Mountain Towns: Golden

Kicking Horse Mountain Resort, in the Rocky Mountains near Golden.

Amazing powder at Kicking Horse Mountain Resort. Photo: RCR-Trent Bona

There was a time when Golden was barely on the ski map. Up until the end of 2000, the mountainous terrain around this railroad town was served exclusively by a small, weekend-only ski area named Whitetooth. It operated since 1986, and people had been backcountry skiing here for decades, but the name “Golden” was not on many skiers tongues outside the immediate area. Not until the Kicking Horse busted the town’s reputation wide open.

Kicking Horse Mountain Resort

Eagle’s Eye Restaurant at Kicking Horse Mountain Resort in Golden.

Eagle’s Eye Restaurant boasts an amazing view. Photo: RCR-Dave Best

When Kicking Horse Mountain Resort opened in 2000, the ski and snowboard world noticed. They had to. With some of the steepest sustained fall lines, gnarly chutes, and some good old-fashioned powder bowl skiing, Kicking Horse came on like a wild animal. People now flock to the resort for serene panoramic vistas followed by rowdy, leg-burning descents. Of course, it’s not all hardcore. As with any ski resort in North America, there are options for families with kids, especially in the lower terrain grandfathered in from Whitetooth. And there’s also an easy, 10-kilometre (6 mile) run that goes all the way from the peak to base, so beginners aren’t restricted to the lower sections. In short, everyone’s welcome, but experts will fall in love a whole lot faster.

The resort is made up of 1,133 hectares (2,800 acres), four bowls, countless chutes, and a bunch of ridgelines. The big three ridges for skiing cool lines are named CPR, Terminator, and Redemption. There are only four lifts, so getting around is easy. It’s an explorer’s mountain. Get up there and root around. Everyone finds something.

Backcountry Skiing in Golden

Beautiful skies over Kicking Horse Mountain Resort in Golden.

Beautiful skies over Kicking Horse Mountain Resort. Photo: RCR

One of the qualities that makes Golden’s mountain town status shine so bright is its access to backcountry. Arguably, it’s the nexus of cat, heli and human-powered backcountry skiing and riding. With three heliskiing companies and one catskiing operation, the area knows how to make good use of the numerous ranges that come together here. Indeed, the first heli-skiing in the world went down in the nearby Bugaboo Range. Rogers Pass, an easy drive from town, also offers world-class backcountry.

Food and Drink

Dogs at the top of Kicking Horse Mountain Resort.

Enjoying some mountain-top downtime. Photo: RCR

When the shredding’s done, the celebration begins. The Eagle’s Eye Restaurant at the top of the gondola is worth spending extra cash. Enjoy a drawn-out cocktail complete with as-far-as-the-eye-can-see mountain views, or splurge on a dinner. It’s an experience mostly found in European ski destinations. The town of Golden has a recent influx of great spots to stop for a drink and a bite to eat after a day of testing what you thought were strong legs.

In the morning, Purcell Coffee in town or the Double Black Café on the mountain are your best choices to get caffeinated. For lunch or dinner, the Cedar House is known for upscale urban fare, and Eleven22 is a relatively affordable local’s favourite that does dinner right. Don’t miss it. As for après, the Riverhouse Tavern is a pub that some might call a dive bar, and others might call perfect. The Golden Taps is another simple, cozy pub with good beer. Drink the local stuff. It’s better. Also, be sure to open up to the locals. They love their little ski town and are proud to talk about it. They should be.

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How to Storm Watch in BC: Enjoying Winter Weather at a Cosy Retreat

The waves  at Tofino's Wickaninnish Inn, Vancouver Island.

The waves are a major draw at Tofino’s Wickaninnish Inn. Image: Sander Jain

The concept of celebrating winter storms, rather than avoiding them, was the brainchild of Charles McDiarmid of Tofino’s oceanfront Wickaninnish Inn. He grew up loving wild weather and figured others, too, would revel in braving the Pacific gales that send giant breakers thundering onto Vancouver Island’s long, west coast beaches.

He was right. That’s why the Wick Inn supplies slickers and gumboots that dehydrate in a special drying space outside their Driftwood Café while guests relax by a crackling wood fire, red-cheeked and cosy, savouring a special in-the-moment bliss that Danish people have a word for—hygge (“heu-gah”).

Coastal storm watching launched in the mid-’90s and has since gone viral. Enthusiasts pack up rain gear, warm blankets, and books, stock up on goodies, and settle into oceanfront B&Bs, lodges, and cabins. Surfers ride winter waves on exposed beaches, from Sombrio on the island’s southern tip all the way north to Haida Gwaii, where winds regularly hit more than 40 kilometres per hour November through January.

Northern BC's Cassiar Cannery.

Northern BC’s Cassiar Cannery. Image: Justine Crawford

Winter tempests in BC come in all sizes, shapes, and forms. The Cassiar Cannery, on the coast 25 minutes from Prince Rupert in Northern BC, is a unique spot to watch cold dry air from the province’s Interior blast 600 kilometres (373 miles) down the Skeena River smack into warm, moist Pacific air. The collision makes for a dramatic display of billowing clouds and fog punctured by shafts of vivid, low-angled sunshine.

When you’re huddled up at the sheltered river mouth in a waterfront guest house—restored from one of the region’s historic, century-old salmon-cannery towns—storm watching is an ethereal and sometimes surreal experience. Seven-metre (24-foot) tides move right up to your house-on-stilts. Peak storm month is November. Tip: Expect rain and extraordinary light, so bring something to keep you and your camera dry.

The Logden Lodge in BC's snowy Kootenay Rockies.

The Logden Lodge in BC’s snowy Kootenay Rockies. Image: Logden Lodge

Inland, there are snow storms to savour. In southeastern BC’s Kootenay Rockies, Logden Lodge is set at the foot of the Selkirk Mountains near Nelson, a stone’s throw from Whitewater Ski Resort. Four secluded cabins on 17 hectares (42 acres) of private wilderness make it easy to disconnect. Gather around a blazing bonfire and watch powder drift from the sky, or enjoy the blizzard from your own private covered verandah, bundled in a blanket sipping hot apple cider or Glühwein—another hygge moment. Then go play in the snow, strapping on snowshoes and hitting the trails outside the door or, if you’re a skier, heading for the mountain.

Not far away, Snowwater Heli Ski is exclusive, all-inclusive mountain chic, with six luxe suites in two alpine guest lodges suited for small-group heli-skiing. End the day with a gourmet meal created by Jeremy Tucker, the stellar summertime chef at CedarCreek Estate Winery. Should a storm ground the choppers, a standby Snowcat tractor means that instead of watching the storm from indoors, you can still make powdery turns on virgin territory. On your last night, the sky explodes with fireworks.

The Eagle's Eye Suites at Kicking Horse Mountain Resort.

The Eagle’s Eye Suites at Kicking Horse Mountain Resort. Image: Resorts of the Canadian Rockies

Finally, an exceptional winter-storm-watching spot awaits at the 2,347-metre (7,700-foot) Kicking Horse Mountain Resort near Golden. Two Eagle’s Eye Suites in the chalet offer luxury lodgings, complete with your own butler and private chef. After the gondola shuts down, the peak lodge is all yours—enjoy the fully stocked bar and grand rock fireplace, and the solitude of being the only people on the mountain. Wrap yourself in a blanket and step out onto the deck to embrace the elements as Mother Nature lays down the powder that will guarantee you a pristine, fresh-tracks first run in the morning.

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