It’s Spring Break 1971, and I’m flying down The Cut, a popular slope on Vancouver’s Grouse Mountain. The conditions are ski-sational: soft base, unlimited visibility and sunny skies. Then, out of the blue, interrupting my schussing solo: Here Comes The Sun, I’m falling head over heels with the man I’ll marry (23 years and two children later, but that’s another story!).
Fast track to 2011: we’re standing on the windblown 2,225 metre-high summit of The Stoker Chair and I realize two things. After 40 years, we still have passion for powder. And Revelstoke Mountain Resort, embraced by the Monashees and Selkirks, is a great place to find it!
“We can get 60 feet a season,” our instructor, Nitzan Nzuella explains, as pillow-soft flakes fall chaotically from the sky. “And this mountain’s so big, you’ll be blown away!” Although not totally comforted by her words, it’s clear – this expert is pumped.
We’ve noticed it with others – there’s a definite buzz about this newest kid on the ski block. Maybe because it’s the only village that offers top-of-the-line extreme shopping; lift, cat, heli and backcountry skiing, rolled-into-one. The historical hamlet of nearby Revelstoke probably has an influence too. But more likely, it’s the future growth of this four-year-old that’s generating the most hype. Eventually 20 lifts will service more than 100 runs and manicured fairways will lace the valley floor. Hotels, townhomes and retail will straddle a pedestrian hub - another world-class wonderland? Look out Whistler!
“Let’s go for snow!” Nitzan quips excitedly from our view-boasting bluff. “Whatever we see, we can ski!” Countless downhill options fan out before us from this highest lift-serviced vertical in North America: evergreen glades, untracked chutes and barren bowels. All are covered in an epic dump and, just like the lift lines, they’re uncluttered, serene.
“Just lean forward and bend your knees,” she explains, when sensing my apprehension about the thigh-deep cloaking. “And tense your core.” Easy for her to say. Although this mom of a six-month old has a belly tighter than a drum, mine has been slacking off for decades. And I have no recollection of this much snow! Maybe I should have stuck to the lower-level dog sledding or Nordic trails. Better yet, a massage table! Too late now. At least there’s The Last Spike, if I chicken out. The 15.2 kilometre trail frequently intersects the steeper pitches and assures an easier descent.
But to my surprise, after following Nitzan’s lead, I don’t need this escape route. Well, not yet. The untracked terrain is lighter than goose down and, thanks to her tips, I rediscover that familiar bobbing rhythm.
Over the next two days, we scroll down cruisers like Critical Path and Chopper, exclaim yee-haws on Snow Rodeo and Wooly Bully, and ease onto that cat track if our thighs burn. When it’s time to refuel, Mackenzie Outpost and Mid Mountain Lodge are just a glide away, or Rockford Wok|Bar|Grill is snuggled in the village hub. Right next door, sharing this first-class Nelsen Lodge is our favourite after-hours hangout, a chic contemporary suite where we crash in comfort - a chef-envy kitchen, heavenly bed, nearby hot tub. What more does a getaway girl need?
“Ready to kick up more powder?” Brent asks, when realizing that I’ve been struck with a case of ski fever. “There’s also a lot at our next stop.” Revelstoke Mountain Resort has conquered their mission. I’m totally stoked and revved up by their slopes. Can I take on any more at Kicking Horse?
After the white-knuckle drive through Roger’s Pass and the town of Golden, we roll into a fairy-tale-like village that’s swathed in winter wear. Yardstick-thick layers cloak timbered rooftops, marshmallow-shaped crowns festoon rocky pillars and crystal icicles shimmer from frozen eaves.
Lodgings hug up to the village core and an eclectic array - everything from boutique hotels to chi-chi houses - dot the neighbouring streets. We go for an upscale ski in/out suite at the Palliser Lodge, where we have the best of both worlds - full-on luxuries that entice long-term hibernation and the happening hub just a short stroll away. The next morning, beneath a bluebird sky we discover just how popular it is.
“We’ve broken a 30-year record - 80 centimetres in the last three days!” The loudspeaker announcement generates a roaring hooray from the affable crowd. “Conditions like this bring out all the diehards,” Don Steinhauer says, at the bustling base of Golden Eagle Express, an eight-passenger gondola that transports experts up CPR ridgeline to a windblown summit. From there, they can also access the Stairway To Heaven where more challenging chutes wait.
“But we have runs for everyone,” he assures. “You’ll see.” Although I probably should have taken another lesson, this well-seasoned Snow Host alleviates some of my qualms. “Let’s ditch the crowds and go skiing,” he says, leading us away from the masses.
By taking the Catamount quad to mid-station we bypass the vortex and, after a gentle cruiser, load onto Pioneer Chair. “This lift serviced the original Whitetooth Ski Area and has lots of great groomers,” Don says. “It beats waiting in line. That’s why the locals love it.” He calls out to a few who ski on the run below. Leslie is in her sixties, another couple in their seventies. And as for Don? Although his peppered beard is a bit of a giveaway, based on his sleek technique it’s hard to say.
While attempting to copy his squirrelly tracks, we literally glide on the wild side. Grizzly Paw, Wiley Coyote, and the signature, Kicking Horse - like a slope-side safari each run provides us with an adventurous descent. And just like the wilderness, they’re pretty deserted. Maybe that’s why Boo likes the area so much. Thirty-three penned acres are home to the resident orphaned grizzly, and though hibernating during these colder months, when the mountain bikers and hikers come out to play, so will he.
After we lap this chair a few times, we make our way down to the village hub. “There’s not much of a lineup,” Don says when checking the gondola, “Let’s head to the heavens.” Suddenly, the lower-level tube park and skating rink look more inviting. Or maybe I could be a foodie for the afternoon. With the eight nearby eateries, I’d sure get my fill. “We can get lunch at Eagle’s Eye,” Don pipes up, as if reading my mind. “On its Dogtooth Range perch, it’s the highest restaurant in Canada. And the food’s great.”
Shortly after the 12-minute escalation, we’re testing it out - mouth-watering entrees like wild B.C. salmon, succulent chicken ciabatta and a goat cheese salad. And what a view! Weather-worn ridges extend from peak to peak and give way to vast bowls, glorious glades, chutes and couloirs. More than 85 options offer a thrilling way out.
While the skilled go for gravity-defiers like Pearly Gates and Terminator, we get ready for “It’s A Ten,” the longest run of all. This 10km cat track wraps the mountainous contours like a flowing scarf and, just like the memorable 1970 Eagle’s song that’s playing in my head, will provide us with a peaceful, easy feeling all the way down.
MARCH 2011 SENIOR LIVING MAGAZINE VANCOUVER ISLAND
MARCH 2011 SENIOR LIVING MAGAZINE VANCOUVER & LOWER MAINLAND