BIG SKIING ON THE POWDER HIGHWAY
If you’re like me, you don’t like skiing at smaller resorts, where you seem to spend most of your time standing in a lift line or sitting on a chairlift. The runs are too short and they seem to end right when you’ve got a nice warm rhythm going. May I suggest an alternative?
How about a trio of resorts which are all listed in the top 10 North American ski areas with the most vertical feet? Revelstoke (5,620 feet), Kicking Horse (4,133 feet) and Panorama (4,019 feet) are all located on a beautiful loop of road in British Columbia known as the Powder Highway. You can visit just one of them or you can get to two or three of them. Here are a few tips for each resort:
Fly into Kelowna. From there, it is a very scenic three hour drive/shuttle ride. If you want to be ski in/ski out, Sutton Place is where to stay. There are three buildings at Sutton Place, all located slopeside and with easy access to the village. Condos are newly constructed – very nice and clean.
From the base, you take two gondolas. The second gondola takes you up some very colorfully named runs such as Kill The Banker and The Conifers Of Gnarnia. The Stoke chair will then take to you the very top of the mountain and access to some great groomers and tree skiing. If it’s a cold day, there is a very well-placed warming hut at the top of the Stoke chair.
A couple of dinner suggestions: Rockford in the resort village does a great breakfast and is also open for dinner. Down in the town of Revelstoke (approximately 8 minutes from the ski area) is the steakhouse 112. Excellent steaks, fish and osso bucco. They also feature live music several nights each week.
Approximately 3 hours from Revelstoke, across famous Rogers Pass. Also three hours from Calgary if you are coming the other way. The Glacier Mountaineer Lodge is the ski in/ski out option, right at the base of the gondola. Comfortable hotel rooms and condos are available. If you are looking for something a little different, stay at the Vagabond Lodge. It is more of a communal luxurious mountain cabin style of lodging and includes breakfast and lunch for guests.
The Golden Eagle gondola will take you all the way up to “the alpine”. At the top, take a moment or two to soak in the 360 degree views. While much of the terrain at Kicking Horse is quite advanced, there are some wide groomers for those wishing to cruise. There are four bowls which can be accessed from the top of the gondola and most don’t require any hiking at all.
If you are dining in the resort, check out Corks at the Copper Horse Lodge. The salmon is superb. Down in Golden (15 minutes from Kicking Horse), go to the Whitetooth Brewery. They have six incredible beers. If you can’t decide which one to start with, get the taster tray. The Session Ale pilsner got my vote.
Approximately two hours from Kicking Horse (three hours from Calgary) is Panorama. Another huge mountain, it has the largest village of the three resorts. Most of the lodging is ski in/ski out or within a one minute walk of the ski lifts. The Panorama Springs lodge has comfortable condos and is home to the popular hot pools. For the more budget-conscious, the Pine Inn has nice double rooms for incredibly low rates.
Pano doesn’t have a large number of lifts but they access an enormous amount of terrain. If you want groomers, go to Skyline, off the Champagne Express – a long, sustained pitch which is perfect for cranking some wide turns. The Taynton Bowl, accessed from the Summit Quad, offers some great steeper terrain.
The Cabin offers a fun dining experience with their odd-shaped tables, eclectic menu and friendly owners. The food is sensational! No visit to Panorama would be complete without visiting the legendary T-Bar. They have live music, excellent food and 29 different types of beer. Open every day from 12 noon until “late”.
The Powder Highway is a great destination for skiers and riders of all levels. If you are visiting multiple resorts, take a week or more overall to really get the feel of each place. Plan so that the last resort you visit is the one which is closest to your departure airport.
The Canadian dollar is quite low compared to the US dollar at the moment, so your Canadian ski trip is already “discounted” by about 30%. Go check out the Powder Highway and see what an awesome destination it is. You might want to do a few extra lunges at the gym before your trip though – these aren’t like some of those “puny” 3,000 vertical foot ski areas that you have been to in the past.