Four enormous alpine bowls and scores of chutes lure skiers and snowboarders who like it steep, deep and incredibly scenic to KHMR.
Why it’s legendary
One look at the Kicking Horse trail map is all it takes to see why it’s on the bucket lists of so many expert skiers and snowboarders.
Steep in-bound chutes funnel into a stunning quartet of alpine bowls that, together with the lower tree-lined runs, produce a 1,260-metre vertical drop, the second-largest in British Columbia and fourth-largest in North America. One look at the resort’s surroundings, meanwhile, explains why it lures so many alpine scenery fans – six national parks cluster around the ski area, which is nestled between the Purcell and the Rocky Mountains near the lively, welcoming ski town of Golden. And just when (and where) you least expect it, the Eagle’s Eye restaurant, Canada’s loftiest dining experience, serves up spectacular views with some locally raised bison carpaccio and a glass of British Columbian chardonnay.
Who will love it
Expert powderhounds adore Kicking Horse for all the aforementioned reasons, as well as for the seven metres of snow it receives each year. The guiding and educational programs offered by the resort’s innovative Big Mountain Centre also ensure that guests make the most of their visits, thoroughly and safely. Instruction ranges from backcountry avalanche training and other snow-safety topics to the latest in ski and ride techniques. A Big Mountain private guide, for instance, will not only show guests the terrain’s best-kept secrets, but will also help them improve their skills. For lucky visitors who have a day of heli or cat-skiing planned, a day-long prep course will take them to similar inbounds terrain and teach them how to handle very long runs through very deep powder.
Three things you must do
1. Kicking Horse is internationally renowned as a gateway to the backcountry, but there are plenty of backcountry-style runs inside the resort’s avalanche-controlled and patrolled boundaries. A string of double-black-diamond chutes spill down the south ridge of 2382-metre Terminator Peak, but several can only be reached by popping off your boards and hiking up and over the summit. The route is well travelled, and ropes and ladders are provided where the going gets steep. In short, this is the best kind of ammunition for après-ski one-upmanship.
2. Dine at Eagle’s Eye, 2347 metres up, atop CPR Ridge. This fine-dining eatery features panoramic windows, stylish decor and a menu that favours both local ingredients and wines. It’s open for lunch every day, and for dinner on Friday and Saturday nights and on holidays. After nightfall, the Golden Eagle Express gondola whisks guests back to the village.
3. Dawn Patrol is a half-day guided morning tour that gets you on the slopes a full hour before the lifts open to everyone else. Mix the inimitable light of daybreak with first tracks through feathery powder, and you’ve got a morning you’ll never forget.
Local secrets you should know
At the top of the Stairway to Heaven chair, which stops just short of the 2448-metre summit of Blue Heaven, a metal staircase continues the climb to… where, exactly? It’s not at all obvious where these stairs lead, but the lift and peak both offer a clue: the chutes that spill off the ridge at the top of the stairs are indeed heaven for experts. Still, Kicking Horse isn’t all about chutes and bowls. The Pioneer Chair stops before reaching the bowls, instead, providing easy and immediate access to a string of intermediate groomed runs.
Off the slopes
The sublime views at Kicking Horse are all about elevation, but you don’t have to ski or snowboard to take them in. Gondola sightseeing tours include a return ride, as do lunch and dinner reservations at the Eagle’s Eye. It’s a real win-win situation. Add a spa visit to the equation, and it’s a win-win-win. Relax in the Winston Lodge’s sauna or hot tub, or sip tea in the library or by the fireplace – before or after your hot-stone massage, facial or premium pedicure.
Best après-ski hotspots
Look back on your alpine exploits, literally, from the mountain-facing patio at Peaks Grill. Sip a local microbrew while dining on salads, burgers and pasta in the alpine sunshine. A 15-minute drive or shuttle ride east of the resort, Golden is a ski town with style, where you can enjoy cosmopolitan après options such as the Whitetooth Mountain Bistro and the Rockwater Grill and Bar.
Skiers will love
This five-day course from the Big Mountain Centre is all about mastering steep-and-deep snow, reading the terrain to get the most out of every descent, and learning the basics of backcountry safety.
Snowboarders will love
If you want the inside scoop on where to ride without paying a penny, local volunteers meet guests in the plaza twice daily to reveal the best groomers Kicking Horse has to offer. Available from 10 AM – 1 PM every day, these guides are located at the Mountain Tours sign in the Gondola Plaza.
Recommended places to stay
This friendly, meticulously maintained property in downtown Golden offers dorm beds, private rooms and larger private family rooms, as well as freebies such as parking and wi-fi.
Address: 528 9 Avenue North
Located at the base of the gondola, this convenient option offers king and queen guest rooms as well as fully-equipped one, two and three-bedroom suites.
Address: 1549 Kicking Horse Trail, Golden
Ski down to the day lodge from these townhouse-style units with full kitchens, in-room laundry, equipment storage, fireplaces and spacious decks with hot tubs.
Address: 1549 Kicking Horse Trail, Golden
Set above their namesake restaurant, these two expansive suites include 24-hour butler service, breakfast and dinner for two, and first tracks every morning. In short, this is special-occasion material.
Address: 1500 Kicking Horse Trail, Golden