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4 Ways to Fuel Your Adventurous Soul on a BC Ski Trip

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RED Mountain Resort | Kari Medig

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Wouldn’t it be nice to ski in a place where it takes days (instead of a morning) for runs to get skied out after a dump? Where there are more skiable acres on the mountain than people living in the adjacent town? And where the sport is such a part of local culture that business owners hang up “Gone Skiing” signs on a powder morning?

That place is British Columbia, Canada, a snow rider’s paradise with expansive terrain, few lift lines, and so much snow they’re digging out chairlifts by season’s end. BC is also home to North America’s largest resort (Whistler), the ski area with the continent’s longest vertical drop (Revelstoke), and home to what’s probably the world’s cheapest cat-skiing at $10/run (RED Mountain). You’ll feel confident, too, engaging in après-ski this season, thanks to BC’s vaccination requirement to access bars and restaurants.

If the lure of safe and uncomplicated, crowd-free, ski-in/ski-out exploits doesn’t entice you to venture to the Great White North, here are four more ways to feed the winter adventurer within on a BC ski trip.

Revelstoke Mountain Resort's North Bowl | Andrew Strain

Shred big mountain terrain that’s inbounds

From Horstman Hut at the top of Blackcomb Mountain, it’s more than 1,500 metres (4,900 feet) of dizzying vertical through bumped-up glades and over screaming cruisers to Whistler Village. It’s no secret that this 8,100-acre behemoth resort is famous for its big mountain skiing, with 16 alpine bowls, and steep, grueling couloirs that challenge skiers to not catch an edge.

But thanks to BC’s wild geography—a whopping 10 mountain ranges cut through the province, from the Rockies in the east to the Coast Mountains in the west—you’ll encounter ungroomed terrain with natural elements like drops, chutes, and crazy deep powder that’s inbounds and avalanche controlled, at resorts north of the 49th parallel. Many are located within a few hours’ drive of the U.S.-Canada border, and it’s possible to hit two or three in one trip.

For a taste of extreme terrain you’ll have all to yourself, head to Revelstoke, located halfway between Vancouver and Calgary along what locals call the Powder Highway. Revelstoke, along with other towns in the Kootenay Rockies, make up Canada’s heli-skiing epicentre (Revy holds the record for the most snow in a single season at 23 metres or 78 feet!). Revelstoke Mountain Resort opened in 2007 after acquiring a parcel of cat-skiing terrain and adding a gondola to transport skiers up nearly 1,200 metres (4,000 feet) in just 20 minutes. From there, it’s just one more chairlift to get you to the summit and the start of North America’s longest vertical drop (1,700 metres or 5,620 feet).

Spend the day whooping it up in open bowls, down gnarly steeps, and through gladed gullies, with a vertigo-inducing view of the Columbia River more than a mile below. Then ski to your cozy room at the Sutton Place Hotel to relax in the hot tub before you get some sleep and do it all again tomorrow.

Nelson | Kari Medig

Experience true Canadiana in authentic ski towns

Many of Canada’s coolest ski towns are former mining centres that were established before the ski areas opened. There’s an authenticity to them because of their brick heritage buildings, storied pasts, and historic grit—they’re not shiny and new, and sometimes the adjacent ski areas can feel downright old-school. That down-to-earthness is also imparted by the locals, who have moved to places like Fernie and Nelson in modern times not to dig for coal or silver, but to mine powder.

Their love of winter sport elevates local lore, and legends are born. For example, you can’t ski in Fernie, a two-hour drive north of Kalispell, Montana, without hearing about The Griz, a bearskin-wearing man who supposedly wanders the resort’s alpine terrain shooting a musket into the clouds to release buckets of featherlight snow. Locals have been known to burn their old skis in offering, and The Griz reciprocates by bestowing up to 11 metres (37 feet) of white eider across Fernie Alpine Resort‘s five alpine bowls every season. There’s even a bar named in his honour at the base of the mountain where you can breathe in the classic smell of wet wool while downing mogul smoker cocktails under the watchful gaze of a taxidermied moose head.

In Nelson, a three-hour drive north of Spokane, you may want to cut the ski day short and go straight to après. Head to Broken Hill for poutine, a classic Canadian snack of fries served with cheese curds and housemade gravy, enjoy street-style tacos at Cantina del Centro, 100-mile burgers at Mike’s Pub, or pints of organic amber ale at one of four breweries.

If your ski legs are beat from doing laps at nearby Whitewater—ranked in the Top 10 for powder skiing by Lonely Planet—glide right over to Coal Oil Johnny’s Pub for “pow chow” in a Canadiana setting that includes snowshoes hanging on the wall. When you’re finally sated, Ainsworth Hot Springs Resort will rejuvenate those quads for more uncrowded groomers, bowls, steeps, and glades the following day.

Mount Washington Alpine Resort | Reuben Krabbe

Discover underrated resorts you've maybe never heard of

With 13 major ski areas in British Columbia, chances are there are a few gems you may not have heard of. Take Mount Washington Alpine Resort. It is not, as the name implies, located in Washington state; rather, it’s nestled in the rugged mountains on the east coast of Vancouver Island close to Comox (which has an airport and regular flights to and from Vancouver).

The skiing is surprisingly awesome on an island famous for its surf breaks, probably because Mount Washington’s 1,700 acres of bowls and glades get covered in up to 11.5 metres (38 feet) of snow every season. Even more bucket list-worthy than shredding on an island, it’s possible to ski and surf in the same day if you feel inclined to stop carving turns at lunch, drive 3.5 hours west across the island to Tofino, rent a surfboard, and ride the waves at Cox Bay in the afternoon.

Another underrated resort is RED Mountain, located just 14.4 kilometres (nine miles) north of the U.S.-Canada border in eastern Washington state. The 110 runs here rarely get tracked out, which isn’t surprising since it’s one of the continent’s top 10 largest ski resorts. That said, it’s not located near any big cities—Spokane (population just 217,000) is the closest urban centre, a 2.5-hour drive away.

Like many BC resorts, RED’s terrain skews toward advanced, with plenty of challenging glades and thrilling chutes mixed in with family-friendly cruisers. If, for some reason, there isn’t quite as much powder as you’d like, you can pay $10 CAD ($8 US) to have a snow cat drive you over to Mount Kirkup for a steep and deep run just outside the ski area boundary.

SilverStar Mountain Resort | Blake Jorgenson

Challenge yourself (or just chill out)

Another great feature of BC mountains is their varied terrain, which appeals to all abilities. These are resorts where kids can learn to turn, families can ski together, and freestyle hot shots can head for the moguls or off-piste powder. They also offer more than downhill riding. Off the slopes you can go ice skating, snowshoeing, snowmobiling, fat biking, or soak in slopeside hot pools like those at Panorama Mountain Resort.

You can also book on-mountain lessons to improve your form or challenge yourself on new terrain. At Panorama, located west of Banff National Park, sign up for an Adult Improvement Session with four friends or family members. Tailor the lesson to your liking, whether the focus is to gain confidence in the deep snow in Taynton Bowl, or to perfect your GS turns on those wide corduroy runs.

At SilverStar Mountain Resort in the Okanagan Valley north of Kelowna, a private lesson can help you tame the terrain at BC’s fourth-largest ski resort. A pro will show you the runs less skied, like those wide-spaced glades in Silver Woods, or help you handle the steep and deep pitches in Putnam Creek on the backside.

At both resorts, the terrain levels up as you progress, so you’ll never run out of challenges. And if the prospect of knee-knocking inbounds steeps that almost require a snorkel after a dump of powder doesn’t fuel your adventurous soul, there’s always heli-skiing right from the resort at Panorama, Kicking Horse, and Whistler.

Revelstoke Mountain Resort | Andrew Strain

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