Overview of Kicking Horse, British Columbia
Written by Greg and Heather Burke
Kicking Horse is a bit wild like its name. Unbridled, rather undiscovered ski terrain for most. This relatively new to the ski scene having opened in 2000. T Canadian ski resort is 2.5 hours west of Calgary on the TransCanada highway, anchored by the town of Golden. The Dogtooth Mountain Range makes up the dramatic ski terrain in the Purcells, across the Columbia River from the Canadian Rocky Mountains. Kicking Horse is surrounded by unbelievable scenery, with six National Parks in view from the panoramic summit, Banff National Park, Glacier, Kootenay, Yoho, Mt Revelstoke, and Jasper National Park.
The ski terrain at Kicking Horse is kick ass, encompassing 2,800 acres of steeps and tons of inbound chutes and ungroomed, naturalness. With a vertical drop of 4,133', Kicking Horse is the third greatest in Canada and fourth in North America. For comparison, Kicking Horse's gondola goes from the base to 7,077’ in 12-minutes for a 4,000’ thigh burning vertical. Runs here are long, and the majority are not groomed. Four ridges divide the Kick your butt terrain into four bowls: Crystal Bowl, Super Bowl, Bowl Over and the steepest Feuz Bowl - served by the famous Stairway to Heaven chair that reaches the highest point of 8,033’. From here you climb the Stairway to Heaven staircase to a crazy panoramic summit where you drop into Feuz Bowl over the cornice, traverse to a slighter tamer entry (or retreat back down the stairs).
Our first-day skiing Kicking Horse, we logged just 10 runs but an amazing 28,000’ vertical, and the steeps and chutes we skied off Terminator, CPR and Redemption Ridge were wilder than any heli-ski terrain we encountered in the Canadian Rockies. This mountain kicks butt but, and has limited beginner terrain. The Greens here should be blue, the blues are blacks…There are a few groomers, including a long “Green” cat track “It’s a Ten” from the top snaking all the way to the base – 10-kilometers, I’d say this green is not for beginners as it is two cat tracks width, bordered on both sides by drop-offs in certain scenic but potentially scary spots.
On the tamer side, Kicking Horse is home to the most beautiful Eagle’s’ Eye mountain top lodge, Canada's highest elevation restaurant, located just off the gondola at 7,705'. You must dine here, we suggest you make reservations and enjoy lunch here of an elk burger, a beer and a view. Even better, take the gondola up on around 4:30 for après ski at the Golden Eye Bar as the sun sets over the Purcells, the Bugaboos and the Rockies – absolutely stunning (bring your sunglasses and camera). Stay for dinner – the food is fantastic then download when it’s dark, descending to the Kicking Horse ski village. Note: most people come up for dinner at 7, it's dark then, no view…you get the picture.
Kicking Horse resort village is minimal but everything you need. We recommend the Glacier Mountaineer Lodge in the heart of Kicking Horse's ski village for lodging. The Glacier and Mountaineer Lodge buildings offer studio units to one bedroom suites, well decorated and equipped with gas fireplaces, kitchens, and balconies just steps from the Gondola. You can’t get closer to the slopes or the general store, ski shops and après ski pubs like Peaks. You have underground parking, ski lockers and a small outdoor hot tub on the slope side of the building. Views differ from the front side looking at the slopes and the valley side looking out at the Rockies – both are spectacular. From The Glacier and Mountaineer Lodges, sister properties, you are a short walk to Corks and the Kicking Horse Saloon for après ski and dining, or a 10-minute drive down to the town of Golden. Other activities while visiting Kicking Horse, if the mountain kicks your butt and you need a day off, include snowmobiling on vast terrain, or visiting the longest authentic covered timber frame bridge in Canada that crosses the Kicking Horse River in Golden.
Kicking Horse is not yet on most skiers' must-ski list, since it is fairly new – opened in 2000. Kicking Horse was previously Whitetooth Ski Area, operated humbly by the Town of Golden since 1986. Kicking Horse is actually named for the Kicking Horse River that passes through this southeastern section of British Columbia.
Kicking Horse Mountain Resort is also the home to a 22-acre Grizzly Bear "Refuge". Resident Grizzly Bear Boo can occasionally be seen mid-winter from the Gondola or as you ski by his bear fence if he decides to pop out, though sightings are more frequent in summer.
We recommend you lodge on mountain lodging at Kicking Horse's Glacier Mountaineer Lodge. There are other ski-in ski-out properties, Palliser Lodge, Copper Horse Lodge, Vagabond Lodge, and Winston Lodge, all located within the ski mountain base, in close proximity to the Golden Eagle Express Gondola and the ski plaza but Glacier and Mountaineer are closest. Or you can lodge in downtown Golden at the Days Inn for less, but you might miss first tracks. To add to your Kicking Horse vacation, we recommend a day heli-skiing with Purcell Heli Skiing just a 10-minute drive into Golden.
Kicking Horse is part of the Resorts of the Canadian Rocky Mountains, which includes Kimberley, Fernie, and Nakiska in western Canada, Mont Sainte Anne and Stoneham in Quebec. Consider making Kicking Horse part of a Canadian ski safari starting in Calgary, driving the TransCanada Highway, visiting Revelstoke two hours away also in British Columbia, and nearby Lake Louise and Sunshine in Banff Alberta.