Tag Archives: skiing

Ski Roadtrip: Day 9, Kicking Horse

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.

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.

eleven22: Roasted Red Pepper Tomato Soup
Roasted Red Pepper Tomato Soup
eleven22: Salmon Linguini
Salmon Linguini (but not your normal Salmon linguini)

The Mountain

Kicking Horse: View from the parking lot

Kicking Horse is more spread out than Revelstoke, providing more blue runs. Continue reading Ski Roadtrip: Day 9, Kicking Horse

Ski Roadtrip: Day 8, Revelstoke, Day 3

I took the day before off, after 5 days of straight skiing. Blackened Salmon at Chubby FunsterThe temps along my whole trip, no matter how far north or east I go, have been hovering around freezing or warmer. That doesn’t make for great snow. But at Revelstoke, at least, there is a decent amount of it. The night before, I went to Chubby Funsters for dinner, a nice blackened salmon, and the hugest tater-tots I have ever seen (along with a Canadian red)!

Revelstoke: Overlooking the valley from the top of StokeAgain, the ride up the gondola breaks through the low clouds to a bit of sunlight. You can see the clouds snaking through the valley in both directions.

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. Unfortunately, the best snow conditions came the hour and a half before they closed the lifts at 3pm.  IMG_3132

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.

Click the pictures below

Ski Roadtrip: Day 6, Revelstoke

IMG_3062 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. IMG_3061And 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.

Above the clouds, at the top of the gondola at RevelstokeThere 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.

IMG_3065From the gondola, the only option, aside from skiing back to the bottom, is the Stoke chair, so everyone will funnel in, there. IMG_3069

IMG_3095You 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).

Click the pictures below, to enlarge

Ski Roadtrip: Day 5, Sun Peaks & Revelstoke

This was going to be a long day. I only had 3.5 hours’ sleep after coming back from dinner at my new Canadian friends’ condo. I could have passed out immediately, but I wanted to start posting some of these posts. Then I’ll have the long drive to Revelstoke.

When I woke up, the day looked promising, with some snow falling. By the time I packed the car and got out on the snow, it turned dreary… and rainy. But the snow remained remarkably skiable on my last day at Sun Peaks. Unfortunately I had to leave the home I wanted to adopt.

Nancy Greene

IMG_3049
Have you heard of Nancy Greene (if you’re American) I thought not. But, as you may know, all Canadians know of all famous Canadians, so I was made aware of Nancy Greene, former winter Olympic champion (1960, ’64, and ’68!)—she is the Jean Claude Killy of Canada (if you live in Canada). She is currently a Canadian senator and the “ski director” of Sun Peaks. She likes to ski with guests when she is in town, so I did that. I learned from her that the snow at Snow Peaks is usually like that of the Rockies, dry and powdery. Just my luck, today was wet and mushy. Anyway, I kept up with her just fine, though I’m sure she wasn’t pushing herself.Me and Nancy Greene

I was skiing my fat skis. Nancy was on Rossy slalom skis. I asked whether she ever skis fat skis and she said that it was too much trouble to think about what kind of skis to grab, so she sticks with here narrow skis. Which reminds me… really good athletes are really good, no matter what kind of equipment they use. If I were a better skier, I could go back to a single pair of skis.

On to Revelstoke

The drive to Revelstoke was to be long (Google Maps said 3.5 hours, Waze said over 4… I didn’t try to figure out why the disparity); I decided to use Google’s directions rather than Waze. Waze may have been correct, however, because the last hour and a half was pretty treacherous; dark, snowing, and slushy. I left a lot of room between me and the car in front.

Since it was the weekend, all the cheap places were booked. Thanks to my friend Jeremy’s suggestion, I was able to book a room at the Mustang B&B, a 118 year old house run by a young Aussie, Josh, for the past 4 years. The owners operate a cat-skiing service, Mustang Powder, that I’ll have to try some day.

Ski Roadtrip: Day 4, Sun Peaks Day 2

IMG_3023Lifts 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.

IMG_3026Leaving 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.

IMG_3038The “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.

IMG_3042The 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).

Another good day.

Ski Roadtrip: Day 3, Sun Peaks

From Whistler, I made it to Cache Creek after a long 4.5 hours of dark, sometimes foggy, narrow, country roads. IMG_3015Canadians 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.IMG_7156

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. IMG_3021Ski 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).

A "sweet onion soup" preceded my rib-eye dinner
A “sweet onion soup” preceded my rib-eye dinner.

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.

I got a lot done that day.

Ski Roadtrip: Day 2, Whistler

It was a 2.5 hours from Vancouver to Whistler. I almost bypassed Whistler because getting from there to my next stop would have meant backtracking back to Vancouver in a “normal” winter, but it looked to be clear, so stopping at Whistler meant I would get to ski on day 2 and it would break up the long drive to Sun Peaks.

It took a while to get out of Vancouver, so I didn’t start sliding down the mountain until noon. My Squaw season pass gave me $25 off, leaving with a $98 CAD ticket for the few hours. Right now, we Americans get almost a 20% discount because the CA$ has been dropping.

I was going to ski the Whistler side, but there was a crowd because one of the gondolas had almost fallen off or something, so they’d shut it down for a while (something about kids getting crushed or something… but I probably have that wrong). So I headed across the plaza to the Blackcomb gondola.

They were supposed to have had some snow a couple of days earlier but, like everywhere, it’s been warm. I headed up as high as I could as quickly as I could. Getting up to Jersey Cream for a warm up and Glacier to get to the very top, I used the T-bar(!! There are two or three of them up there) to get to the sunny Blackcomb Glacier side to ski 7th Heaven a few times.

The snow report said “packed powder.”—any condition with the word “powder” in it is better than Tahoe these days. Nothing in the west is getting the amount of snow it should and Whistler-Blackcomb is no exception; most everything was covered, but some off-piste areas were a bit thin over the rocks. Considering that it had been a couple of days since they’d had snow I was surprised that there was still soft, loose snow to be found, off-piste. And you might manage to find patches of untouched in the trees. I found the soft stuff slightly warmed over… I’m probably being overly critical since I wasn’t on my fat skis—it wasn’t even what I’d call sticky or heavy, just not fluffy 🙂

So I managed to get in bumps (the good, well-formed kind), trees, (short) steeps, nice off-piste chop, and groomers. And, as expected, icy and crusty towards the bottom 1/4 of the run to the bottom.

And, I didn’t know this, Whistler closes at 3p until the third week of January! So that cut another hour of my day! (Although my legs appreciated the early retirement—it was only my 2.5th day this season).

All-in-all, a good first day of my trip. I love mid-weeks; the longest line of the day had two people in front of me.

IMG_3014I took a break for some food at Earls (because I remember they have really cute waitresses) and to try to figure out how long I might be able to drive and to know where my options for sleeping may be.

Click the pictures below