Reviewed by Mark Lesh
Dec 04, 2008
Just a decade old and still growing, Kicking Horse has been called “mini-Alaska” for good reason.
Located in the heart of heli-skiing country.
Who wants to talk shop when there’s 8,000 acres of world-class terrain, from high-alpine glaciers to giant hemlock forests, spread across two mountains plastered by a stable maritime snowpack?
In 1897, a Norwegian miner named Olaus Jeldness invited his friends to the top of British Columbia’s Red Mountain for a “tea party.” He got everybody plowed, slapped planks to their feet, and started ski culture in Canada. Since then Red hasn’t changed much except that condos are popping up and locals are beginning to grumble. But the terrain is the same as it’s always been: steep, consistent subalpine trees and cliff bands that radiate off two peaks covered with 300 inches of crowd-free blower. Just as Jeldness would want it.
Start Here: If it’s fresh, take the Motherlode chair to the thick glades on Second Slide. If it’s firm, warm up with a cruiser on Main Run.
Must Hit: Ride the Red chair to the top of Red Mountain, site of western Canada’s first chairlift, opened in 1947. Point ’em down the fall line on The Cliff to Face of Red, skier’s left of the chair.
The Stash: Off the top of Motherlode, head right and sidestep up 50 feet to access the Coolers, a series of bony, north-facing couloirs. Below the Coolers, traverse skier’s right a few hundred yards and drop into the infinite tree stashes.
Powder Day: Take the Powder Fields Traverse off Motherlode to Hans’ Run or the Orchards for 800 vertical feet of consistent 30-degree shots. Catch Southside Road back to Motherlode for another soft lap.
Quick Tip: Red offers a $25 pass for the Silverlode chair and T-bar only—perfect for the newbies in your crew.
Three Days Later: The north side of Granite Mountain stays shaded and preserves powder the longest. From the top of Motherlode, head out Ridge Road and drop right into the scattered trees on Doug’s Run or Beer Belly.
Park and Pipe: Access the Red Park from the T-bar. There’s no pipe, but it does have creative rails, jibs, one of Canada’s biggest wallrides, a dedicated skiercross course, and a booming sound system.
Backcountry Access: Head off the back of Granite Mountain and climb from Ridge Road up the tracks to Mount Roberts or Grey Mountain—both peaks offer untouched skiing within a half-hour skin. Laps return you to the resort. Red’s backcountry is prone to slides, so check conditions at avalanche.ca.
Weather: The West Kootenays average 300 inches of snow from December to April. Late January and February are particularly stormy. Due to Red’s low elevation (6,800 feet at the top), it sometimes rains.
Après: Grab a pitcher of pilsner and a platter of nachos at Rafter’s Lounge, a 60-year-old ski-club bunkhouse turned bar. Watch your head—it’s called Rafter’s for a reason.
Fuel: Down an egg breakfast bagel and an espresso shot at Sourdough Alley in the base lodge. For lunch, head to the Paradise Lodge off the back side for burgers cooked on an outdoor grill.
Up All Night: The Old Fire Hall Wine Bar in nearby Rossland is housed in a recently renovated firehouse. It offers live jazz, 40 local wines by the glass, and tapas like chili-lime calamari and buffalo strudel.
Digs: Stay in the funky and eclectic Red Shutter Inn at the base of Red, which has a ski-waxing room, a wood stove, and an outdoor hot tub (from $75; redshutter.ca).
Elevation: 6,807 feet Vertical Drop: 3,000 feet Snowfall: 300 inches Acres: 1,685 Info: redresort.com