Activities: Big Mountain Skiing
Favorite #RallyTime: Summit beers after a dicey trek
Best Restaurant: The Wolf’s Den, Golden and Eagle’s Eye, KH Summit
January, 2022: It was peak winter, and snow was falling furiously almost everywhere across the northern hemisphere. A few powder junkies from across the continent got the itch, and came together for an epic ski adventure - and there’s no better place to find that sweet, fluffy powder than the great Canadian Rocky Mountains.
Hailed as “the champagne powder capital of the world,” Kicking Horse Mountain is a skiers paradise for those willing to make the trip to this off-the-beaten-track ski destination. It’s a “no bells and whistles” kinda resort - no fancy town full of boutiques and restaurants like Banff, or the upscale party scene of Whistler. You go to Kicking Horse for one thing, and one thing only: to ski big mountains.
It’s not a convenient destination, to be sure. I flew into Calgary to access this interior-BC resort and rented a car for the trip. Unfortunately, due to an extensive and long-standing construction project on Kicking Horse Pass, the only access road, we took a detour that added 3 hours to our journey. If you’re planning your trip, be sure to check the status of the construction and ensure the pass is open or make plans accordingly. We knew it wasn’t, but that wasn’t going to stop us. The white-out blizzard conditions made the drive a white-knuckler for much of the 5 hour trek, with a couple dicey truck passings (shoutout TDH). Spirits remained high as knew that every falling snowflake meant better turns the next day - and it was all worth it!
The resort itself features only three lifts - one gondola and two fixed-grip chairs (excluding the historic Pioneer Chair) - servicing ~3,500 acres of skiable terrain. The Golden Eagle Express gondola is the main artery of the resort, going from the base of the mountain right to the top with stunning views en route. Not least of which features the enclosed habitat of local legend Boo, the 720lb grizzly bear who calls the mountain home, and was hibernating deep under the snow when we passed overhead.
Other than the cat-track, every run and glade from the summit is either a black or a double-black diamond - this is not a resort built for novices. A second summit lift aptly named “Stairway to Heaven” leads to a second peak, where a set of steel stairs takes you up to The White Wall - a jaw-droppingly steep bowl towering at 8,053ft, where no line is without risk. If you're an adrenaline junkie, hit the White wall in poor visibility: it feels like you are dropping into an unending abyss of white.
The highlight of the trip was the hike up to Terminator Peak - a 7,900ft peak. There you'll find hundreds of fresh lines through a combination of lightly treed glades and open bowl. The hike up is sketchy and not for the faint of heart: a narrow footpath with howling winds coming from all sides. With your skis offsetting your balance, it’s definitely a hike for the surefooted, but the turns you’ll get on T1 South Ridge are well worth it. After breaking a sweat - part nerves and part physical exertion - we made sure to break for a summit Rally to replenish our electrolytes and mentally prepare for the run... And oh what a run it was! You can follow fall line all the way down, carving fresh lines innumerable times. Towards the bottom we dipped under the OB rope to catch the freshest snow finding some of the best turns of my life. You could hear our yips and roars all the way across the valley.
All roads lead to the bottom, where there is a light ski-traverse back to the gondola.
All in, I’ve concluded that there is no better skiers mountain than Kicking Horse. If you're looking for a rockin' après, nightlife, and some extra-curriculars, you may want to aim elsewhere... However, if you want to shred tough terrain, experience world-class snow, and find fresh turns (even if there hasn’t been a recent dump) KH is your place. Three straight days of skiing was more than enough for my legs, but there is plenty more mountain to explore on our next adventure!
Special shout out to Ned H. for rounding up the troops. Congratulations, brother!
One more tip: always make sure you toast the day with ice cold cans of Trail Blazer. Cheers!