect way to test the waters for alpine climbing and scrambling. You might have just fallen in love with a whole new sport.
Push your boundaries, learning new ways to maneuver, build confidence in your mountain travel and practice your flexibility and balance for an epic workout.
The Via Ferrata is available from mid June to the September long weekend yearly which means there are plenty of opportunities to plan a women’s weekend nestled in the mountains. Get your dose of adrenaline, relaxation and sightseeing in with a stay at Kicking Horse Mountain Resort before summers gone!
Words + Photos by Abby Cooper
Did you know, the best opportunity to see a bear is actually outside of Banff National Park? Kicking Horse Mountain Resort is the best place to see a Bear, in fact, it’s guaranteed! Not only can you visit Boo, the resident bear at Kicking Horse there are a variety of other activities that will make you wondering why you didn’t plan your whole trip to Kicking Horse and plan a day trip to Banff instead of vice versa! But don’t worry, if you already have your trip planned to Banff this summer, Golden is just a hop, skip and a short car ride away!
Peek at Boo
See a Bear up close, living his best life at the largest enclosed Grizzly Bear habitat in the world at Kicking Horse. Boo was rescued as a cub after his mother was killed by a poacher, through growing up at Kicking Horse we’ve had the unique opportunity to observe a Grizzly Bears life and learn a whole lot about them. When you visit Boo you’re likely to see him following one of his rangers (who serve as tour guide) as they pace besides his enclosure and lead you along with them or you might catch him lazily lying around his very own pond on a warmer day. Boo has been known to desire a rendezvous with the ladies and one time even managed to get out of his enclosure to find himself a girlfriend. Alas, Bears are solitary creatures and only interact with others typically during mating season, so Boo came back on his own to live his life of luxury at his forever home on the Kicking Horse slopes.
Mountain Top Dining
There’s almost nothing that comes close to comparing the experience of dining at Eagle’s Eye Restaurant at Kicking Horse Mountain Resort. It’s the highest elevated restaurant in Canada, located at the top of our Gondola at 7,700 ft! Not only can you see the view of 6 National parks, you can enjoy amazing Canadian dishes and drinks with a fancy flair (you don’t want to miss the poutine or the Caesar’s here, promise).
Not only is Eagle’s Eye open for lunch during the summer, it’s also open for a special night of stargazing during the Perseid Meteor shower, can be booked for weddings and special events and even has exclusive suites you can stay at with a 24-hour butler on hand.
If you’re looking for a real adventure in the mountains, the Via Ferrata is for you! You don’t have to be an experienced rock climber to complete this incredible expedition, in fact, you don’t have to have any experience at all! To conquer the Via Ferrata you just need to have desire for a fun challenge (mixed in with a bit of bravery as well). Don’t be intimidated by the pictures or even when you’re on the way up the Gondola and can see the course, literally on the side of the rock face looming in the distance. The Via Ferrata is perfectly manageable, using fixed iron rungs to guide you along. Not only will you feel an amazing sense of accomplishment when you finish this trek you’ll also have some serious bragging rights when you tell your friends and family you’ve hung off the side of a rock (plus photo proof if you dare take out your phone at those heights). If I can do it, you can do it!
This still isn’t all there is to take in at Kicking Horse Mountain Resort and Golden, B.C. this summer, there’s also breathtaking ridgewalk hikes and sightseeing (see main photo), an award winning mountain bike park (downhill and cross country trails available), pop up farmers markets, fly fishing, horseback riding or kayaking (to name just a few).
Boo | Kyle Edworthy
Drink | Emile Lavoie
Via Ferrata | Lisa Roddick
Something I’ve learned about myself is that I rarely turn down an opportunity for adventure. When Kicking Horse Mountain called and wanted me to climb ‘Terminator Peak’ and cross a swaying suspension bridge, I answered.
I have never done much climbing. I mean, I have climbed mountains and bagged a couple summits; but this was no ordinary climb. This type of climb is called “Via Ferrata” which means “iron path” in Italian. I have done this type of climb only before but our route for this trip is positioned as “The Most Exhilarating Via Ferrata in Western Canada” and we were heading to the summit of Kicking Horse Mountain.
Before we began climbing everyone goes through a short but informative training session on how to use the climbing gear. Via Ferrata climbing is a little different than normal rock climbing in that you are always harnessed in but have to be responsible for your own technique up the mountain. It is simple stuff, you just have to be conscious and aware – which isn’t tough because when you’re up there, you are 100% involved in what you’re doing. No distractions; my mind was fully focused on the task. It didn’t take long for all of us to get comfortable with the provided gear so we started out by trekking the ridgeline high above Kicking Horse and the town of Golden, BC. After a short hike you arrive at the swaying suspension bridge… No matter how many times I’ve been on these types of bridges I still get swept by a wave of excitement. Step by step I crossed the wooden planks as the bridge swung from side to side. One thing to keep in mind is you are literally safe all the time, and you are harnessed into cables that are bolted into the mountain.
*Learn more about Kicking Horse Mountain’s Via Ferrata climb here.*
As we climbed onward and upward we were able to take short breaks to chat with one another, watch others and their technique, take photos of each other (obviously selfies) and get to know one another. Honestly, I thought more people would be freaked out but our entire group was comfortable, laughing and we all became friends within the first hour. There were even kids with us and they were doing great! One thing I noticed from the youth with us was they were HAPPY. Like, genuinely. It was pure adventure to them and it was wonderful to hang out with some young people who enjoyed the outdoors.
Speaking of people who enjoy (or live for) the outdoors – our guide Jackie wasn’t just a guide, she became our friends. Jackie O is as fun as they come. Jackie (or any Guides) can be instrumental in any activity or trip in the mountains, and she never let us go forward with doubt. She was super supportive, skilled, had a fun-cheeky attitude and ultimately had a positive outlook on life and adventure.
This route up the mountain was called the Ascension route and takes 4.0 hours to complete. After the morning of climbing we all peaked the summit and had some time to give high-fives and at this stage we were all hugging each other in joy. I won’t ever forget it.
For me, this activity is high on my list for exhilarating mountain fun that just about anyone can do. My sense of excitement was non-stop all the way up to the summit. I can’t wait to climb it again – see you up on the suspension bridge this season!
From KH website: “465 meters of pure bliss! Starting off the ridge-line dividing the Rocky Mountain trench from the Purcell range, and exiting at the top of Terminator Peak, the ASCENSION Route is a truly unique beast. From the climbers’ mouth, this course is one of the most technical & scenic in North America. Discover our signature “Guts Bridge” and stand on top of the world, feeling that you summited a giant!”
Learn more about Kicking Horse Mountain’s Via Ferrata climb here.
Kicking Horse Mountain Resort, widely known as the ‘Champagne Powder Capital of Canada’, is now gaining recognition for being a leader in real estate and mountain architecture as well. The Cedars is Kicking Horse’s premiere ongoing real estate development, with construction of the first home starting in the fall of 2014, lots are still available to purchase. The purchase of a mountain lot, managed through RCR Realty, offers ownership of a high energy efficient state of the art mountain modern, semi detached home (breathtaking views and easy access to the slopes included).
Recently featured in several highly regarded design publications, The Cedars as well as other private homes in Kicking Horse are receiving worldwide acknowledgment as a high end, luxurious mountain development.
Articles featuring the home designed by Bohlin Cywinski Jackson who designs all the Apple stores as well as residences for many well known clients such as Bill Gates;
Other features this property and Kicking Horse have been included in;
- 10 of the best cabin in the Canadian woods on dezeen.com
- The Most Fabulous Houses of 2014 on fastcodesign.com
- The 10 Best Houses of 2014 on metropolis.com
Publications featuring other properties at Kicking Horse Mountain Resort;
- dwell.com – Mountain Home
- mountainliving.com – A British Columbia Home They Call the Wolves’ Den
- westernliving.ca – Inside a luxe, Hygge-Inspired Alpine Getaway
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.
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
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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