KICKING BACK IN THE KOOTENAYS
"Ready to kick-up more powder?" my husband asks excitedly, when realizing that I've been struck with a case of ski fever. "They say it's all downhill at our next stop."
We're checking out a couple of Kootenay peaks, and over the past three days Revelstoke Mountain Resort has lived up to its name. I'm totally revved up and stoked for more slopes. But can I handle the steeps at Kicking Horse?
After white-knuckle-driving-it through Roger's Pass and the town of Golden, we roll into its whimsical village that's swathed in winter wear. Yardstick-thick layers cloak timbered rooftops, marshmallow-like crowns top rocky pillars and crystal icicles shimmer from frozen eaves.
[1. Our sweet suite in Palliser Lodge]
Lodgings hug up to central core and an eclectic array-everything from boutique hotels to chi-chi houses-dot the neighboring streets. We go for an upscale ski in/out suite at the Palliser Lodge, where we have the best of both worlds-full-on luxuries that entice long-term relaxation and the happening hub just a short stroll away. The next morning, beneath a bluebird sky, we discover just how popular it is.
[2. Author meets Snow Host Don Steinhauer]
"We've broken a thirty-year record-eighty centimeters in the last three days!" The loudspeaker announcement generates a roaring hooray from the powder-loving crowd. "Conditions like this bring out all the die-hards," Don Steinhauer says, at the base of Golden Eagle Express, an eight-passenger gondola that transports the daring to CPR's wind-blown summit. From there they can also access the Stairway To Heaven and even more challenging chutes.
"But we have terrain for everyone," he assures. "You'll see." Although I'm wondering if I should have signed up for lessons, this well-seasoned Snow Host alleviates some of my qualms. "Let's ditch the crowds and go skiing," he says, leading us away from the masses.
[3. From the top of Pioneer Chair we check out the slope side safari]
By taking the Catamount quad to mid-station we bypass the vortex and, after a gentle cruiser, load onto Pioneer Chair. "This lift serviced the original Whitetooth Ski Area and has lots of great groomers," Steinhauer says. "It beats waiting in line. That's why the locals love it." He calls out to a few veteran skiers on the runs below who are well into their seventies. My boomer-aged jitters finally begin to fade. And as for Steinhauer? His peppered beard is a bit of a giveaway but based on his sleek technique it's hard to say.
While attempting to copy his squirrely tracks we literally glide on the wild side. Grizzly Paw, Wiley Coyote, and the signature, Kicking Horse-like a slope-side safari each run provides us with an adventurous descent. And just like the wilderness, they're pretty much deserted. Maybe that's why Boo likes the area so much. Thirty-three penned acres are home to the resident orphaned grizzly, and though hibernating during these colder months, when the mountain bikers come out to play, so will he.
[4. Eagle's Eye Restaurant]
After lapping this chair a few times, we make our way down to the village hub. "There's not much of a line-up," Steinhauer says when checking the gondola, "Let's head to the heavens." Suddenly the lower-level tube park looks more inviting. Or maybe I could be a foodie for the afternoon. With the eight nearby eateries I'd surely get my fill. "We can get lunch at Eagle's Eye," Steinhauer pipes up, as if reading my mind. "It sits at the top of the Dogtooth Range. As well as being the highest restaurant in Canada the food gets top marks too."
[5. Eagle Eye food is also a highlight -entrees like goat cheese salad]
Shortly after the twelve-minute escalation we're testing it out -mouthwatering BC salmon, chicken ciabatta, goat cheese salad. And what a view! Weather-worn ridges extend from peak to peak and give way to vast bowls, glorious glades, chutes and couloirs. More than eighty-five options offer a thrilling way out.
[6. Powder pathways generate a case of ski fever]
While the skilled go for gravity-defiers like Pearly Gates and Terminator, we take "It's A Ten," the longest run of all. This 10km cat track laces the mountainous contours like a flowing scarf, and while kicking back and making my final heavenly descent it also stirs up another whopping case of ski fever.
IF YOU GO:
Kicking Horse Mountain Resort
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