Let’s get straight to the point; winter tends to overstay its welcome. With major snowstorms lasting into April earlier this year, Mother Nature definitely took longer than expected to bestow warmer temperatures upon us Canadians.
Living in this wonderful, snowy nation, there are some crucial lessons to learn in order to thrive in the ‘Great White North’. Most importantly, is realizing the importance of making the best of your environment and conditions (especially the long winter months we so often endure).
Our initial instincts are to stay warm and cozy during blizzard-stricken months, huddled indoors with blankets, warm drinks, a crackling fire and taking in an unhealthy amount of Netflix, while silently praying that our neighbour or significant other will shovel the walkway. Winters have such great potential though, why surrender such glorious opportunities to see the remarkable beauty Canada boasts in its backyard?
Exploring the outdoors throughout all four of our Canadian seasons is a revitalizing experience for us, which should be taken advantage of to refresh our frame of mind. It’s a chance to discover new adventures just a snowball’s throw away. We’re all familiar with making the most of warm temperatures during the summer months with patio season and backyard lounging in full swing. The winter landscape can be just as inspiring too, when given the chance.
If you need more convincing, here are a few of Canada’s premiere winter activity destinations:
Fernie, British Columbia
The shops, cafés, restaurants and pubs along 2nd Avenue in Fernie are some of the Canadian Rockies’ hidden gems, with surrounding mountain peaks looming over the glow of its downtown streets.
Located just down the road, Fernie Alpine Resort is home to some of Canada’s most legendary powder, with an average snowfall of 30ft. From epic downhill skiing to leisurely snowshoe and groomed cross-country skiing trails, the resort has activities for the whole family. It also offers plenty of weekly programs to get you outside and even yoga classes to help you find your winter Zen. Their on-mountain accommodations along with a local shuttle to town make for a perfect introduction to Canada’s winter activities.
Kimberley, British Columbia
If you’re looking for a classic mountain town, you’ve found it. The town of Kimberley embodies the Canadian spirit with humble, welcoming locals and a relentless passion for nature. Kimberley is home to craft beers, great local dining, the oldest building in Canada and a variety of activities to enjoy outside.
With stunning scenery of the Kootenay mountains, Kimberley Alpine Resort is just minutes from town and offers great facilities and terrain for people of all skiing and snowboarding ability levels – from first-timers to seasoned slope shredders. Looking to stay on level ground? Try the area’s expansive snowshoe trails, cross-country skiing network or check out fat biking, one of North America’s favourite new activities (mountain bikes with wider tires for better grip in snow conditions).
Golden, British Columbia
One of the most famed locations along the Powder Highway, Kicking Horse Mountain Resort and the town of Golden are conveniently located along the TransCanada Highway and ready to provide you a mountain experience like no other. Drop into Whitetooth Brewing Co. for locally crafted beers, or the Northern Lights Wildlife Wolf Centre for an up-close learning session with these amazing animals.
Delving deeper into nature, Kicking Horse Mountain Resort offers Canada’s highest dining experience, the Eagle’s Eye Restaurant at 7,700ft. Once you’re fueled up, hit the slopes of the Catamount Chair to learn the basics on your skis or snowboard, or bring your little ones to the tube park and natural ice rink at the base of the resort. Advanced skiers head to the top via the gondola for wide ranging bowls, ridges and chutes. If staying grounded is your preference, Golden is primed with world-class snowmobiling, along with plenty of rentals and tours available.
Life’s too short – and winters are too long – to miss out on a lifetime of adventure. Let winter activities revitalize your soul and help you look forward to the inevitable snowfalls each year. Meet Mother Nature halfway on this one and discover how rewarding Canada’s winter climates can truly be.
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.
Golden, B.C is a gorgeous mountain town, well known for being an adventure capital with a variety of outdoor activities just outside your doorstep in both winter and summer. One of Golden’s (only slightly) lesser known facts is that it’s also ‘at the heart’ of 6 National Parks. This year, with everyone being able to visit all our parks in Canada for free in honour of Canada’s 150th birthday there’s never been a better time to plan a road trip to Golden and it’s surrounding parks!
So exactly which National Parks can you get to easily from Golden?
- Mt. Revelstoke National Park
Approximately 1.5 hour drive from Golden
What to do: Travel on the Meadows in the Sky Parkway, only open for the few months in the summer without any snow, its a gorgeous drive with lots of photo opportunities along the way. Take a shuttle bus to the summit for hiking and to see the historic firetower at the top.
What to see: Lots of wildlife including bears, moose, wolverines, mountain goats and even bats.
Fun Fact: home to one of the few inland temperate rainforests in the world
- Glacier National Park
Approximately 40 minute drive from Golden
What to do: Walk or hike along one of the many trails in the area, a large variety of levels offers something for the veteran hikers as well as shorter ones for people seeking a more casual adventure
What to see: Really old trees – take a stroll through the Hemlock Grove Boardwalk built in between ancient hemlock trees
Fun Fact: home to one of Canada’s largest cave systems
- Banff National Park
Approximately 1 hour drive from Golden
What to do: Walk through/around the historic Banff Spring Hotel, built in the 19th century or visit Chateau Lake Louise, one of the most photographed spots in Canada
What to see: Amazing mountain views, abundance of wildlife and a quaint town
Fun Fact: Canada’s first National Park
- Jasper National Park
Approximately 2.5 hour drive from Golden
What to do: The Glacier Skywalk. One of the newest attractions in the 6 parks, the Glacier Skywalk is an amazing glass floor lookout jutting out from the cliff edge
What to see: The highest mountain in Alberta – Mount Columbia
Fun Fact: one of Canada’s largest national parks
- Kootenay National Park
Approximately a 1 hour drive from Golden
What to do: Relax in the Radium Hot Springs or camp in oTENTiks (tent/cabin combos)
What to see: With an abundance of waterfalls, rivers, grasslands and glaciers there’s something to see around every corner in Kootenay National Park whether you’re walking or driving.
Fun Fact: is a UNESCO World Heritage site in part because of the fossils found in the area
- Yoho National Park
Approximately 20 minute drive from Golden
What to do: See Takakkaw Falls, 384 m high the Takakkaw falls are some of the highest in Canada, accessible from June – October hike right to the base of the falls for an amazing experience. It’s no wonder Yoho is a Cree word meaning ‘of awe and wonder’
What to see: Emerald Lake – names for it’s unique turquoise colour cause by powdered limestone
Fun fact: the park was created after Canada’s first Prime Minister John. A Macdonald and his wife toured through on the new Railway, he created the park along with Glacier National Park upon returning home.
We woke up, peeled back the blinds to a foggy interior BC morning. I loved it. The beauty of the fog rolling through the ancient trees and over the Canadian Rockies was breath taking. We packed up the truck and headed for Kicking Horse Mountain Resort, well… first a coffee, and then headed for Kicking Horse. As we drove up the winding road to the resort I got a little nervous. There were a few butterflies hammering around in my stomach, but nothing out of the usual. I get so stoked every time we pull up to rad resorts like Kicking Horse Mountain Resort – you know good things are to come.
We had roped ourselves into the ‘Via Ferrata’. This all started when we saw pictures online of people climbing epic routes up monster faces, and apparently anyone can do it… so we got on the horn and lined it up. Tell you the truth, we had to google what that the name even meant. Via Ferrata is Italian for “iron road”, often associated with helping move troops in the First World War through the Dolomite mountain range of Italy. It was designed to help those who had no climbing experience to be able to navigate those rocky climbs. Climbers secure themselves to a cable, limiting any fall. Along with the cable, additional climbing aids are provided, such as iron rungs (stemples), pegs, carved steps and even ladders and bridges are provided. This sounded unreal, we couldn’t wait.
Making our way to the Via Ferrata we walked along this amazing ridge at the top of Kicking Horse. Clouds parted and the sun came out, revealing an absolutely epic view of a thousand surrounding mountains came into view. We all stopped, it was entrancing. After a few photos and necessary selfies we carried on.
At the entrance to the Via Ferrata we slide our carabiners onto the cable. Game time. First was the suspension bridge, ‘Hanging Glory’. With merely two 2×6’s underneath you and two cables to steady yourself we made our way from one ridge to another… the ground was a long way down. It was thrilling. Our team moved on to climb the route starting small but soon making our way to the mammoth 465 meter rock face. The steel rungs definitely make this route accessible for everyone, it was incredible how easy this made climbing. This style of climbing allowed us to access a spot we never thought we could get to, and we did it safely. Halfway up we were already making plans to come back and do this again. As we we neared the middle of the climb we paused, it felt like we were in a movie. We were halfway up this wild, iconic route I never thought of tackling, sitting on the face of this massive peak. We felt pretty badass.
As we reached the top we were all exhilarated – sweating, catching our breath, high fiving and hugging. Our team had pushed through pre-conceived notions of fear and physical ability to prove to themselves they were capable of more. The feeling of accomplishment as we summited the peak was incredible. We all stood there in awe taking in our triumph as we enjoyed the view from the top.
This summer step out of your comfort zone and experience first-hand exposure in a safe environment, while soaking in the majestic views of the Rockies and Kicking Horse Mountain Resort. The experienced and friendly guides will cater to your level, whether you are a lead climber or a never-ever in search of an adrenaline fix.
I highly recommend that adventurers of all ages try your hand at the Via Ferrata.
Check out the video to see more of the experience;
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