If snowboarding along the Powder Highway in British Columbia is on your bucket list…move it to the top. You can thank me later.
We just returned from a 9 day stay that started and ended in Banff and included Kicking Horse and Revelstoke in the middle. Revelstoke and Kicking Horse are two stops on the Powder Highway, and they are two you shouldn’t miss.
As soon as you enter the mountains on the drive from Calgary, prepare to be awed. The Canadian Rockies are big and amazingly beautiful. There is so much character in these mountains from the Three Sisters, to Castle Mountain, to Sulfur Mountain, and everything around and in between, there are rounded mountains, striated mountains, and craggy mountains. It’s a fascinating and never boring view as you move about.
We spent a day exploring and hiking in Banff before heading to Kicking Horse for the day. The plan was to continue on to Revelstoke for several days, back to Kicking Horse for a few days, and finally to Calgary for the return home.
We always stop in local snowboard shops while traveling. Rude Boys & Rude Girls in Banff is a fantastic shop, jam packed with boards and other gear. One of the not rude at all girls told us it has the best selection of girls’ snowboards in all of Canada. I believe it. They cover all of the major brands and some of the less popular on the east coast boards. So if you take my advice and visit interior Canada, make sure you stop in here for anything you may need to pick up.
We talked to her about our plans for the week and she commented that Kicking Horse is a “very aggressive” mountain that needs fresh snow for optimal riding. Apparently it gets very bumped out, and unless there is new snow you will be dodging moguls on every front. There are short hikes to several bowls and there’s plenty of terrain if you know where to go.
She indicated that Revelstoke is more varied and the glades are brushed so they make for better riding, and that it is a more well rounded mountain as far as terrain choices.
We headed to Kicking Horse the next day. From the highway you can see the resort. And you can see the bumps…oh oh. The resort is mostly laid out for you from the road. It looks like a web of nerves with a cat track zig zagging it’s way back and forth across it. You can’t really see any of the bowls or the more interesting terrain from the highway, but much of it is there for the seeing as you approach.
When we got on the gondola, we met someone full of tips about getting around the resort. He mentioned that we should take a guided tour after lunch and assured us that our guide wouldn’t take us to the scary parts, he would only show us where they are. We put it on our radar and when we got off at the top we approached an ambassador to ask some questions. He offered to give us a tour right then and there.
We started out at the bowls at the top. The views up there are breath taking. And we had the perfect day to admire them. Unfortunately, we didn’t have the perfect day to ride them. The bumps were fairly firm, and it quickly became apparent why the word “aggressive” continued to come up when talking about Kicking Horse. Things there are steep- except for the cat track, which is painfully flat. You can traverse through some of the terrain at the top to get to lower angle stuff if that’s your jam. But if you are going to ride at Kicking Horse, you should probably like things steep and bumpy.
As an intermediate snowboarder, this mountain was very intimidating. There is a section of the mountain serviced by the Catamount chair that avoids the steep, and super flat, stuff and has a decent selection of blue and green runs. There’s even a discounted price to use just that lift. But the runs are relatively short, you don’t get the great views, and they aren’t really much different than what you can find on any mountain in the northeast. The blues are a little steeper than most around here and oh ya, there’s a bear living on the mountain. But a lower mountain lift is not why you travel out west.
There are a lot of spots on the mountain that we didn’t get to explore in our abbreviated day there. And it would be a totally different place with fresh snow. But since it had been several days since they had seen any, it wasn’t a place I was comfortable exploring a whole lot…did I mention that you can see the bumps from the highway?!
Kicking Horse isn’t a mountain for the meek. You will be hard pressed not to improve as a rider if you spend any real time here no matter your level when you arrive.
At lunch we found out there was a big storm heading our way in the next few days. Things just got giddy…snow in the forecast- woohoo!!!
Stay tuned for Part 2 of our Powder Highway adventure – Revelstoke. Spoiler alert, Revelstoke just may be my happy place…