Canada; another wintervention

In 2005 I had visited Canada for the first time. I was chasing a dream of light fluffy powder snow. It turned out to be one of the worst snow seasons they ever had. Now time had come to do it again. Dreams of powdersnow had to be fulfilled! I flew into Vancouver on Christmas day. My layover in London had to be one of the weirdest I ever had. The terminal was quiet. Only some couples and families were on their way to meet others for Christmas. And amongst all of them I was there to chase the snow. Even when you know you’re a bit odd, this is very confronting!

On arrival in Vancouver the weather wss typical. It rained. When I say typical I mean according to statistics. In 2005 it was sunny every day I was there but that was an unusual season. This time the forecast for the week was rain every single day. Rain in Vancouver means snow in the mountains, so that’s good. In general I hardly ever complain about the weather unless it’s too hot. I have to admin that rain, rain and more rain can be a bit depressing. On Boxing day I focused on my feminine skills and went shopping. I love big shopping malls  because they’re efficient and because of their foodcourts. After a full day shopping I had bought a lot of clothes and had some nice Asian meals. The day ended with a game of hockey. I visited the Canucks for the first time as there was a strike in 2005. Read more about my NHL-experience here.

The second day in Vancouver I wanted to visit Stanley Park. I remembered the park from 2005 and it was beautiful. It was sunny then, so how would it be in pouring rain?

In 2005 I followed the outer paths of the park. This time, because of the weather, I walked in the park where the trees would give me shelter. It turned out to be a great choice. It was uncrowded and beautiful!

After two days exploring Vancouver it was time to move on. Golden and its skiresort Kicking Horse were on the agenda. A long Greyhound journey got me to the truckers town where I stayed in the beautiful Kicking Horse River Lodge. Even though it was peak season the lodge was about empty I had an eight person dorm all to myself. Nice. The inhouse Bugaboo cafe served great breakfast and hitching to the resort was easy.

Fresh snow overnight made the skiing really good. It was crowded for Canadian standards and because of the inefficient lift system of Kicking Horse you couldn’t ski a lot. The runs you could ski however made everything worthwhile. I started with laps in the trees underneath the Stairway to Heaven chairlift. In the afternoon I checked out some nice chutes from CPR-ridge. Kicking Horse promotes itself for having many inbound chutes and they’re absolutely right. In terms of inbound skiing this must be one of the most challenging resorts in the world.

From the top of Stairway to Heaven you can drop into the trees but there is also the option to go to the other side, into Feuz bowl. Nobody knows how to pronounce this but the skiing is great and that’s what counts. In the afternoon I took one more chairlift up just before closing time when I heard a patroller saying the bowl was about to open. Yes, fresh tracks in Feuz bowl!

The liftsystem is limited which can generally be seen as a bad thing. However, the vertical and steepness is impressive that it’s absolutely no problem on weekdays. You can easily get six laps done top to bottom and that’s a lot of exercise I can tell you. On those days hiking is a great option. You will get your vertical anyway so why not explore a little bit?

Kicking Horse has plenty of options to do so, both inbounds as well as out of bounds. Because of high avalanche danger I stayed inbounds and took a look at T1 and T2, the Terminator peaks. T1, the first peak you reach by hiking, gives access to Superbowl. This bowl is a collection of mainly double diamond runs and in a foot of fresh this is a delight! From the top you can also traverse on the ridge and drop into the other side back to the gondola through two impressive chutes, Truth and Dare. One of them had a clear entry but a mandatory drop around the corner while the other one required some navigation through rocks before reaching a steep slope. Inbounds skiing doesn’t get much better than this!

On my last afternoon in this great resort I took the gondola one more time. As usual in lifts in North America conversations were going on (this hardly ever happens in Europe for some reason). I told my lift-companions I was going for T2 and directly an older man wanted to join me. He was around 60 years old I guess and man, he was fit. I could hardly keep up with him during the hike and once on top of T2 he was gone. Allright buddy, congratulations, you showed me you’re fitter than me. Good for you! I wanted to enjoy my day and took some time on the top to look around before jumping into a nice 40-degree chute. A great finish to skiing one of the best resorts (for me at least) in the world!

Another great area for skiing has always been Revelstoke and its surroundings. It used to be a touring and heliski mecca but nowadays there is an actual skiresort. They have plans to expand to become the second largest resort of North America if I’m correct. The town of Revelstoke is quite depressing. It rained about every day and there are just too many ‘wannabe skibum backpackers’ (did I just introduce a new word?) to make it feel authentic. There is an Indian restaurant and ofcourse that’s a big plus.

Enough about the town, let’s talk about the skiing. My first day skiing was on January 1. Eight in the morning I got a ride to catch the first gondola up. The parking lot was green but once we got higher the mountain turned white. Many people are raving about the terrain of Revelstoke but I couldn’t see it. At least not all of it. Even with a meter of extra snow the inbound terrain is limited to North bowl. The rest is nice for a warm-up but NOT challenging at all. North bowl however offers some great skiing. A 15 minute hike gets you to the peak from where you can drop in at several places. From the top you also have a good view of McKenzie peak with its Brown Shorts couloir viewers left. Damn, I wanted to ski that thing. I met a Canadian skibuddy earlier and we decided to go for it. People skied it earlier that day and we couldn’t resist it. We hiked and we hiked before the weather came in. Half way up McKenzie it started to get dark and the clouds came in. We turned around and called it a day. I still want to go back to ski that thing…

Another great thing about Revelstoke is the easy access to the cat-skiing area. From the top of Stoke chair you can enter the area simply by traversing. Once you’ve passed the boundary of the resort, you put your skins on and go for a tour. There are plenty of options and most of them are either not too steep or in the trees, so all pretty safe. To summarize, a great playground! It’s nice to do some warm-up laps early morning before doing laps in North bowl. Just before closing time you duck the ropes and finish the day with a great tour. Light was sensational early season which made for some great sunsets.

For me, Revelstoke is not as good as Kicking Horse but I’d like to go back to do some more touring (both from Revelstoke skiresort as well as on Rogers Pass) and ski Brown Shorts!

Click here to see more pictures of my trip to Canada!

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