Words by Andrew Findlay
Photos by Kicking Horse Mountain Resort
A horse gave the boots to an explorer on the Great Divide back in 1858, giving Kicking Horse Pass its name. In the 1990’s skiers with vision gazed up at the rugged Dogtooth Range and dreamed of a ski resort that would match the impressive topography of these Purcell peaks above the town of Golden, laying the foundation for Kicking Horse Mountain Resort. It’s been 15 years since the first lifts cranked up at Kicking Horse Mountain Resort, transforming what was then a mom and pop local hill into an internationally renowned ski destination that challenges the best and inspires the rest. So, if you haven’t yet carved tracks into Kicking Horse this season, book your trip now. I’ve been fortunate to ski at many resorts around the world, some little more than bumps in the boreal forest, others alpine to valley bottom village thigh-burners. Yet Kicking Horse never fails to get my adrenaline pumping. Perhaps it’s the view from the Eagle’s Eye restaurant at the top of the gondola looking west at the Matternhorn-esque spire of Mt. Sir Donald. Or the scene that unfolds below as you ride up the Golden Express Gondola, the Columbia River a vertical mile below and snaking northward against a backdrop of endless Rocky Mountain summits. But really it’s about the skiing, all 2,750 stunning acres of it.
Kicking Horse embodies what I love in a ski resort- a big mountain alpine experience bundled into a resort kept safe by a crack team of avalanche and snow safety experts. A resort like this that puts the adventure back into lift skiing is fitting for Golden, the heart of mountain sports in Canada where turn of the 19th century Swiss guides working for CPR’s luxury hotels once chose to settle. For a skier like me, the geography of the Dogtooth Range is tantalizing. A series of three ridges plunge down from the Dogtooth Range crest, dividing the terrain naturally into four prominent features – Crystal Bowl, Bowl Over, Feuz Bowl and Super Bowl. Together these bowls offer a tasty selection of wide gullies, steep pencil thin couloirs, benevolent open basins and rolling groomers that will test your stamina and leave the thighs feeling like rubber by the time you etch turns for 4,200 vertical feet all the way down to the ski racks outside Peaks Grill.
The folks at Kicking Horse realize the resort, though it’s well equipped with family friendly blue runs, can be overwhelming for the uninitiated. You might gaze longingly down the cat track carved out of CPR Ridge knowing that sweet lines tip off either side, or secluded glades of well preserved powder await just beyond view. However you’re gut might caution you not to commit without knowing what you’ll find. That’s the thrill of Kicking Horse. For the advanced skiers, enlisting the services of an experienced instructor and guide through the Big Mountain Centre is the perfect way to get straight to the best goods. It’s like flying first class. You get priority lift access while exploring Kicking Horse’s bounty and sampling some favorite local stashes, without the second guessing and route-finding challenges. So don’t let another day go by; plan your Kicking Horse Mountain Resort getaway and find out for yourself what inspired the resort’s founders to tap the potential of the Dogtooth Range.