'You should go there man, the terrain is mind blowing'. They were the words of a Canadian friend in the 2003/2004 season. I spent the season ski bumming in Fernie, BC. Skiing every day, regardless of the conditions. Riding powder when there was powder and if it was hard-packed we'd go touring, go for a hike or just ski the hill top to bottom a dozen times. The word of Kicking Horse was spreading fast and I wanted to know if they resort was hyped for a reason. And it was only a four hour drive away.
Kicking Horse Mountain Resort in its current state was a pretty new resort. The first lift opened in 1986 and back in those days the 'resort' listened to the name Whitetooth Ski Area. It consisted of the Pioneer Chair and was owned by the community of Golden, the town in the valley. The ski area was only open from Friday to Sunday. This was not unusual for smaller resorts in North America, which mainly have a function for the community, not for tourism. You had to make sure you were there on Friday and enjoy these 'Powder Fridays' with untracked snow. Everything changed in 1999, when the Dutch company Ballast Nedam bought the ski area from the municipality and started investing. A new gondola was built and Kicking Horse Mountain Resort was a fact.
This new gondola accessed terrain with a vertical of 1260 meters (2450 meters top and 1190 meters base). And the terrain was pretty awesome. It only got better when the chairlift 'Stairway to Heaven' was opened in 2002. You had access to five very large bowls with amazing possibilities. You will find lines in Crystal Bowl, Bowl Over and Fuez Bowl that can challenge lines in every other resort. The Super Bowl was added to the resorts inbound terrain in 2010.
That first visit to Kicking Horse obviously was a success. Although the powder had already been tracked and you really had to search for pockets with snow, even Stevie Wonder could see the challenges and the possibilities of the terrain. Steep couloirs, lots of cliffs and large bowls make sure that every skier or boarder should have visited Kicking Horse at least once. When you get to mid-mountain, you can train your legs on the moguls at almost every slope (or you have to follow the long green slope down). You get back to the gondola, warm up and start all over again.
I've regularly been back to Kicking Horse in those fourteen and I learned to appreciate the area more and more. Yes, the powder gets tracked fast and you have to be there at the right time. And to be very honest, in the roughly 20 days I have skied in Kicking Horse, I only had two 'real' powder days. But they were brilliant. On the other days I simply became a better skier.
The town of Golden is like a unpolished gem. You really need to spent some time there to truely appreciate it. Like more 'skitowns' in BC, the economy used to be all about the Canadian Pacific Railway and the logging industry. Golden still has the edges from then, but the addition of ski and outdoor tourism added a nice vibe. Just have dinner at the Fire Pit, where they serve a 600 gram burger or in one of the bars downtown. Have you breakfast at The Big Bend Cafe, which is located downtown. Fortunately, little has changed in Kicking Horse. The vibe, the people, the terrain and the snow have not changed in those fourteen years. And that's how it should be.