Hit the highway from Vancouver to Calgary this winter
There’s a corner of this planet where deep powder skiing is the norm, goliath rocky peaks far outnumber the people exploring them and vast wilderness reigns supreme. It’s a place that should be on the bucket list of any skier that’s ever strapped a pair of wooden planks to their feet and slid downhill on slippery, frozen flakes. We’re talking about the expansive area west of Calgary, Alberta—western Canada.
Though its status as the epicenter of North American powder skiing is a tale as old as time, what’s not common knowledge is how incredibly easy it is to link the snow-loaded ski destinations that dot western Canada’s landscape. Thankfully, FREESKIER’s editors and contributors have spent countless days and weeks exploring the region in order to report back our findings to you.
Relying on our own past visits and the knowledge of lifelong locals, we’ve constructed the western Canadian skiing road trip of your dreams. The journey will take you from Vancouver to Calgary, stopping at six resorts along the way.
Grab your gear, get your friends together and start planning, there’s no better time than now to book that one-way flight to YVR.
WORDS • MARTIN ROGERS
Visit Golden, British Columbia, in the heart of winter and you’ll experience first-hand the wondrous color that gave the town its name. Your destination is Kicking Horse Mountain Resort, where you’ll step onto the Golden Eagle Express gondola in a characteristic fog and be whisked skyward like so many before you. For the first 2,000 vertical feet of your journey the scenery is akin to the inside of a ping pong ball—milky, opaque, mystifying. Yet, suddenly, the car will breach through the clouds and a seemingly endless panorama of rugged mountains bathed in golden morning light will greet you with open arms. Stepping off of the gondola, you’ll behold a sight only previously manifested in your dreams: over 85 chutes darting downward from five separate bony ridgelines, all of which are within the ski area boundaries.
When the initial visual shock subsides, your attention will inevitably be drawn to the snowy staircase dotting the flank of Terminator Peak. After affixing skis to your pack or propping them upon your shoulder, you’ll begin to ascend 400 vertical feet-or-so, with the opportunity to drop left into a shadowed line called Glory, if you so choose. But, as tempting as the cold smoke to your left is, you have your eyes set on the summit, where more plentiful, sun-bathed options are available.
Atop the ridge, your heart pounding, lungs heaving, but eyes widened with the 360-degree view once again bestowed upon your retinas, you click into your bindings and skirt skier’s left to the top of a line called Interception. You drop in, and, like an hourglass, your sweeping turns funnel you into a steepened choke, which you hop turn through before straightlining out to the wide apron at the bottom. Your quads are screaming as you gaze back at your line, but their respite is brief, as you’ve still got 3,000 vertical feet to go before the bottom.
That’s life at Kicking Horse Mountain Resort. The 85-plus inbounds chutes are the literal tip of the iceberg of the 4,314-vertical-foot mountain, ensuring your heart rate is elevated for the entirety of your experience on-hill. And if you liked earning your turns on Terminator Peak, you’re in luck. Whether it’s the remote descents off of 8,218-foot Ozone, the perpetually primo, north-facing lines accessed from Terminator 2 or the steep, exposed runs of Blue Heaven, there’s abundant opportunity to earn your turns at this resort.
When your quads have finally tapped out and it’s time to get to the base, you have a smörgåsbord of top-to-bottom descent options at your disposal. From the top of Eagle’s Eye, drop into one final steep run off CPR Ridge and link up with the green-feeder run, It’s A Ten. Keep skier’s left and hop onto Tail Spin. This allows link-ups to the bumps on Euphoria and the no-speed-limit-allowed Grizzly Paw, which will spit you out at the base lodge.
Now, it’s time to drink up and fuel up in the Glacier Lodge. Grab a seat at the Peaks Grill and order some pulled pork poutine—it’s absolutely delectable—because you’ve earned it. Back in the town of Golden, there’s a multitude of dining options to round out your post-ski chow session. Head to the Fire Pit BBQ Smokehouse if you’re cravin’ smoked meats or enter the Wolf’s Den for a grilled steak or classic hamburger; if you’re looking to impress, grab a reservation at Eleven22 for upscale dining and fine wine.
Those looking to crash overnight will find both quality on-mountain and in-town accommodations. The choice depends on your team’s game plan; whether Kicking Horse is a pit-stop on your journey or you plan on spending a few days getting to know the place, there’s no shortage of places to lay your weary head.
And when it’s time to explore a new ski area, or your quads just can’t take any more abuse, Highway 1 runs right through town to take you to your next destination.
Kicking Horse by the Numbers
Average Annual Snowfall: 288 inches
Total Skiable Acreage: 3,400+ acres
Number of lifts: 5
Vertical Drop: 4,314 feet