Let’s face it, we’re spoiled for choice when it comes to epic resorts in the Canadian Rockies. Nothing represents that better than the aptly named Powder Highway, a stretch of road which connects 8 of the most legendary resorts in North America. You just don’t get snow (or views!) like this anywhere else in the world.
It takes something really special to rise above and become unforgettable. For most of us, we can count the most spectacular days on one hand.
Days where the conditions are so good that you forget to eat breakfast or lunch, days where you’re smiling so much that your face feels like it might fall off or days where the powder is so deep that your skis completely disappear.
For the locals in Fernie or Golden, those days are the norm.
Kicking Horse Ski Resort
Kicking Horse is a ski resort nestled in the Dogtooth Range of the Purcells. It’s about 3 hours West of Calgary, buried deep in the heart of the Rockies. Here are just a few reasons why it’s so spectacular:
It’s the Champagne Powder Capital of Canada
The mountains in Golden are particularly dry, meaning the snow that falls here is incredibly low density and fluffy. They get a lot of it too; on average over 24 feet of snow per year. On a good powder day you can virtually swim down the mountain.
The Advanced Terrain
Whereas most of the other mountains in the Rockies are a bit gentler and shallower, Kicking Horse is absolutely bursting with steep, advanced, unforgiving terrain.
In fact, 45 percent of Kicking Horse is rated as Advanced Terrain, with another 15 percent rated as expert. That encompasses almost 2/3 of the mountain and is a huge draw for adventure junkies.
Lunch on top of the World at Eagle’s Eye Restaurant
Even if you’re not yet ready for the advanced runs yet, you can still take the Gondola up for lunch at the highest restaurant in the country; the Eagle Eye Restaurant. Here you can enjoy the epic views with a selection of equally impressive gourmet burgers, salads and poutine.
Feel Like You’re Backcountry Skiing
Because it has so few lifts, access to the other bowls requires traversing and sometimes even hiking. That gives it a uniquely isolated feeling that you don’t often encounter at ski resorts. Not to mention, way less people.
Kicking Horse is a will make you feel like your heart is about to burst out of your chest, but if you conquer it, it’ll stick with you forever.
Fernie Alpine Resort
Fernie is an absolute obsession for anyone chasing powder. On a good day at Fernie, there is barely a place in the world that can compete. Take a look at why:
The Powder Here is Like Nothing You’ve Ever Seen.
Fernie Alpine Resort (FAR) is perfectly positioned in a high precipitation zone. It gets unfathomable amounts of snow. For example, in January of this year, it snowed over 150cm in a single week! That isn’t necessarily surprising though, when Fernie typically expects an average of 28.71ft of snow per year.
As many people might object, Fernie is a high precipitation zone that does have a reputation for rain as well as snow.
Unfortunately, it’s true, but you can’t get those high highs in Fernie without risking a few lows. Fortunately, the rainy days are extremely rare in the dead of winter, so the earlier you visit, the better.
First Tracks Program
One of the best experiences at Fernie is their First Tracks offer. For an extra fee, you can skip the lineup, hit the slopes early and experience a few of the freshest lines before they open to the general public. It’s an absolute game changer, especially if you manage to time your visit perfectly and get here on a heavy powder day.
First tracks must be booked by 4:45pm the night before and costs $299 for up to 3 people. It’s a guided experience that will take you through the resort’s best powder before anyone else touches it!
The Ice Bar Experience
If you really want a luxury experience, Lizard Creek Lodge is one of the best ski in/ski out hotels in the Canadian Rockies. Their hot tub is literally 50ft from the Elk Chair, giving you some of the best views around.
And then there’s the Ice Bar: grab a thick parka from the coat rack outside and jump into their -12C freezer for a guided vodka tasting experience like nothing else.
Fernie and Kicking Horse both have different weather systems, and often when one has no snow in the forecast, the other is getting dumped on. Kicking Horse and Fernie are both part of the Resorts of the Canadian Rockies (RCR) chain, so it’s easy to change destinations if you find one is getting more snow than the other.