Feel the stoke! Get stoked! Get worked by the greatest vertical drop of any ski area in North America! Oh, my aching calves . . .
Our journey on British Columbia’s Powder Highway continued with two days at Revelstoke. Here a two-leg gondola system and a high-speed quad whisk you 5,620 feet above the Columbia River Valley. It’s so big from top to bottom that it can be snowing at the summit, and corn snow at the bottom with patches of green grass showing. We learned to stay off the lower slopes in the mornings, as they can be icy and hard-packed. But they usually soften as the day progresses, so we made several top to bottom runs just to say we did it. When conditions allow, a single expert run running under the upper gondy line, Kill the Banker, drops an astounding 2,864 vertical feet. Add in the resort’s 3,120 acres and you’ve got a massive ski area. On our first day here, we were done in after a mere four hours; while on day two we pushed on for more than five hours, including one last summit-to-base sweep.
Perhaps the best skiing is found off the summit chair, the high-speed Stoke. There is one catwalk, Last Spike, that winds downward for miles and miles, but that’s the only easy way off the top. Everything else is an expert or double black, even one tagged blue, Critical Path. At the summit, the snow stays soft and days after snowfall we found lots of fine skiing here, and even more under the overlooked Stellar Chair. A popular sector off The Stoke Chair is North Bowl, which requires either a long traverse — or a walk for boarders — or an even more ambitious hike along Lemming Line for a higher entry point into the bowl. North
Bowl’s runs converge and eventually lead you out to The Ripper Chair. It runs a hefty 6,168 feet in length over a vertical rise of 1,732 feet and serves mostly groomed intermediate runs.
While conditions were not conducive to spending much time in the woods, there are a thousand or more acres of dark and isolated forests to explore. And for the really fit, one can boot-pack up from the Stoke to reach chutes off Sub Peak, the highest in-bounds point. Opened in 2007, this is a ski area for the ages that has quickly assumed its place in the pantheon of global greats.
5,620 feet of lift-served vertical drop; 3,120 acres; 402 inches annual snowfall; summit elevation 7,677 feet in-bounds; 12 percent beginner, 43 percent intermediate, 30 percent advanced, 15 percent expert; on both the IKON and Mountain Collective passes. It is usually open to mid-April. Details at Revelstoke Mountain Resort.
There are limited on-site accommodations, including The Sutton Place Hotel (with an outdoor pool and hot tub), but lots of construction is seen in and near the base area, so additional options are forthcoming. And, just 10 minutes away in the adjoining town of Revelstoke, many other choices beckon, from short-term home rentals to condos, hotels, and motels. The Grizz Hotel is right in the heart of the town’s historic district, as is the boutique property The Explorer’s Society Hotel. A low-budget option is the Sandman Hotel located just off Canadian Highway 1 in a new commercial district flanked by American standards like McDonald’s and Denny’s, as well as the ubiquitous Canadian coffee house, Tim Horton’s. The Sandman has two pools and hot tubs, though none were operational during our visit.
There are several choices for eating lunch on the slopes, which makes sense considering the long descent to the base complex. McKenzie Outpost at the top of the gondola is a good pick for basic fare — the poutine with bacon and a local lager did the trick! — while the Revelation Lodge offers a much wider selection. If you are in the base, La Petite Baguette is a terrific choice, with excellent soups, salads, gourmet sandwiches, pastries, and such. With almost everyone eating on the mountain, we found it surprisingly calm and quick.
In town, there are dozens of choices. One night we ate at a fusion German/Indian restaurant, the popular Paramjit’s Kitchen. Sounds odd, but it was excellent! We also really enjoyed two nights at Frisby Ridge Sushi, with its prompt service, friendly staff, and excellent fresh entrees, miso soups, teriyakis, terrific sushi, and more.
Apres & Off-Slope
Right at the base of the gondy is Rockford Bar, where we wound down and refueled after a huge day on the slopes with some excellent appetizers and fine cocktails. Beside it, on a large patio, is MacKenzie Common Tavern & Food Truck. In town, the Village Idiot Bar & Grill is a lively spot from late afternoons on, with excellent pizza. Mt. Begbie Brewing Co. has been slinging award-winning beers for more than 25 years, while Quartermasters serves up fine whiskeys, crafty cocktails, and beers, plus excellent (but pricey) meals.
As in Nelson, the town is also home to a wonderful public amenity, the Community & Aquatic Center, with a sauna, steam room, whirlpools, and a pool with diving boards and a climbing wall angled over the water! Admission is just $5 US. There are also museums, galleries, locally owned shops, the Roxy Theatre, and much more in this historic town, founded in the 1880s.
There’s also excellent Nordic skiing, snowmobiling, and snowshoeing, and outfitters and guides to lead you to the goods. Adjacent to two national parks — Mount Revelstoke and Glacier — there’s also incredible sightseeing, and both winter and summer activities galore. Mount Revelstoke is home to the Nels Nelson Ski Jump, which hosted international tournaments from 1915 to the late 1960s.
Though it’s on the northernmost leg of the Powder Highway, reached from the south by a series of two-lane roads, many Revelstoke visitors fly into Calgary and make a five-hour drive to the town. You can also fly into Kelowna, about 2.5 hours away by rental car or shuttle bus. Our route northward from Nelson on Hwy 23 took us right past Halcyon Hot Springs Resort, with its lithia thermal waters, restaurant, and bar before we boarded a public, free ferry across a massive manmade lake on the Columbia River, and continued another hour’s drive to Revelstoke. It was a divine detour!
Top image: As this shot shows, even an opening day at Revelstoke Mountain Resort can be epic! Photo courtesy RMR.
Story by Daniel Gibson • Courtesy photos
Editor’s Note: This is the second of four articles focused on the Powder Highway of British Columbia. Part 1 explored RED Mountain Resort and Whitewater Ski Resort; Part 2 covers Revelstoke Mountain Resort; Part 3 zeros in on Kicking Horse Mountain Resort; and Part 4 profiles Panorama and Fernie Alpine Resort. A new article will be posted on SantaFe.com every Wednesday over the next three weeks.
Daniel Gibson was presented a Lifetime Achievement Award from the New Mexico Ski Hall of Fame in October 2022 for his snowsports writing. He is the co-author of Images of America: Skiing in New Mexico (Arcadia Publishing, 2021), with 183 historic photos; and author of New Mexico’s only comprehensive ski guidebook, Skiing New Mexico: Snow Sports in the Land of Enchantment (UNM Press, 2017). He is a member of the North American Snowsports Journalist Association and has written on the topic for newspapers coast to coast, websites, and magazines, including Powder, Ski, and Wintersport Business. He can be reached at [email protected] or via DanielBGibson.com.