There are no friends on powder days!
There is nothing like a spending a winters day in the Canadian Rockies making fresh tracks in the deep stuff. When I lived an hours drive from the Rocky Mountains I was lucky enough to experience a lot of what they had to offer for skiing and snowboarding. One mountain in particular, Kicking Horse Mountain Resort, holds a special place in my heart. Kicking Horse is located 14 km above Golden, British Columbia and boasts the fourth highest vertical drop in North America clocking in at 4,133 feet. For you skiers or snowboarders out there this should put a huge smile on your face, I know it does on mine. For those of you who don’t know what vertical drop is and how it is differs from elevation, you can learn more here.
Kicking Horse is also the place to be for fresh snow and the legendary champagne powder, as it averages (at the summit) 750cm (295′). That is just over 24 feet of snowfall every year! Again for all you skiers and snowboarders this is something that should make more you than just happy. Every time I have been to Kicking Horse I was always able to find fresh powder even after a week of no snowfall. Now I have to mention that Kicking Horse is geared more towards the advanced skier or snowboarder but they do have a section of the mountain to accommodate beginners that doesn’t require going up to the summit on the Gondola. If you are a beginner it is a great place to learn but be advised that there is a steep learning curve and once you go up the Gondola you can be faced with some difficult situations. With that being said for the advanced skier or snowboarder Kicking Horse is the ultimate playground. In my case I enjoy getting right into the thick of it and hit up the more extreme terrain in the back country but do so with extreme caution. Here is a picture of an avalanche warning sign that I passed while hiking up to the back country section of Kicking Horse and please DO NOT UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES EVER BREAK PAST THIS BARRIER!!!! The Rocky Mountains are no stranger to avalanches and unfortunately people die every year by not taking the proper precautions and ignoring warnings.
There is also a ski area boundary sign that should not be taken lightly as they are there to let you know there is no ski patrol past that point. I do personally cross these barrier signs to go into the back country but I do so with a group of at least 4 experienced riders, 2 people (at least) with avalanche training, proper equipment such as a transceivers (essential) and of course make sure everyone understands the risks. If you are not sure what to do in this situation on any mountain always play it safe and DO NOT PASS THE BARRIER.
Now with the right group of people going to the back country of Kicking Horse is where it’s at. Getting there is a bit of a task but it is more than just worth it because of the terrain you get to ride and experience. First you take a quick Gondola ride to the summit, traverse as far as you can to the base of one of the three major ridges and then un-clip your bindings and begin a fairly challenging 45 min hike. Being a skier I absolutely despise this part as ski boots are not exactly made for hiking. You can buy boots that are a bit easier on your feet for hiking but I find you lose to much in the way of performance when skiing with these type of boots.
After the long hike up through the snow and trying to catch your breath you finally reach your destination. Once up there the weather can change in an instant so if you get good weather it is important to take advantage of it and get going down the terrain. Remember that you are at the top of Rocky Mountains and it is not an ideal place to be caught up in weather. One of the last times I was in Kicking Horse we had to scramble a bit to avoid the storm cloud coming in on us. Check out this pic of me with the storm behind me. It is not the best picture but one of the better ones I have.
After all this hiking it is time for the pay off, the best riding and fresh powder the Canadian Rockies have to offer! I will say though that make sure you are confident and don’t second guess yourself when you are in the powder because you don’t want to end up like this guy and trying to put your ski back on in 4 or 5 feet of powder. I have been there too and trust me it is not something you want to happen to you.
What you want to do instead is lean back, tips up and let the mountain take for you a ride. The feeling of inner peace that comes over me when skiing this terrain is something I could hardly put into words. My love for the mountains in general is something that I will hold dear to me for the rest of my life.
So if you are ever in the Canadian Rockies in the winter and are up for an epic adventure be sure to stop in at Kicking Horse Mountain Resort.
Planning a trip to Canada? Make sure to go check out some of our other posts on Canada here so you can make the most out of your time and see everything Canada has to offer!