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
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.
Our winter Early Bird season pass sale ends on Saturday, June 25th, order your season pass or multi week ski school lesson online through the RCR Webstore before the deadline for the best savings of next season.
Don’t forget about those lessons! Get the kids in multi week programs or sign up for one yourself and brush up on skills. Kids & Teen lessons available as well as Powder Room Clinics (women only) and freeride club for adults. View and buy ski school programs through the RCR Webstore.
NEW this year buy a $500 Food & Beverage card for just $399 when purchased with your season pass! Find out more about this new Member Benefit and all the others on the RCR Webstore.
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