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Its all about the skiing - James Cove, Kicking Horse
Friday February 6, 2015 - Email this article to a friend

Kicking Horse in Canada is known for one thing - deep powder snow. It is the first resort of our Canadian road trip as we take in 6 resorts in 12 days. PlanetSKI is on the road!

"It's not so good up there at the moment. The snow is not as we would want it and I'm afraid I can't describe it as an epic winter so far," said Richard Barker from Kicking Horse Powder Tours as we clicked into our skis.

I feigned some words about how it didn't really matter and I was just pleased to be in Canada and visit a resort I had never skied in before.

Inside though my heart sank.

You see I have just left the Alps which has had the biggest storm of the winter and I could also have been in the Pyrenees where even more snow has fallen. 

Kicking Horse is also one of those places that I had wanted to ski in for years and cross off my list. It was a shame not to see it at its best.

I looked at the piste map and saw a single gondola lift with a couple of chairlifts off to the side.

Kicking HorseKicking Horse

















The resort was also shrouded in thick cloud.  It didn't look too impressive.

The lift took a while - it wasn't like La Grave but there was a similarity as there seemed to be countless ways down from the three main ridge lines that leads off the top of the resort.

Things were looking up.

As a warm up run we stuck to the groomers and did top to bottom in a single, long hit.

First up; the groomersFirst up; the groomers













"Welcome to The Horse let's go hit the shutes and bowls," said Richard.

First up was Stairway to Heaven. 

It was a gentler ascent than its counterpart in Verbier, Switzerland, but led to some similar terrain.

Will it live up to its promise?Will it live up to its promise?


























All thoughts of being back in the Alps had long since vanished. Kicking Horse was living up to its reputation.

We skied Feuz bowl from Redemption Ridge, CPR ridge and others.  Even though CPR stands for Canadian Pacific Railroad it certanly got the heart going.

Elsewhere there was the wonderfully-named Suckers Go Left, Coffin Trees and Dutch Wallet (so called because it is hard to get into).

Into the shutesInto the shutes














And we rounded off on Terminator 1 - the ascent here is a 15 minute boot up. Not far, but long enough as the final run of the day.

Booting upBooting up













Trying to smileTrying to smile













At the top we came across a full scale avalanche rescue operation taking place that I have reported about elsewhere on PlanetSKI. 

We stuck to different, and safe, terrain. The options from the top seemed endless. 

The runs off Terminator would challenge any good off piste skier.

The only way is downThe only way is down













And the snow?

We had about 20cm of fresh powder - more than enough.

At lunch we bumped into one of the local legends - Felix Belczyk.

He is a former Canadian Olympic Downhill racer (Calgery and Albertville) and now runs Copper Horse Lodge in the resort. 

He was also the celebrity who cut the ribbon opening the resort back in 2000.

"The resort has changed a bit since it opened with more lifts and greater terrain but essentially it is still the same and has kept to its principles - this is a resort for serious skiers who enjoy powder and want to be challenged," Felix told me.

Felix and JamesFelix and James














However in recent years it has also made some changes to attract the intermediate crowd and those who want a break from the powder. Nowdays it is not all about scaring yourself silly.

Gentle trails have been made and runs widened.

"We have improved many of the slopes and increased the grooming capacity of the resort.  Not everyone wants to ski the gnarly stuff all day long and so we have introduced some options," said the marketing executive of the resort, Andy Brown.

Not all steep and deepNot all steep and deep













The resort has some snow cannons - three to be precise and it only ever runs one at a time. 

As many resorts in Europe and North America boast about the number of cannons they have and the extent of the snow making, Kicking Horse boasts that it doesn't really need them.


One of threeOne of three













"We don't really need artificial snow here just a little top up in places," said John Parry from the Big Mountain Centre, BMC.

It is a branch of the ski school and offers lessons in the powder and guided tours round the secret spots of the resort. The BMC guys are well worth hiring if you want to get the most out of a trip here.

So too is a day out with Adrenelin Descents.

They go deeper into the wilderness.

On Day Two we jumped on skidoos and headed out. 

Into the backcountryInto the backcountry















It was a 20 minute ride on the machines to the base camp. 

Base campBase camp













"We overnight here sometimes and use it as our base to explore the area, but today we are on a bit of a timetable so lets get the skins on and head on up," said the guide from Adenelin Descents, Scott Belton.

It was a gentle 3 hour climb on skins to be followed by the sweetest 30 minutes of fresh powder.

Heading upHeading up













Coming downComing down













The skidoos may have taken us into the interior but we had earned our turns.

Kicking Horse had delivered. And more.

The town itself is quiet and those in search of an apres ski beer head to Winston Lodge. 

There is a wide choice of good accomodation and most people would be more than happy with Vagabond Lodge run by Ken & Lori Chilibeck who are excellent Canadian hosts.

Overall though people come here to ski and ski hard.

One thing that had intrigued me is why the resort is called Kicking Horse.

It turns out that in 1858 the British railway surveyor, Sir James Hector, was crossing the river in the valley as plans were laid for the railway to be built.  As he waded across the river one of the pack horses fell.

He went to its rescue and received a hard kick in the chest. He survived the initial blow but it eventually killed him.

And so the river was named. And then the ski resort.

Kicking Horse riverKicking Horse river













As my 48 hours in Kicking Horse drew to an end and I packed to head off to Lake Louise, I had a single thought in my head.

If this is what Kicking Horse delivers during a sub-standard winter for snow then just think what it would be like under normal conditions. Or better.

It is all relative and the bar here is set very high.

It's all about the skiing.


James Cove was staying in the resort with Kicking Horse Powder Tours that offer tailored made holiday to the resorts with options ot ski in nearby resorts.

Here is an example itinerary for a 10-day trip.

The costings work out to approx £1,000 per person for a 10-day trip based on 4 with an Aspens unit, lift tickets and a day with the BMC.

Additional BMC days are £ 85 per day each ( based on 4). Guiding per day would be £ 100 per person per day ( based on 4).

Backcountry guiding options include: A 2 day backcountry guiding trip with an overnight stay at the camp would be £365 per person including meals (based on 4).

A 2-day Level 1 avalanche training course could be included in the camp trip for an additional £50.

A Day of Heli skiing with Purcell Heli Skiing would be £685 per person for the day

Flights and car hire not included. Flights from approx £650.

An SUV (Jeep Cherokee) rental is approx £600 for 10 days

See here for further details.

For the spirit of the mountains

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