October 17, 2017

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Kicking Horse, B.C., Canada

Kicking Horse Resort and Golden B.C. are a powder skiing mecca. Don’t know much about it? You’re not alone and that’s a good thing! Start with a 4,133 foot vertical ski mountain with a staggering 85 inbounds chutes. An in-bounds guided program, backcountry skiing near the resort and in other areas like the Dogtooth Range near Golden, Heli skiing pick up at the base village at Kicking Horse, snowcat skiing outside of untouched Golden, B.C., which is three miles from the ski area. In summer you are surrounded by 3 mountain ranges and 5 national parks: Yoho National Park, Banff National Park, a UNESCO World Hertiage Site is just 45 minutes from town, Glacier National Park, Kootenay National Park and Jasper National Park. Whitewater rafting on the Kicking Horse River is known as the best in Canada. Kicking Horse Resort offers the longest vertical mountain biking descent in Canada and there is great mountain biking on the Moonraker Trails and other areas around Golden. High alpine hiking is easily accessed off of the Kicking Horse Resort Gondola, there are hundreds of spectacular trails and if that’s not enough try heli hiking! Fishing in the many streams and alpine lakes is an angler’s dream and yes, they do have heli fishing! This is one of our Special Places.

It started out as Whitetooth Ski Area, a smaller ski area owned by the town of Golden, B.C. The ski area was purchased and expanded in 1999, and reopened with the name of Kicking Horse Resort, after the river by the same name at it’s base, on December 8, 2000. The majority of the skiable area consists of four large bowls (Crystal Bowl, Bowl Over, Feuz Bowl and Super Bowl) that combine about half way down the mountain into a single area, with a fairly gentle ski-out to the lifts at the bottom. One run, It’s a 10, is 10 km long and connects the runs in the main Bowl areas. In 2002, a new chairlift (Stairway to Heaven) was added to allow access to a third bowl (Feuz Bowl), which generally sees less traffic.

In 2010, a fourth bowl to the south of the existing resort (Super Bowl) was added to the area. The area statistics are impressive making this a place for big mountain riders and skiers. With 4,133 vertical feet of skiing and riding, Kicking Horse contains a staggering 85 in bounds chutes. There is an in bounds guided skiing excursion offered and highly recommended for the first timer.

The 120 runs break down to 20% beginner, 20% intermediate, 45% advanced and 15% expert. An average of over 275 inches of snow falls on Kicking Horse and with the Purcell Heli Skiing helicopters departing from the base and an outstanding guided backcountry skiing experience close by, the ski stories are almost too tall to believe.

The mountain is served primarily by a high speed eight passenger gondola, the Golden Eagle Express, that rises from the base area to the top of the peak. Two smaller chairlifts also operate from the base area, a fixed-grip quad (Catamount) and a fixed-grip double (Pioneer – an original lift from Whitetooth days).

Another fixed-grip quad (Stairway to Heaven) serves the upper areas to the north of the gondola, including the third bowl. Uphill capacity is somewhat limited, however, and most skiers end up skiing the 4,000 vertical feet back to the base and so need to return to the summit via the gondola. The limited terrain park is compensated by the natural terrain and exceptional backcountry access.

Ski Terrain

The Golden Eagle Express Gondola accesses CPR Ridge, Crystal Bowl and Bowl Over. Crystal Bowl is large and open, providing intermediate skiing and is the easiest way down from the gondola. Bowl Over is also open but much steeper and often has more moguls than Crystal Bowl. In 2007, a trail was made to allow for advanced intermediate skiing into Bowl Over. CPR ridge is situated between the two bowls and is an advanced skiers paradise. One side of the ridge, the Crystal Bowl side, provides some of the 85 inbound chutes available at Kicking Horse. These chutes range from advanced to expert skiing. They are steep, sometimes narrow, but hold snow well and give a consistent fall line to the bottom of the bowl. The other side of CPR Ridge is a series of glades.

Stairway to Heaven is a fixed chair lift that is situated at the bottom of Crystal Bowl and accesses White Wall, Feuz Bowl and Redemption Ridge. White Wall is a quick hike right of the chair and is rated expert skiing for some rock bands and large cornices. Feuz Bowl is advanced skiing, quite similar to CPR ridge. Stairway to Heaven follows Redemption Ridge. On one side are chutes into Feuz Bowl and the other side is a series of glades back into Crystal Bowl. Eat well because skiing off this lift is a calorie burner but it’s some of the best adventure skiing we have come across anywhere. This is one of the reasons why Kicking Horse makes the AMH list of Special Places.

Terminator Ridge and Terminator Peak are situated on the left side of Bowl Over. On the south side of Terminator Ridge Super Bowl can be accessed. On the north side a few steep, narrow, expert chutes come back into Bowl Over. The hike to the top of Terminator Ridge is often well traveled and takes from fifteen to thirty minutes, depending on fitness. If you are not from the area we would recommend an able companion for heading over the North side.

Backcountry Access

Kicking Horse has exceptional backcountry access. South of the resort, Super Bowl can be accessed by hiking up Terminator Ridge. North of the resort, Rudi’s Bowl and many other backcountry assets are accessible. Contact us about our recommended backcountry guide service. The area around Kicking Horse and Golden has many alpine touring routes and memorable descents. Rodgers Pass is 40 minutes west of Golden and famous for it’s great backcountry skiing and riding.

Summer at Kicking Horse

Mountain Biking

Kicking Horse is open during the summer and known for it’s downhill mountain biking accessed by the Golden Eagle Express gondola. Kicking Horse provides the longest descent in Canada for mountain biking and Kicking Horse is an official Professional Mountain Bike Association Training Center (PMBI).

Hiking at Kicking Horse

Step off the Golden Eagle Express Gondola, and walk into a mountain- top of adventure. Experience spectacular ridge walks and hikes, take flight with Purcell Heli-Hiking for remote above timberine hiking or simply find yourself in the tranquil alpine setting staring into the Purcell Mountains. Stop by the Eagle Eye Restaurant at the top of the gondola for a celebratory beverage after an alpine experience. We always remember what Ellen Miller, one of our Board of Advisors member and two times Mt. Everest summiteers (two different routes) says: “the higher you get, the higher you get.”

Grizzly Bear Refuge

Kicking Horse Mountain Resort is home to the world’s largest enclosed and protected grizzly bear habitat. This is where resident orphaned grizzly bear Boo lives and plays. Visitors are given the opportunity, as part of a one-of-a-kind interpretive tour, to view a grizzly bear interacting much as they do in the wild; foraging, hunting, playing, swimming, snoozing and exploring. Held multiple times a day throughout the summer season, these tours are educational and interactive, allowing guests a unique opportunity to view this incredible animal and learn about the plight of this endangered species. The Refuge is accessible by chairlift with a short walk to the Interpretive Center. The Refuge is open daily and guests are welcome to stay as long as they wish. Interpretive tours run hourly throughout the summer season.

Kicking Horse, The Future!

Chairlifts are planned for access of bowls on either side of the current ski area boundary. In total 9 lifts will be built under the current master plan by build out. This will expand the skiable area to 4,000 acres. The mountain village accommodation will also be expanding.

Golden, B.C.

At the bottom of the road to Kicking Horse lies the town of Golden, B.C. At the confluence of the Columbia and Kicking Horse Rivers, Golden was a logging and railroad town until word of it’s scenic beauty and most recently, opportunities for adventure sports, began to quietly circulate. Make no mistake, Golden, B.C. is not a ‘tourist town’. It is peaceful and unspoiled by resort development. Golden was built in the Rocky Mountain Trench, at the confluence of two rivers and surrounded by three mountain ranges. It is bordered by five national parks: Yoho, Banff, Jasper, Glacier and Kootenay. Think about it, 3 mountain ranges, 5 National Parks, a quiet and peaceful town, what’s there not to like? Outdoor activity possibilities are massive!

Golden is located on the Trans Canada Highway a little under 3 hours from Calgary.

Winter around Golden, B.C.

Backcountry Skiing

OK, here’s how serious they are about backcountry powder access around Golden. Our recommended backcountry guide service for the area around Kicking Horse and Golden offers snowmobile accessed ski tours. They have a permitted area of 11,000 hectares and use modified sleds to tow you to the desired terrain. If the resort is skied out you can have 5 runs, depending on fitness level and ability, for around $150. All guides are ACMG certified and excursions are available February to April. They also have numerous backcountry skiing routes from moderate to intense in the Golden area as well as on the powder mecca of Rodgers Pass, 40 minutes away.

Cat Skiing

Well, its 60 miles north of Golden but…two young loggers secured a tenure with amazing terrain, 250 square kilometers worth. They blazed in some cat roads and put up a rough log lodge and with 3,000 vertical foot runs and Canada’s only snowcat glacier skiing and vast amounts of powder glades word began to spread from Golden to Calgary and far beyond. They have two beautiful new lodges and they only joint cat and heli ski operation until recently. 2 day excursions are available early season, after that it’s 3 and 4 days blocked together.

Heli Skiing

Two services operate out of the Golden area, one about a half hour north of town has it’s own lodge and offers unlimited vertical. (Most heli ski operators ‘guarantee’ a certain number of vertical feet, if you ski over this amount there are additional charges. An Unlimited Vertical feet PROGRAM usually costs more up front but that’s it, all you can ski powder!)
The other heli ski operation departs right at the Kicking Horse base area. Both services have tenures (permitted areas) in the Purcell Mountains. As both are day operations they host many first time heli skiers as well as experienced heli skiers out for a day of powder dreams. Groups are divided into ability levels and have certified CMGA guides. Both operations have a mix of open skiing on glaciers that give you the feeling of skiing and riding on the roof of the world and then gladed tree skiing which is used during snowy days of flat light and for the steeper runs as the trees offer greater snow stability than open slopes. Contact us for more details.

Summer in Golden, B.C.

Whitewater Rafting:

What to do when all of that snow melts? Ride it! The Kicking Horse River is the pinnacle of whitewater rafting in Alberta and British Columbia! Yes, I told you, this is THE PLACE! We have several long established whitewater rafting guided services in Golden.

Fly Fishing:

Fishing in the many lakes and rivers and fly fishing in pristine alpine streams and lakes. Ready? Hang On. Yes. Heli fishing! Are you kidding? No, grab your gear, jump in the chopper and be dropped at a remote alpine lake with no one around for miles! It’s there and we can connect you!

Road Cycling:

How about a 300 km loop? Hey, it’s Canada! The Golden Triangle starts in Banff to Golden, Golden to Radium Hot Springs, Radium Hot Springs back to Banff. 3 National Parks, twice crossing the Great Divide. Some narrow shoulders on Kicking Horse Pass and Golden to Radium Hot Springs. There are some nice local rides and we can put you in touch with a local shop to give you the best routes.

Mountain Biking:

With Kicking Horse Resort being a hub for mountain biking it’s no surprise Golden has a strong and active cycling club. They recommend the Moonraker Trails if you are in the area for a few days. From there you’ll get hooked into other great rides too numerous to list!

Hiking:

Again, too many to list but close to town go for easy and short (1km) Confluence Park Trail or Edelweiss Slough. Mount 7 is longer at 7 km as well as Rotary Trail and they are Moderate and Easy respectively. East, West, North and South there are many trails. Contact us for a list and description. Whew!

Technical Climbing:

Sixty kilometers south of Golden, the limestone of Spillimacheen Crags beckons sport climbers worldwide. Spillimacheen boasts over 60 sport climbing routes ranging from Grade 5.6 to 5.12 and a southern exposure that enables climbers to visit this area in early spring through to late fall.

A further sixty kilometres (mostly on logging roads) brings adventurers to the world-famous towers of the Bugaboo Mountains, where alpine climbers from all corners of the globe come to scale imposing granite spires.

Dining in Golden, B.C.

Hungry yet? After writing about all of the activities around Golden, I’m ready to eat. As the Trans Canada Highway runs through the edge of town you’ll find the ‘fast food’ fare there like any town in North America. For something a little more like what you need after a big day skiing or whitewater rafting or hiking, try Whitetooth Bistro or Kicking Horse Grill. Hey, this would not be Golden without Canada’s highest restaurant. The Eagle Eye Restaurant at the top of Kicking Horse Resort’s Golden Eagle Gondola offers staggering views of the Purcell Mountains. Dine al fresco in the summer on the protected deck. Reservations recommended for this one folks, it’s up there!

Shopping in Golden, B.C.

OK, it’s not going to be Regent Street in London but considering where it is the shopping in the Village Plaza is cultural, varied and authentic. Bacchus Books is cool; there are great sport shops, natural food stores, trading posts, and clothing shops. Take your time and stroll the Plaza and enjoy everything this beautiful spot has to offer.