Colorado’s sister cirque: British Columbia’s Powder Highway provides a haven of deep snow in the Rockies
My boots crunch against the sand and crushed seashells as I walk across the parking lot, toward the hurrahs of a tailgate party at Revelstoke Mountain Resort, and away from the sleeping ski lifts. The humid air is salt-bitten and crisp. Thick fog rolls off the Columbia River’s banks, at 1,450 feet, below me. Across the basin’s water, which stretches 1.5 miles wide, the rounded crowns of the Monashee Mountains light up. I set down a six-pack of chilled Kokanee – a gift of greeting for these rowdy Revelstokians. Behind us, the Selkirk Mountains tower 7,300 feet high. A girl shakes my hand, introduces herself, and we immediately hash out the ski day. Despite this being my first time in Canada, the vibe is friendly, laid back, and comfortably reminiscent of my home in Southwest Colorado.
It’s mid-April and the tail-end of the worst-recorded snow season in Colorado’s history. Inspired by the ski film “Valhalla,” my deep craving for a powder fix led me here: 1,230 miles north of the Four Corners to British Columbia’s southeastern corner, an area with the highest concentration of backcountry, slackcountry, cat, heli, cross-country and downhill ski options in the world. The region, dubbed the Kootenay Rockies, is a characteristic cousin of Colorado’s peaks, though grander in vertical relief and pounded by more snow. Snow-hounds can efficiently road trip a 642-mile cirque of highways and mountain passes that links eight ski resorts: Fernie, Kimberley, Fairmont Hot Springs, Panorama, Kicking Horse, Revelstoke, RED Mountain, and Whitewater. I decide to hit Fernie, Kicking Horse, and end with Revy.
Given the surrounding marine climate, it’s hard to believe that one of my memory’s best-ever powder runs is tucked in the clouds, above me, on a steep face of the Selkirks. But the slopes erupt 5,620 feet from where I stand, making Revelstoke home to the longest, quad-burning descent of any ski resort in North America. “My legs are spent,” I tell my new friend, “but I’m eager for tomorrow’s snow storm.” Anticipation is met: We wake up to more than a foot of deep powder and a new annual snowfall record for the resort’s 10th year anniversary, set on closing day. This season, it’s safe to say, I’ll be heading back for more.
Stay: Sleep gondola-side at the Sutton Place Hotel, where you can cook in and hot tub. For walkability in town, stay at the Regent Hotel, which boasts one of the best breakfast buffets in town, live jazz performances and an on-site pub.
Eat: Sip gourmet kombucha and get warmed up with inventive macaroni dishes at Bierhaus. For fast lunch, grab a turkey yam wrap at La Baguette, and order the Peruvian chicken for dinner at Quartermaster Eatery. Head chef and restaurateur Olivier Dutil leads both and his French-inspired culinary creations do not disappoint.
Tip: On a powder day, rise extra early to beat the lift line of 2,700 hungry shredders who typically take queue at the base.
Stay: Kicking Horse is a 17-minute drive from Golden. Devout powder hounds should ski-in, ski-out from Glacier Mountaineer Lodge, where they can also toss rank laundry into the condo’s washer/dryer, stash equipment in the ski lockers, and toast glove and boot liners with the robust on-site dryer.
Eat: Don’t miss the jackfruit pulled pork slider at Double Black, the Alberta Beef Burger at Eagle’s Eye or the bizarre burgers at the Wolf’s Den. For après, order a flight at Whitetooth Brewing Co.
Tip: Don’t leave Kicking Horse without meeting Boo the Grizzly Bear. The resident bear was adopted by the resort after his mom was killed by a poacher. Also, if you happen to need DEF (diesel exhaust fluid) for your eco-rig, Golden’s NAPA Auto Parts Store sells jugs. They saved me from being stranded in my Chevy Equinox.
Stay: Ski-in, ski-out of the Fernie SlopeSide Lodge, which is simple, old-school and conveniently located.
Eat: Fuel up with avocado toast at Slopeside Coffee; wind down with après on the Kokanee Deck at the Griz Bar.
Tip: Confirm with your hotel where to check in. After-hours check-in for Fernie SlopeSide Lodge is at another nearby lodge.