New high for skiers in Canada
British Columbia has backcountry runs to suit all comers, whether you take to the air or ride the chair
FOR many skiers and snowboarders, riding perfect powder runs far out in the backcountry is the holy grail. The difficult bit is finding them. In the world’s biggest resorts — Chamonix, Verbier, Whistler — crowded slopes are making this increasingly challenging. As a result, many skiers are heading to isolated, snow-drenched towns far off the beaten track . . . towns such as Revelstoke, in Canada’s British Columbia.
Revelstoke was established in the 1880s at the height of the region’s gold rush. Nowthe mountains are attracting a new breed of hardy pioneers. They come to ski and snowboard on the ridiculous amount of snow that falls here (the record is 24m in a season) — a thick, wintry blanket of white that is transforming this venerable old mining and logging community.
Not that skiing is new here. Local guides have been exploring the 2000sq kmof skiable terrain in the nearby Selkirk and Monashee ranges since the early 1970s, either by hiking or taking advantage of several heli-ski operations.
Two changes marked a new era for Revelstoke and broadened the appeal of the town for powder-hungry skiers on all budgets. The first was the opening of Revelstoke Mountain Resort in December 2007. It has only four lifts (there are plans for 21 lifts and 115 runs), but the area to which they offer access is vast, and the resort’s 1800m vertical drop is the largest in North America. Perhaps more importantly, RMR gets the same amount of snow as the rest of the region, only here there are chairlifts and gondolas.
And now another new frontier is being opened to cater for an exclusive coterie of very rich skiers who can afford to live out their fantasies by paying for heli-ski trips of ever more rarified levels of sophistication and exclusivity. It’s a trend that the recent opening of Bighorn Lodge, just outside the town’s ski resort, perfectly demonstrates. The hefty price tag — $212,000 for you and 15 equally deep-
Selkirk Tangiers’ helicopter (top), Bighorn Lodge (top right), and the area’s waist-deep powder