Where the West Is Still Wild
Kicking Horse, a hardcore resort just west of Golden, B.C., is as steep and deep as it gets. If you haven’t been, buckle up—and be sure to bring your kick turn.
WORDS • LESLIE ANTHONY | FEATURED IMAGE • Courtesy of Kicking Horse Resort
You don’t have to hike to enjoy the size and scope of Kicking Horse Mountain Resort, but if you take advantage of the many in-bounds opportunities to boot-pack a few steps, you’ll enjoy access to much, much more of it. Not only that, but you’ll also benefit from the old ski-area adage that for every minute you hike, you lose 90 percent of the crowd; if you hike 10 minutes here, well… you do the math.
Groomed runs are cool. Bowls and ridges, too. But summits, where you piece together the terrain jigsaw observed from below, help the mountain world make more sense. Kicking Horse has five summits—Ozone, Blue Heaven, Eagle’s Eye, Terminator and Terminator2—all easily reached by lift, hike or short ski-tour. The view from the award-winning Eagle’s Eye restaurant is a special kind of summit experience, one where you can savor that overlook epiphany with your feet at the fire and a latte in hand.
Powder can change your life, and the lighter the more-life-changing. Kicking Horse pulls down 24 feet of snow annually, much of it the dry, champagne powder that the Purcell Range is known for. Naturally, skiers tend to lap it up (pun intended) on the lift-serviced runs first, but if you’re into hiking, you can keep that life-changing powder vibe going here long after a storm.
You can drop a ski area on any mountain, but if you don’t have a nearby town full of ski heritage and the amenities modern skiers seek—like a craft brewery, locavore and international food options, high-end bistros and comfy diners, plus a range of fun activities—it’s just another mountain. For Kicking Horse, the value-added authenticity of the town of Golden can’t be matched: railroad nexus, Trans-Canada Highway stop, timber port and home to an historic Swiss village that once housed the ski and climbing guides imported from Europe to kick off a backcountry revolution in the Canadian Rockies.
Ozone might be a problem in the atmosphere, but the word means only good things at Kicking Horse. The 600-acre addition of the Ozone big-mountain freeride area in Feuz Bowl was the largest terrain expansion in Canada this past year, adding a new high point to the resort of 2,505 meters (8,218 feet). Revered by no less than the Freeride World Tour, which makes an annual stop at the resort, Ozone Face now delivers some of the continent’s wildest in-bounds terrain to the skiing public.
At 3,486 acres, Kicking Horse is massive, and the Golden Eagle Express gondola puts you on top of it all, directly from the bottom, in an instant. The 4,314-vertical-foot drop is the fourth highest in North America, delivering not only ridiculously long runs, but a truly spectacular and unique terrain mix of over 120 runs, five alpine bowls, and 85 inbounds chutes along a constellation of ridges and faces like Whitewall, T2 North, T1 South, CPR, Redemption and Middle. This package looks amazing enough on a trail map, but gazing down from the top is the way to unfold it all.
Weather inversions are common in the Rocky Mountain Trench, but at Kicking Horse you don’t have to be higher than the clouds to truly rise above the glamor and clamor of other resorts. Stories spun here are almost too tall to believe, but here’s a short one you can drop at any bar in ski country: Kicking Horse remains one a hardcore place with incomparable views and uncompromising terrain. Feel free to spread the word—there’s plenty of pow here for all.