(photo above: © Ryan Flett)
To the uninitiated, the Powder Highway sounds like some sort of mythical, ski-bum Shangri-La. But it is, in fact, a very real place, based in the Kootenay Rockies of interior British Columbia, where deep snow, funky towns, and some of the most down-home, stash-laden, adventure-packed ski resorts in North America exist.
Forget about getting your kicks on Route 66. When it comes to pointing your sticks in the white stuff, the Powder Highway is the place to be. A 680-mile loop of eight legendary ski resorts in the Kootenay Rockies of British Columbia, this road to winter connects deep snow, funky towns, and vibrant locals for one epic adventure. And it just so happens that RED Mountain Resort – where one of Noble House’s newest properties, The Josie, is located – sits at the southernmost tip of the route, making a trip on the Powder Highway a must-do for skiers and riders jonesing for a new journey. Here’s the know-how on thigh-high pow, starting at RED Mountain and traversing in a clockwise direction to four of the best resorts along this legendary loop.
RED Mountain Resort [Rossland]
Since 1897, when a group of Scandinavian miners first organized a downhill race in Canada’s Monashee Mountain Range, RED Mountain Resort has been luring schussers to its varied slopes. It’s the birthplace of skiing in Western Canada, thanks to the first chairlift that started cranking here in 1947. Today, the resort delivers 4,200 acres, 110 trails, and seven lifts across four peaks with 305 inches of snow per year, and consistently earns top honors for its terrain – what all those stats suggest is that if you’re looking for some powder turns, you’ll find them. Experts will find their fare among the glades skier’s right off the Motherlode chair on Granite Mountain or among the cleverly named The Chute Show section off Grey Mountain. Intermediates will be happy skier’s right off Grey Mountain or running laps on the Paradise chair side of Granite Mountain or lower on Red Mountain. It’s also home to Canada’s first ski-in/ski-out luxury boutique hotel, The Josie, built over the course of a decade.
Must-Ski Run: Link’s Line on a powder day is epic. Stay to skier’s right if you want to catch some air, and stay to skier’s left if you want to stay on the ground.
Insider Tip: $10 cat rides to access 1,600 feet of vertical over nearly 200 acres of gladed tree skiing? You’ll find it only on RED’s Mount Kirkup. The pickup spot is just a few quick turns from the top of Grey Mountain chairlift. The shuttle runs 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., no reservations required.
Best Après: The Velvet, The Josie’s on-site restaurant, is a classy, contemporary, and convenient restaurant boasting a diverse menu of beer and cocktails to pair with a cheese or charcuterie board.
Town Vibe: Rossland is an old mining town where beautiful old buildings lining Main Street house fabulous eateries, a boutique chocolatier, an artist’s gallery, and even a coffee roaster.
Kicking Horse Resort [Golden]
Developed from a small local hill in 2000, when a long gondola was built accessing two high, powder-filled bowls, Kicking Horse now offers more than 120 runs on 3,486 skiable acres. Home to one of the longest vertical drops in North America at 4,134 feet – only five feet shorter than Jackson Hole – it features similarly gnarly skiing: pillows, cliffs, ridges, and straight-up body-tingling steepness. And from where it’s situated on the eastern slopes of the Purcell Mountain Range, it receives some of Canada’s best champagne powder.
Must-Ski Run: A short hike from Stairway to Heaven brings you to the aptly named White Wall, a long, steep powder field filled with banks and drops.
Best Après: Double Black is a bustling little café just steps from the gondola that serves local beer from White Tooth Brewery (also located in Golden).
Whitewater Ski Resort [Nelson]
A half-hour from the funky and culturally vibrant town of Nelson, Whitewater is known for some of the deepest, driest, and dependable powder around, totaling more than 40 feet each season. Often referred to as “humble yet huge” as it is far from the madding crowd of mega-resorts common to other BC mountains, the resort offers more than 2,000 vertical feet of chutes, bowls, steeps, deeps, glades, and cruisers that sit just beneath the resort’s majestic Ymir Peak.
Must-Ski Run: Right off Summit chair, Ignitor has a good fall-line pitch and should be your go-to first run on a powder day. Stay to skier’s left if you want to catch air – just don’t wipe out or you’ll get heckled hard from everybody on the chairlift watching you.
Revelstoke Mountain Resort [Revelstoke]
For decades, heli- and cat-skiers from across the globe flocked to Revelstoke, BC, attracted by its perfect powder, varied alpine terrain, and quaint mountain community of just 8,000 residents. While still surrounded by those legendary heli- and cat-skiing operations, the resort offers the most lift-accessed vertical terrain in North America – a whopping 5,620 feet – across more than 3,000 acres on Mount Mackenzie. Discover four high alpine bowls and 69 named runs, not to mention the 515,000 acres of terrain accessed by helicopters and snowcats.
Must-Ski Run: Kill the Banker, underneath the gondola, is one of the most fun runs. There are a ton of pillows and bumps and jumps. Hit this one first.
Best Après: Rockford, right at the base of the gondola, has great food. There’s nothing like a big, warm bowl of Asian soup after a day of skiing.
Fernie Alpine Resort [Fernie]
Known for its annual snowfall (up to 37 feet, enough to cover a three-story building), Fernie is a mountain that strikes the perfect balance of being somewhat undiscovered and being developed. Skiers and riders – a unique mix of powder hounds and families – discover a variety of terrain on 142 trails, five vast alpine bowls that spill down from a serrated limestone ridge, and a top elevation of 7,000 feet and 2,500 acres.
Must-Ski Run: Currie Bowl – one of the mountain’s five bowls – is set on a north-facing slope that holds snow well for long runs with lots of secret powder stashes.