The Canadian Rocky Moun­tains

Adventure - - Contents - Words and Im­ages by Mike Daw­son

There is nowhere bet­ter than the Canadian Rocky Moun­tains, in BC, to em­bark on the ul­ti­mate ski roadie. Bri­tish Columbia or Bring Cash as the lo­cals know it, is the heart of the ski­ing world. It’s the place win­ter dreams are made of. End­less pow­der days, queue-less lifts ac­cess­ing end­less ter­rain & lo­cals who are as stoked on get­ting out there as any­one. De­scend­ing into Cal­gary the stun­ning scenery of snow­capped moun­tains in the dis­tance ap­pears, cut­ting a jagged con­trast with the clear sky. The perma-frost cov­ers the flat­lands as the jet makes its’ final ap­proach. A crisp -27 de­grees greeted our not so ac­cus­tomed Kiwi bod­ies as we left the warmth of the air­port, quickly discovering that win­ter had well and truly ar­rived. A chaotic scene of skis, bags & kit was packed away in the rental car be­fore we gunned it west, with the moun­tains on the hori­zon in front of us. The first stop was the leg­endary ski town of Fernie. Lo­cated 3 hours South-east of Cal­gary, this moun­tain re­sort is the per­fect start­ing point for any ski trip. The world had been trans­formed into a win­ter won­der­land dur­ing the drive into the heart of the Fernie Provin­cial Park. The car win­dows were full of frozen lakes & rivers, glaciers, frosted trees & lo­cals head­ing out ice climb­ing, cross-coun­try ski­ing or sled­ding. Fernie Moun­tain Re­sort is a great all-round ski hol­i­day des­ti­na­tion. Not only does it fuel the pow­der hounds hunger for steep ter­rain, but it isn’t crowded, and caters for ev­ery­one. It seems as though this win­tery gem, in ru­ral Canada, is still largely undis­cov­ered. A day ticket will give you un­lim­ited ac­cess to price­less ski­ing, with nu­mer­ous lifts send­ing you to all cor­ners of this ex­pan­sive re­sort. The ter­rain eye­balls you on the ride up, your at­ten­tion con­stantly taken by an­other rip­ping lo­cal “Shred­ding the Gnar” right under the lift. The at­mos­phere of this lit­tle coal-min­ing town makes Fernie spe­cial with friendly lo­cals, hip bars & end­less ac­com­mo­da­tion op­tions. The Rag­ing Elk Hos­tel is the best spot to bunk down, sip a

RIGHT: Ex­plor­ing the win­ter won­der­land of Canada's frozen canyons Fernie Brew & hear sto­ries from the pioneers of the town. Ev­ery­one seems ski-bums at heart, jour­ney­ing here to chase the end­less win­ter & the life­style. The snow­falls heavy and fre­quently here, and when it does this sleepy town quiv­ers with ex­cite­ment. Signs like “closed on pow­der days” show up, em­u­lat­ing the com­mon goal – a quest for fresh tracks. With the slopes carved amongst a foray of trees in all direc­tions, it’s easy to get lost on end­less black runs, back bowls, tree lines, ridge­lines, cliff drops and shoots. If you’re a lit­tle green for those – Fernie has so much to of­fer the in­ter­me­di­ate skier. Wide-open groomers cover the bot­tom half of the field & there’s al­ways an easy route back to the café. Off the moun­tain ac­tiv­i­ties to keep oc­cu­pied are end­less – Snow bik­ing, cross coun­try ski­ing tracks, back coun­try sled­ding, or just sit­ting down for a world fa­mous Big Bang Bagel.

We loaded up the van and headed North to­wards the rail­way town of Golden, BC to chase tracks on Canada’s steep­est re­sort – Kick­ing Horse. This place is par­adise with over 1260m of ski­able lift ac­cess gra­di­ent. A really long Gon­dola takes skiers to the sky­line, from there the ter­rain ac­ces­si­ble is un­be­liev­able. Short tra­verses along ridge­lines ac­cess steep shoot after steep shoot, drop­ping back down to the lifts be­low. The char­ac­ter­is­tics of the re­sort is 5 pow­der filled bowls de­scend­ing into the tree-line, mean­ing plenty of scope to drop into steep deep pow­der ac­tion be­fore charg­ing a tree run. On a pow­der day Kick­ing Horse is heaven.

It’s the per­fect re­sort for the skier who likes ex­plor­ing. If stand­ing on a ridge­line hop­ing you’re drop­ping into the right place is your cup of tea – you’ll love it here. It’s key to have the hos­pi­tal­ity of a lo­cal or use a ski guide - es­pe­cially if the clouds are in & vis­i­bil­ity is min­i­mal – con­di­tions that aren’t un­com­mon for a place that has one of the high­est snow dumps per sea­son. For the more ad­ven­tur­ous skier, short walks and rope work puts you at the top of open un­tracked pow­der and in­sane side coun­try for the price of a day ticket. The quiet na­ture of the township, and its’ dis­tance from ma­jor air­ports keeps the crowds away. Kick­ing horse doesn’t really cater for begin­ners but it’s great for in­ter­me­di­ate & ad­vanced skiers. Head­ing back down the hill at the end of a day you’ll cross the beau­ti­ful Kick­ing Horse River, frozen in time in the sub zero cli­mate and find the small quiet town, with the lo­cal brew­ery roar­ing into ac­tion amongst con­ver­sa­tions of the days es­capades.

The next stop was Revel­stoke Moun­tain Re­sort. Be pre­pared for in­cred­i­ble scenery on High­way 1, the Trans-Canada High­way, on the jour­ney west over Rogers Pass to Revy. The views en­com­pass beau­ti­ful moun­tains, tow­er­ing glaciers and nat­u­ral beauty that will get your en­ergy lev­els soaring. “Get revved up and get stoked at Revel­stoke!” Il­lus­trates this place in a corny catch phrase, as it trans­forms it­self into the tro­phy re­sort of the Rock­ies. Revel­stoke is a must see must do, must ex­pe­ri­ence moun­tain on any Canadian ski trip.

The best time to ar­rive in Revy is right after a 30cm dump of freshies cakes the en­tire moun­tain. The at­mos­phere is al­ways one of ex­cite­ment here. Friendly ban­ter amongst friends flows through the lift line, although at the top the lo­cals dis­ap­pear in­stantly, lit­er­ally fly­ing down the moun­tain send­ing it through the steep tree sec­tions, cliffs, and launch­ing off pow­der pil­lows. The best bet is to find a lo­cal to show you around, although there are “no friends on pow­der days” here. Oth­er­wise it is easy to get lost and miss out on the treats hidden away on the re­sort. This is be­cause Revy is huge – huge ter­rain, huge pitch, huge snow­fall and huge ver­ti­cal. The re­sort en­com­passes 3,121 acres of ski­able ter­rain with only 69 trails – you get the idea of the off the lift ac­cess off-piste of­fer­ings. Most of the ski­ing is be­low the tree line and con­sists of steep groomers, moguls, gul­lies, bowls and tree ski­ing. With only 7% be­gin­ner runs, this re­sort isn’t for gree­nies, and is ide­ally suited for in­ter­me­di­ate and ad­vanced rid­ers. The gon­dola and quad chair lifts are new & fast so there’s lit­tle time to rest those burn­ing legs. At the end of the day the vi­brant ski town at the base of the re­sort pro­vides amaz­ing “Apres Ski” ac­tion to keep en­ter­tained off the moun­tain.

If you’re feel­ing rich, Revel­stoke has long been known by cat skiers and heli skiers for the leg­endary Selkirk pow­der that falls ev­ery year. For the ad­vanced skiers and pow­der lovers the great ad­van­tage of the area is that it of­fers it all – re­sort ski­ing, cat ski­ing, and heli ski­ing al­low­ing for the ul­ti­mate pow­der ad­ven­ture de­pend­ing upon your bud­get. The final leg of the trip heads back through Rogers Pass, over to the Ice fields of Al­berta, home to the fa­mous re­sort towns of Lake Louise & Banff. While this side of the Rock­ies is a lot more touristy, it’s a must do and pro­vides a taste of all the Canadian win­ter tra­di­tions like ice skat­ing on a lake, hot maple syrup, sleigh riding & a visit to the fa­mous Chateau Fair­mont.

Feel­ing fired up for a 2017/2018 Ski-cation. Head North to Canada and you won’t be dis­ap­pointed. The win­ter won­der­land is for ev­ery­one, whether you’re the hard charg­ing hero look­ing to lap in­sane ter­rain, keen to sip hot choco­lates in the café or just want­ing to ex­pe­ri­ence a real win­ter there’s no bet­ter place. For the ul­ti­mate ad­ven­ture make sure to pick up a rental car at the Air­port. This gives you to­tal free­dom to ex­pe­ri­ence what’s on of­fer & you can choose re­sorts as the snow falls. There are a lot of great qual­ity & rea­son­ably priced ac­com­mo­da­tion op­tions around these ar­eas on AirBnB. All in all – Canada is the place to be, it’s the mecca for snow sports and the Rock­ies are its’ heart.


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