Steep chutes and fluffy powder are yours for the lapping as you sail over grizzly bear territory to ride the ‘Horse’ and drop into some outrageously fun bowls
Kicking Horse’s Golden Eagle Express gondola is the only means of accessing the steep bowls and fluffy powder for which the resort is renowned, so everyone here is, like you, going to be doing laps.
This is a good thing. It means you pretty much get to know the collection of mainly Aussie and Canuck lifties personally and,
like everyone else in this corner of British Columbia – 14km outside of Golden – they’re a friendly bunch. The chances are you’ll be sharing the gondola with the same riders at least once during the day. Don’t be British and sit there looking like you’ve got a bad smell under your nose, engage them in conversation. You’ll encounter dudes and dudesses from Canada, the States, Scandinavia, Australasia, Asia and maybe even the occasional Brit, and a bit of subtle questioning may well reveal where the best lines are to be found.
That said, there’s no real need to be sniffing around for secret stashes at Kicking Horse, because you can see much of what the mountain has to offer as you cruise up on the gondola to the summit station in front of the Eagle’s Eye Restaurant (at 7700 feet it’s Canada’s highest eaterie, apparently).
Uniquely in the skiing world, as you head up on the gondola you pass over the home of Boo, an orphaned grizzly bear who lives in a fenced-off sanctuary on the mountain. If you’re here in spring you may see him scratching his big brown beary ass on a tree stump.
Further up the mountain you’ll find yourself looking down on some seriously steep gladed terrain off CPR Ridge, while off to your left are two of the resort’s four bowls – Bowl Over and, beyond this, Super Bowl.
These are split by the prosaically named ridges of T1 North Ridge and T2 South Ridge, from which a series of double-black diamond runs plummet down through alpine and then treed terrain. It’s a 20-minute hike from the top station to get to this mouth-watering array of fun, but that has two advantages; it keeps the crowds away (not that Kicking Horse ever suffers from crowds on a European scale) and it gets you fit…
Avert your gaze to the right as your ride up the mountain continues and the scene is not dissimilar – two more big white bowls, Crystal and Feuz, separated by thrillingly steep ridges.
You can only access the furthest of these, Redemption Ridge, via the creakingly slow Stairway to Heaven chair, which under the ‘One Lift’ premise of this feature is outside our remit… but cheat briefly and take a ride on it – there’s a huge selection of chutes of ever increasing steepness that drop you a-whoopin’ and a-hollerin’ into Feuz Bowl. Just beware of the temptation to bite off more than you can chew. I fell for it once, literally, taking a tumble on a steep chute the name of which I forget, perhaps because I was more concerned about the ruptured ACL that resulted…
By now our ride on the Golden Eagle Express is coming to an end. Clambering out at the top station you’ll have just ascended some 4,100 feet, which means it doesn’t take many laps to get in an impressive amount of vert each day.
Warm up with one of the gentler of chutes off CPR Ridge, rather uninspiringly numbered 49 to 64 – in theory these have names as well as numbers but the signposting can be a little lacklustre, so you may find yourself guessing which chute you’re taking on.
You’ll drop in to what is invariably a pretty narrow entrance, plumes of powder billowing around your knees (all being well, the resort averages 256 inches of the white stuff a year), and turn necessarily tight and focused, before things open up lower down and you can let rip with some serious speed as you hoon down into Crystal Bowl.
You’ll now hit some outrageously fun groomers – black Bubbly drops you into blue Wiley Coyote, where you can weave around like a man or woman possessed on what are wide, open and – usually – far from overpopulated slopes.
Similar options await off every ridge at Kicking Horse, with the T1 and T2 ridges offering quieter and less tracked terrain since you have to hike to them.
But whichever ridge you choose, by the time you reach the base station at the end of each run your quads will certainly know you’ve just ridden the ‘Horse’.