A Wild Ride in Canada
If you sow high expectations, be wary of reaping disappointment. For a decade, I have been fertilizing the fields of my friends’ imaginations with powdery tales of Kicking Horse Mountain Resort, in southeastern British Columbia’s Purcell Mountains. There I had experienced two blissfully deep days during the ski area’s second season. This past winter I went back, and took a passionate and opinionated skier along with me: my husband. He had, of course, heard all about my first visit — the quad-burning vertical, the uncrowded slopes, the variety and expanse of terrain, the exhilarating backcountry hike that involved shouldering my skis and navigating a rocky climb to reach seemingly endless swaths of pristine snow. And now my credibility was about to be tested. We were partway down CPR Ridge, one of four long ridgelines that punctuate the ski area’s upper half, about to navigate our way into a sliver of trail known as Boxcar. Steve Fiske, our private guide from the resort’s Big Mountain Centre, motioned for us to go first. I skied halfway down and watched as my husband smeared a big, banked turn on the side of the chute, then arced smooth turns into the apron of powder below us. He was grinning when I caught up to him. A great start. Take a look at the steep, wild, ski-bucking terrain that characterizes Kicking Horse’s expert regions, and you might guess that that’s how it got its name. Indeed, during the annual big-mountain ski event, Wrangle the Chute, competitors must also prove their mettle by riding a mechanical bronco. But the real inspiration was the Kicking Horse River, which flows through the nearby logging and railroad town of Golden and was so named after explorer James Hector survived a hard blow from his steed. But the resort, formerly a municipally owned hill known as Whitetooth, has sustained some hard financial knocks. Realizing its potential, a Dutch company purchased the area and doubled the amount of terrain, installed an eight-passenger gondola and other lifts, and reopened it as Kicking Horse in December 2000. Now the mountain boasts the fourth-largest vertical drop (4,133 feet) among North American ski resorts, and is steadily gaining a reputation for its hair-raising chutes — the trail map lists 85 — and high-alpine bowls. A year ago, Resorts of the Canadian Rockies added Kicking Horse to a portfolio that includes Nakiska, Stoneham, Fernie Alpine Resort, Kimberley Alpine Resort, and Mont-Sainte-Anne.
Check out this video of "Champagne Tuesday" from the Resorts of the Canadian Rockies.