The drive from Revelstoke to Kicking Horse in Golden, BC, was pretty treacherous; dark, slick, twisty roads make for a very exhausting drive, taking at least a half-hour more than anticipated until you get to the horse arena just like the one you see if you click here.
Roadtrip Tip: Drive mountainous roads during daylight hours. Not only is it easier drive when you can see—this is even more important when there are snow storms to contend with. Also, during the day, you get to appreciate the beautiful views.
I arrived at Mary’s Motel, the closest accommodations to the road up to Kicking Horse, about a 10 minute drive. I’d used booking.com, since Orbitz didn’t have any listings for Golden. It was pretty big for a motel; I suspect they get pretty crowded on good ski weekends.
I made it in time for dinner and I searched for the recommendation from Gary and Sheila (co-habitants of the B&B in Revelstoke), “22 something”… Eleven22 was in a converted house, in the contemporary dining way. It was excellent and I highly recommended it; not only was the food good, modern cuisine, but it was quite cheap for its quality.
But it was back to warm spring conditions (I don’t think it got below freezing): hard, crusty, firm snow in the morning, softening mid-day to become pretty skiable where the sun hits. لعبة كازينولعبة بلاك جاك Unfortunately, the best snow conditions came the hour and a half before they closed the lifts at 3pm. تكساس هولدم
I wandered around the small village (new buildings with requisite accommodations, a few stores, and a couple of places to eat) before taking off to my next destination, Kicking Horse.
It was another dreary wet overcast morning. I was kind of run down from the days of skiing/driving. I’d already skied 4 straight days and was beginning to think about taking a break; especially because this was Saturday and it was bound to be busy on the mountain. It didn’t help that Josh (the B&B house-boy), had a nice breakfast waiting for me when I woke up. And he nearly scared me about stories of people killing themselves riding out of bounds (and off cliffs) at Revelstoke. One glance at the webcam, however, and I immediately kicked myself for not getting out the door sooner.
Revelstoke has only been around, in it’s current form, for about eight years. There is a typical commercial village at the base but the town of Revelstoke (where most people stay) is only about 10–15 minutes away from town. Revelstoke is a key train junction; I was told that the train museum is a must see, but it is closed for the dead of winter.
There is a gondola to two main lifts. Everyone takes the gondola up and a 1/4 mile long line can form on a busy day! The gondola breaks through the dreary low clouds, into unexpectedly sunlit slopes. The storm that I endured the prior night had laid some fresh pow at the top of the mountain and it wasn’t wet despite it being above freezing.
From the gondola, the only option, aside from skiing back to the bottom, is the Stoke chair, so everyone will funnel in, there.
You can ski the back to the Stoke lift or make your way to the Ripper chair on the north-bowl side of the mountain; it’s popular practice to hike up to enter the north-bowl.
It was in the high 30’s in town and the bottom was wet; everyone stays up on the mountain, which means crowds at either the Stoke or Ripper chairs.
Revelstoke is known for being steep, so it’s all steep blue, black or double diamond. It’s purpose-built for great tree skiing and steep bowls and steep faces. The steeper faces were still lacking coverage. The map doesn’t mark most of the runs, especially through the trees; I’m sure they expect that you can find your downhill on your own.
I was warned again, later, that if you can’t see where you’re going, you’d better slow down (lest you end up off a cliff). I don’t like not seeing where I am going and i especially don’t like cliffs, so I think I will be fine.
The warmth got to the snow and it gradually became heavier and in other places being polished to firm, fast featureless speedways. The fresh snow in the morning was the best I’d hit, so far. The lifts closed at 3p—it was getting kind of dark.
Dinner was at the Village Idiot; typical bar-fare, but you’d better get there before 6p if you want to get a table. A friendly Canadian (did I mention how much I like Canadians?) in front of me noticed that there was a table for four available, even though it was only him and his girlfriend, and asked if a few of us waiting could all share a table; so we did, avoiding a 45 min wait, and had rousing conversation, discussing what would happen if we introduced a polar bear to the Antarctic (happy feet? I think not).
Lifts open at 8:30. I woke up at about 8, plenty of time to get dressed and be on the snow before the lifts open. Peeking out the window, it was looking quite gray and dreary. They have free Mountain guides that start at 9:15. Because even more time to laze about, still recovering from my prior days skiing and driving.
Leaving my room at about 8:40, I grabbed my fat skis, to give them a go, and made it to the meeting point with plenty of time to spare. I was going to ski with the black-diamond group, but I decided to join the “around the world” tour to get a feel for the whole mountain. They say it takes five days to ski every run, here.
If I didn’t mention before, this resort is quite spread out. Overall, it’s mostly an intermediate mountain; but there’s so much variety that it’s pretty fun. The grooming is really good; if you like lots of cruising, you’ll love this place. One downside is that there are several runs where you need to get enough speed to across the longish flat areas leading back to the lift. The resort is split by a road. You can get to the one lift it’s on the other side of the road without taking off the skis for getting back to the main area means taking off your skis to cross the road. All the lifts are serviced by green, blue, and black runs down. They’re black especially their double-black runs are very conservatively marked. It’s a good family destination.
The “around the world” tour lasted nearly 3 hours! That included a ride on, what they claim, is the longest lasting lift ride in North America, 22 minutes (up into the fog). In the afternoon I joined the black-diamond tour; unfortunately the tours are not allowed to take the guest to the really good stuff. I could see some powder runs through the trees are pretty good. I guess I’ll have to do that tomorrow by myself.
The best thing about participating in the tour was meeting some of the others. Did I already say that I love Canadians? I love Canadians. At the end of the day bunch of them invited me over for a hot tub, dinner, and almost too much to drink. I had to ski back down the path at night to get back to the hotel (much less scary than my night-ski, last year).
From Whistler, I made it to Cache Creek after a long 4.5 hours of dark, sometimes foggy, narrow, country roads. Canadians who know, call it “Trash Creek”—it is where Vancouver sends its trash—seeing how small it was, the next morning, I was surprised it warranted a nickname at all). I would have stopped earlier if there had been a motel sooner. That put me within a couple hours to Sun Peaks.
So day 3 starts with a drive to Kamloops. Kamloops is a city. It has an airport. And it has a CostCo, which, of course, had the cheapest gas in the area.
Roadtrip tech tip: I use Gas Buddy to find the cheapest gas prices nearby, an app which is available for Android and iOS (and probably other platforms). Fortunately, it works in Canada too. If you don’t have a smart-phone, you can go to GasBuddy.com.
And Kamloops is only an hour from Sun Peaks. I stopped at a Tim Horton’s to make arrangements for a place to stay. Then I was on my way to Sun Peaks, an hour’s drive from Kamloops.
Roadtrip tech tip: I never take as much time to plan my trips as I ought to. Fortunately, Orbitz (or Expedia, Travelocity) exist. Since I often don’t know where I’ll be next, or when, I’ll often book a reservation sometimes just minutes before my stop via Orbitz. It lists options and is often cheaper than booking directly. The reservation goes through to the hotel/motel system immediately. If that doesn’t work, there’s always Google.
I only need a relatively comfortable place to sleep (relative to my car, that is), so the cheaper the better. I couldn’t find anything under $100. I had to dig deeper and go for the $130 entry. I only mention this because I was shocked to find it to be the fanciest ski accommodations I’ve stayed at. Ski in/out, ski valet, free wifi, pool, sauna, jacuzzi and fitness. The Sun Peaks Grand.
They took my skis to valet and I took my stuff upstairs. I quickly dressed, got a $44 late-afternoon ticket (less the Canadian discount), picked up my skis from valet and headed out for a few runs in the days’ last hour and a half, trying to hit as many lifts as I could. I ventured into a hazard marked narrow black-diamond run which would have been pretty good with coverage; as it was, I had to navigate around rocks and logs as my still-new boots began to hurt my feet (ugh… I hate new boots).
Apres ski involved a walk around the small village—sort of a micro version of Whistler’s village, maybe about the size of Squaw’s, but prettier. I decided on a the Steakhouse because it had a rib-eye on the menu. I first had used the hot tub and a quick sauna to dry off before dinner.
Over the past three years, I have spent a 4 or 5 weeks in Truckee (Lake Tahoe), armed with a season pass to Squaw Valley. Last season one of my ski buddies, my dad’s cousin Brian, seemed a bit surprised that I haven’t explored more ski resorts. My contract ended early this season, so that opened up time to expand my ski horizons: a roadtrip through Canada ski resorts became my for this season, before ending up in Tahoe.
After consultation with many of my ski aficionados I’ve come up with the following ski playlist:
Vancouver (visit Nann’s) 2 hrs to…
Whistler, Jan 20, 5 hrs to…
Sun Peaks, Jan 21–23, 4 hrs to…
Revelstoke, Jan 24–26, 2.5 hrs to…
Kicking Horse, Jan 27, 2 hrs to…
Lake Louise, Banff, Jan 28, 45 min to…
Sunshine Village, Banff, Jan 29, 2.5 hrs to…
Panorama, Jan 30, 31, 2.5 hrs to…
Drive to Fernie and Seahawks-Superbowl day
Fernie, Feb 2, 2 hrs to…
Whitefish, Feb 3, 4
drive day, Feb 5, 6.5 hrs to…
Big Sky, MT, Feb 6–8?, 2.5 hrs to…
Yellowstone (tour, no skiing) Feb ?, 5.5 hrs to…
Truckee/Lake Tahoe, Feb 15
Seattle, end of Feb/beg of March
I tried to keep driving stints between resorts to less than three hours. If distances seemed too far, I tried to find a resort to break up the drive. Mapping out the initial route allowed me to make sure that the trip would be achievable fun and not a tiring chore. And that I could leave a couple of weeks to ski in Tahoe before the third week* of February… assuming the snow is any good.
I didn’t know what the snow conditions will be like I didn’t know how long I would be at each resort; planning would have to be somewhat ad hoc, adjusting as I go. Despite the long time, I found that there time to squeeze all this in would be pretty tight.
Travel Tech Tip: In the US, if you have an unlocked GSM cell phone (I.e., not a Sprint or Verizon phone), T-Mobile offers no contract subscriptions. For an extra $10, you can get free calling within many foreign countries and unlimited slow speed Internet data. This is a great deal. You can make necessary reservations and use navigation and other smart phone apps. If you don’t need the services once you return home, you can simply deactivate your T-Mobile account.
End of Feb/beginning of March is out… I have a job that will take me traveling and I have to start that job before the last week of February.