Trails Less Traversed: Five Challenging Ways to Ski B.C.’s Phenomenal Mountain Resorts

Trails Less Traversed: Five Challenging Ways to Ski B.C.’s Phenomenal Mountain Resorts

Every truly adventurous skier and snowboarder craves a transformative experience where time is both fleeting and eternal; where your speed is held in check by soft, hissing powder billowing over your knees; and where you’re totally focused yet relaxed at the same time, intently anticipating the next weightless drop and rhythmic turn.

Where is this Nirvana? It’s the vast wilderness of British Columbia, Canada. These five suggestions will fire up your imagination and get your adrenaline flowing—and leave you eager to begin booking your BC ski holiday.

Deep snow at Revelstoke Mountain Resort. Photo by Ryan Creary, courtesy Destination BC.

Tackle North America’s Biggest Vertical Drop

Revelstoke Mountain Resort has been on the radar for advanced skiers since first opening in 2007. Why? Because it offers four things all adventure skiers pine for: steep, ‘big mountain’ lines; snow-choked glades with perfect spacing between the trees; fast, thigh-burning runs on North America’s biggest vertical drop (5,620 feet); and man, can it snow—close to 35 feet annually.

What’s truly mind-boggling is that the resort is merely a gateway to thousands of untracked runs via helicopter, snowcat or alpine touring under your own steam. Great Northern Snowcat Skiing will shuttle skiers and riders on a day trip from Revelstoke Mountain Resort’s Sutton Place Hotel to a remote, snowy hideaway where they’ll be skiing untracked runs with only a handful of other skiers or boarders.

Eagle’s Eye. Photo by Ryan Creary, courtesy Destination BC.

Ski the Apex of Three Major Mountains

 Three major mountain ranges—the Purcells, Rockies and Selkirks—all converge near Golden, BC, outside Kicking Horse Mountain Resort. For advanced skiers, the jaw-dropping bowls and chutes seen from the Eagle’s Eye Restaurant (sitting at 7,700 feet!) are entirely accessible from the restaurant’s front door; you can access even more hardcore terrain following an easy traverse or boot pack. Hone your skills on the steeps with a private lesson at the Big Mountain Centre. After taking in some pointers from their top instructors, you’ll be slashing stylish turns in perfect control. Lessons range from one-and-a-half hours to two days in length.

Heli-skiing in the Kootenay Rockies. Photo by Blake Jorgenson, courtesy of Destination BC.

Carve the Famous Powder Highway

 Perhaps the best advice any adventure seeker can get is to “follow the snow.” Load up, rent an all-wheel drive vehicle (winter tires mandatory) and head out on the Highway—the Powder Highway, that is. Well-maintained provincial highways connect backcountry lodges, numerous heli- and cat-ski operators and eight ski resorts in two mountain ranges (the Rockies and the Columbias)—Fairmont, Fernie, Kicking Horse, Kimberley, Panorama, RED, Revelstoke and Whitewater. If you get there the morning of a snow dump, don’t be shy; ask a local to take you to the good stuff (most of ‘em can be bribed with locally brewed craft beer and nachos, when the day is done). And if you’re still looking for action, why not cross that heli-skiing trip from your bucket list?

A sunny day at RED Mountain Resort. Photo by Dave Heath, courtesy of Destination BC.

Take a $10 Snowcat Up the Slopes

 What does $10 Canadian (around $7.50 US, give or take) buy you these days? At many pricey resorts, it won’t even cover a pint of beer. But not at RED Mountain Resort, just outside of that little mountain Shangri-La known as Rossland, BC. Here, your ten-spot (those are the purple bills in your wallet) buys a trip in a snowcat that takes you yonder to Mt. Kirkup; it’s not even serviced by a chair lift. Score some of the sweetest first-tracks and experience skiing and riding on nearly 200 acres of perfectly-spaced tree skiing. The cat runs from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m. daily, and no reservations are needed. (Note: RED Mountain lift ticket required).

Carve through the trees at Whistler Blackcomb. Photo by Blake Jorgenson, courtesy of Destination BC.

Conquer North America’s Largest Ski Resort

 You definitely want to bring your ‘eh game’ to tackle the chutes, gullies, glades and groomers at Whistler Blackcomb—North America’s largest ski resort. Since 1994, the super-qualified staff at Extremely Canadian have been showing (and telling) skiers from all over the world how to break through their fear barrier and become confident, capable skiers on even double-black diamond runs like the infamous Saudan Couloir.

So many mountains, so little time. Whether you access British Columbia’s top-notch ski terrain via chairlift, gondola, snowcat, helicopter or on your own steam, you’ll find infinite choice and endless mountain vistas, snow conditions that astonish (start doing those deep knee bends now!) and the chance to meet some new best friends along the way.

But don’t delay. Peak times at resorts (Christmas, Martin Luther King Jr. Day and Presidents’ Weekend) can get busy. Deep powder weeks at backcountry, heli- and cat-skiing lodges are sometimes booked years in advance. These experiences can’t be found anywhere else, which means you’ll want to come back for them again and again.