Rogers Pass can always throw a curve ball at travel plans between Revelstoke and Golden, and this was no exception, with avalanches sliding down with alarming regularity. Luckily, the road opened about 4.30pm and we crawled over with a zillion other vehicles, arriving in Golden at 8pm. During dinner at the fabulous Whitetooth Bistro, we were warned by the staff that they had just had the biggest day ever at Kicking Horse in terms of visitors. We needed no further incentives for an early night and early rise, and were in the ‘not too long’ gondola line at 8.45am. A foot of new snow had blanketed the upper mountain overnight. It was going to be a busy day.
We got to the top of the gondola at 10.10am. It wasn’t the length of the line, rather the fact that the gondola stopped about 20 times on the way up. The cause? Unknown. It sure wasn’t wind. Still, run number 1 was magnificent, cruising through boot deep snow in Crystal Bowl and running into the long open blacks that snake down the mountain back to the base, leaving trails of cold dust in our wake.
Unfortunately, that’s when things got really slow. The gondola line was now truly massive, extending past the corrals for 100m on either side. Screw that, we thought, and headed to the Pioneer chair. It may be possibly the slowest chair lift on earth, but along with about 6 other souls, we lapped 4 times before lunch, enjoying the pow to ourselves. It wasn’t Kicking Horse-epic, but it was pretty darn good.
A quick lunch, and we were back in the gondola singles line just after noon, hoping for the usual lift line subsidence around the middle of the day. But like Ron Paul for President, that was a fantasy. Despite the heroic efforts of the lift crew, fully loading every single car all day long, the line refused to shrink. 3 superb runs through the chutes and trees off CPR Ridge took over 3 hours. This was Kicking Horse-epic, but I’m afraid it just left me wanting more. And with those epic crowds, that too was a fantasy.
After a drive and a wonderful, restoring soak in Radium Hot Springs, we settled in Kimberley for the next two days, drawn by a forecast of snow, cold, and hopes of no crowds. Virtually the antithesis of Kicking Horse in almost every way, Kimberley still has some kick-ass skiing. Follow the ridge lines from the top of the Easter Chair, and open runs and glades plunge into the valley below. When filled with 8 inches of fluffy new snow, as we had on our first day, it’s a recipe for some fine skiing.
Locals we rode chairs with complained about the crowds, but they hadn’t been at Kicking Horse the previous day. The Easter chair got busy at peak times, but avoiding these like Rupert Murdoch newspapers, we waited less than 5 minutes for every run. And there was still much lightly tracked snow to be found the next day, when the intermittent sunshine made for a glorious day to be in the mountains.
Kicking Horse: 6200m
Kimberley: 8100m, 7900m
Season Totals: 19 days, 143,600m vert, 9 powder days