THE ULTIMATE ROADY
The Canadian Rocky Mountains
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.
"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. "