Skiing the Powder Highway
When it comes to a holiday adventure, there’s nothing quite like a road trip … and for skiers and snowboarders, one of the most epic road trips is the Canadian “Powder Highway”.
Officially, the Powder Highway includes eight resorts in British Columbia –Kicking Horse, Panorama, Fairmont Hot Springs, Kimberley, Fernie, Whitewater, RED Mountain and Revelstoke - all famous for their consistently good snowfall.
Our press and social media manager, Cameron Hall recounts his experiences of the touring the famous route …
“Having spent a number of seasons ski instructing in Whistler Blackcomb, the resorts in the BC interior were always on my radar – with friends and colleagues raving about the quaint ski towns, quiet lift lines and incredible snowfall. But with Whistler itself being an amazing playground, there never seemed a reason to leave…
Fast forward ten years, living and working in London, the desire to explore more “off the beaten track” destinations – away from the hustle and bustle of city life - grew ever stronger. With a connection with British Columbia and friends still living across the providence – the timing felt right to return to Canada and discover what the powder highway had to offer.
Greeted off the plane in Calgary by my old Whistler roommate, we wasted no time in jumping in his car and driving to our first destination – Kicking Horse.
As we drove through Banff and Lake Louise – we stopped off for a quick photo by the Fairmont Chateau to take in the stunning ice-covered lake – as we watched a game of drop in Ice Hockey being played by locals.
I was definitely back in Canada.
As we drove on, signs for Kicking Horse carried the strapline “the champagne powder capital of Canada”. False advertising we wondered?
Arriving at our accommodation in Golden, the town at the foot of Kicking Horse Mountain Resort, we headed straight out for a poutine dinner, fuelling up for a big day ahead whilst watching the NHL on the big screen.
The next two days we skied steep lines and freshly groomed pistes. Despite the lack of afore mentioned Champagne powder – with good quality snow and blue bird skies we couldn’t complain.
Immediately after the second day of skiing, it was on to destination number two – Revelstoke.
Revelstoke is a skiers mountain – a resort for the purists who don’t like ski resorts. With one gondola and two main chairlifts, the amount of accessible terrain is quite unbelievable.
Good lines aren’t hard to find, but there’s work to be done too – with boot packs, hikes and traversing that open up even more phenomenal terrain.
As my old roommate (who had by this point spent several seasons living in Revelstoke) said to me at the top of a traverse “This is a $10,000 run right here – no helicopter required.” Heli-skiing without the helicopter – my wallet liked the sound of that!
Revelstoke is not for the faint of heart – especially when skiing with locals. It will beat you up and make you work hard for every single turn.
The tree skiing is some of the best I’ve ever experienced and that means you can get in great days on the hill no matter what the weather – with visibility always good amongst the evergreens.
A trip to the Village Idiot for some Après Ski was just what the doctor ordered to replenish thousands of burnt off calories, before a very welcome and relaxing dip and sauna at the local leisure centre. (You know you’re in a ski town when teenagers and twenty somethings are practicing their backflips poolside).
Two days skiing in Revelstoke was both more than enough but also nowhere near enough time – your body feels the aches and pains that tell you to stop; but the snow and terrain is just so good, it feels like a lifetime only skiing in Revelstoke will still leave you wanting more. However, the Powder Highway awaits …
Back on the road and we need to catch a ferry on our way over to Nelson and resort number three, Whitewater. As we wait in line to for the ferry to arrive, my friend opens up the truck, pulls out two hockey sticks and drops a puck. We pass the puck on the frozen ground between us, being careful not to hit any of the other cars in the line-up as fellow drivers look nervous…!
If Revelstoke is for the pursuits, Whitewater is for the romantics.
With old school two-man chairlifts – you almost feel like you’ve been transported back in time to the grass roots of skiing before big cooperate organisations pumped endless money into shiny new gondolas, cable cars, restaurants and hotels.
The central lodge lying at the foot of all runs lives up to the hype for its amazing food – which is hard earned with most runs being ungroomed, off piste tree lines.
The runs are shorter and not quiet as steep as Revelstoke – but snow quality and fun factor are on par.
Whilst we only had alpine gear – the whole area is a ski touring paradise – with many skiers, seen putting on their skins at the side of the road on the drive up to the lodge.
With Nelson itself having a very laid back, welcoming - almost hippy vibe - but still feeling very much like a hard-working town – there’s something very special about Whitewater.
Jumping in between resorts every two days, meant there wasn’t much down time and nowhere for us to dry out wet clothing and equipment. Thankfully, having a pair of Drysure Extreme boot dryers with us, meant we could dry out our boots on the go. Our Drysure’s proved to be a life saver, as even though we were skiing in sub-zero temperatures, skiing hard and fast through trees all day everyday caused our feet to sweat – a lot. There’s nothing worse than skiing in wet/damp boots the next day, but thankfully are boots were fresh and dry every morning. It made the car less smelly too!
Next up RED Mountain. Whilst not necessarily the most famous resort on the route, it’s the one resort I had researched the most. Sadly it was also the resort I was most disappointed by … not helped by the fact the snow was hard packed and off piste entirely bullet proof ice.
Not wanting to give up on RED – after a slightly disappointing day compared to the highs of the great conditions on our previous two destinations - we opted to go Cat Skiing instead. A great call.
Getting into the backcountry reunited us with the powder we had become accustomed to on the road trip. Whilst the terrain wasn’t as challenging as some we had skied, the runs were short and sweet, with the experience of being in a cat a pleasant one we enjoyed.
The final stop on this trip was Kimberly – and certainly the most family friendly of the resorts. Terrain was open, wide cruisy and was filled with race camps during our two days. A nice resort for the technical piste skier, those in progression or people who like to enjoy the mountain and stunning views without pushing themselves too hard. A nice resort but certainly one that felt removed from the others that had proceeded before.
Having concluded a ten-day trip with five resorts – there wasn’t quite enough time to squeeze in any more destinations. We felt that Fernie would have been a better option than our decision of Kimberly – meaning it called for us to address this the following year.
Back on the plane to Calgary 12 months later – picked up again by the same friend, we drove straight to Fernie, renting out a house for three nights, as more friends joined us.
On the first night the snow fell and the next morning was the most fun I’ve experienced on a mountain.
Sitting on the chairlifts, it seemed like everyone below was whooping, hollering and laughing as the whole mountain enjoyed fresh untracked powder.
Fernie feels like a proper picture postcard ski town, and has a nice balance between steep and deep terrain and great on piste skiing. For us a definite upgrade to Kimberly.
With having so much fun in Whitewater and Revelstoke the year previously – we returned to both resorts for more – meaning we have only ticked off six of the eight Powder Highway destinations. Guess that calls for another road trip…!”
Our Drysure Extreme boot dryers are perfect for road trips. Place them inside your ski or snowboard boots, and they will get to work on the move. Click here to see our Drysure Extreme collection.
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