When you tell people you’re going to go skiing BC’s Powder Highway over Christmas they kinda screw their face up and go; “Ooo, good luck making it over the Coquihalla”. Their faces screw up even more when you mention your car isn’t a 4×4 but a big van.
For our first Christmas away from home we headed out on a winter road trip. The plan was to ski along some of BC’s Powder Highway. First we’d be hitting up Revelstoke which is known as a powder haven for experienced skiiers who love heli-skiing and cat-skiing (where you go up on a snowmobile and ski down).
Then, the plan was to go to Sun Peaks (slightly outside the official powder highway area); BC’s second largest ski area but this changed due to road closures and we found ourselves at SilverStar Mountain after a very long detour.
Our trip to Revelstoke meant we were skiing in BC’s Powder Highway. SilverStar Mountain sits slightly outside the Powder Highway boundary but is still worth visiting.
Where ever you end up, skiing in the Okanagan and the Powder Highway is well worth the long drive from Vancouver if you’ve got time. Sure, Whistler is great, but skiing in the interior might just be better.
What is BC’s Powder Highway?
The Powder Highway is the dream road trip for any ski or snowboard lover. It’s in the southeastern corner of British Columbia (AKA The Kootenay Rockies) and has the highest concentration of alpine resort, backcountry, cat, heli and nordic skiing/riding in the WORLD. That’s a pretty big claim to (powder) fame.
The powder here comes in both quality and quantity. There’s about 18 metres of the fluffy white stuff on average a year. And this isn’t just any powder either. It’s Champagne Powder; a very light, dry and fluffy type of snow.
If you ask the locals they’ll confirm that the snow here is better than at Whistler. And, if you ask skiiers used to the snow in the Alps, they’ll tell you that Whistler snow is fluffier than the Alps. Basically you’re going to get some super fluffy, light snow on BC’s Powder Highway.
BC’s Powder Highway covers 3,125,460+ acres and is made up of over 80 ski operators. There are 8 Alpine ski resorts; Fairmont Hot Springs Resort, Fernie Alpine Resort, Kicking Horse Mountain Resort, Kimberley Alpine Resort, Panorama Mountain Village, Red Mountain Resort, Revelstoke Mountain Resort and Whitewater Ski Resort plus a load of backcountry lodges, nordic skiing area and cat and heli skiing companies.
Whilst skiing the entirety of BC’s Powder Highway would take much longer than the 7 days we had (and a lot more money: skiing ain’t cheap!), we gave Revelstoke a good ski and finished up with a second, more family & beginner friendly resort.
This is the best map of the Powder Highway terrain I’ve found so far!
Driving BC’s Powder Highway
If you’re coming from Vancouver, the drive involves conquering the infamous Coquihalla highway. A high mountain pass road which is often snowy, icy and windy. You can also take the 3 which is longer but prettier and generally less dangerous.
Whichever option you take, make sure you have winter tyres (at the very least mud and snow tyres) and snow chains. You should also make sure you have a winter kit in your vehicle including things like a blanket, ice scraper and shovel.
We’ve found the Drive BC site and twitter feed to be super useful whenever we go on a road trip. They keep it updated with the latest road conditions, traffic and incidents. I’d recommend bookmarking it!
Revelstoke Mountain Resort
Revelstoke Mountain Resort is the newest ski resort I’ve ever been to. The 2017/2018 season sees the resort celebrate its 10th birthday. However the mountain has been skied on for much longer than that which gave Revelstoke the chance to earn it’s reputation.
Skiing at Revelstoke Mountain Resort
It’s definitely not a great resort for beginners since only 7% of terrain is rated as beginner friendly, 45% intermediate and 48% for advanced skiers. That’s not to say you’ll find nothing here, but if you are a beginner or lower-end intermediate then you’d be better off at SilverStar Mountain Resort.
Whilst I’ve be fortunate enough to do quite a lot of skiing over the years, I’m not the most confident skier. On our first day here the pistes were pretty icy and other skiers in resort came speeding down the mountain as if they were competing in the Olympic Downhill. This knocked my confidence a bit, but it came back the second day!
Another thing to know about Revelstoke is that it’s huge in terms of skiable terrain. The whole resort is made up of 3,121 acres yet there are only 69 trails.
This is in part because there is a tonne of off-piste skiing to be done and also because those 69 trails are much longer than most.
Revelstoke has the longest vertical in North America. Skiing from top to bottom takes you down 1,713m (that’s 104m more than Whistler Blackcomb!).
Revelstoke’s skiing terrain is mostly below treeline. This means there’s plenty of off piste where you can go between the trees. There’s also a lot of steep runs, moguls and glades.
You could split the resort up into three sections. There’s the frontside where most of the trails are, the North Bowl and a hike-to area above The Stoke Chair on the frontside. There’s loads more that’s only accessible by snowmobile or helicopter too!
Whilst the snow was disappointing by Revelstoke standards when we were there, there was still plenty play with. And since we left they’ve been bombarded with snow!
Snowshoeing at Revelstoke Nordic Club
On Christmas Day we had a lazier morning and made our way to Revelstoke Nordic Club for some snowshoeing. The club is about 7km south of Revelstoke and is on Mount Macpherson. It’s open to non-members too and their rental prices are very reasonable.
If you’re a nordic skier you’d have a great time on the 26km of groomed trail. They also keep several trail (6km worth) open at night.
We hired snowshoes for $11 and hit the dedicated snowshoe trails and then got a bit lost on the way back down. But hey, who cares, it was pretty!
Dog sledding at Revelstoke
I’ve always wanted to give dogsledding a try but I’ve worried that the dogs might not seem very well looked after. As soon as we were met at our hotel by Eric from Revelstoke Dogsled Adventures I knew I didn’t have anything to worry about.
He owns the company and obviously cares hugely about his dogs. Three of the dogs on our trip were born right under his bed and others were rescued! They were also much friendlier than I was expecting from working dogs.
We got to meet and play with the dogs, put their harnesses on and stand at the back of the sled while we were running. It was a great experience and a lot more hands-on than I’ve heard of dog sledding at bigger resorts.
Revelstoke Mountain Resort is a few km outside of Revelstoke Town. Chances are that you’ll be staying in the town when you visit since there’s only one hotel up at the resort currently.
If there are any non-skiers in your group then they’d find plenty to keep them entertained in the town.
If they do tire of the town then there’s some hot springs not far away!
Where to after Revelstoke?
After you’ve got your fix of powder at Revelstoke head further west to Kicking Horse Mountain Resort which has a pretty similar reputation. Or, head south towards Red Mountain and Whitewater Mountain Resorts.
Have you skied on BC’s Powder Highway? I’d love to know which resort we should head to next!