Revelstoke, B.C-- Adventure skiers know that there is no ski mountain like Revelstoke in all of North America. Over 5,620 feet of vertical. Let me repeat, over 5,620 feet of vertical! When you add to that the fact that they get blanketed by an average of 35-40 feet of dry champaign powder, you get a skiing paradise. Every steep rider owes it to themselves to make the pilgrimage.
We took the eight-passenger Revelation gondola up the first 3,547 vertical feet and then the high-speed quad Stokke chair to just below the peak of the mountain. Stepping off into the howling wind of an almost-blinding snow storm, my companions and I scuttled off to the right and dropped into a deep, powder-filled run called Pitch Black. My wide powder skis floated through the soft mounds of new-fallen fluff from the storm that had been battering the mountain for a couple of days. Although it was hard to see in the flat light of the squall, I just pointed them downhill and trusted my feet.
The subtile surface kept throwing gradation and thickness issues at my ever-adjusting core, but by letting my ankles and knees absorb the differences and by keeping my shoulders square to the bottom of the run, I was able to move with the mountain....sort of. My companions were all great skiers, but even they struggled a bit with the problem of not being able to see. However, once we got down the hill a 1,000 feet or so, the wind let up and the snow fell gently to the ground. Here the boys just let it loose and we roared down the slope.
It was freeing just to be lost in a trail that seemed to go on forever....at first. Okay...when are we going to pull up for a breather? They just kept running ahead of me. Anytime now...talk about feeling the burn! Come on guys...my thighs started to chatter at me. Finally Dan skied to the edge of the run and slid to a stop with the rest of us joining him. He grinned at me as if to say ‘take that Eastern Boy.’
Imagine skiing down a single expert run that has a vertical twice that of Sugarloaf. This is not one of those trails that has 1,400 feet of steepness and then glides out on some blue run. This is an expert challenge from top to bottom. That’s what makes Revelstoke so challenging.
As we continued to drop, the accumulation of powder thickened. The wide boards I was using lightly rode the surface more like waterskis than carving skis. Just a little downward pressure and you turned. It takes a while to get used to the subtlety of the process when you seldom get to run in such deep, light snow. The turns we made were not the sharp cuts you make with filed edges on the frozen trails of the East, but more gradual, longer swoops of powder skiing. The snow offers more resistance, so you massage it more than cut it.
And then I skied right over my downhill pole. Ow! I pitched forward and down I went, sliding along headfirst in the powder on a very steep slope. I tried to role around so I could get my skis below me to edge to a stop but I was having a hard time doing so. After a while I was plowing up a furrow that was quite impressive I was told afterward. But come to a stop I did. I dusted myself off, cleaned my glasses and had to endure the abuse of my companions. Just when you think you are pretty good....
Revelstoke Mountain Resort is not actually on nearby Revelstoke Mountain. It is really on the 8,058 ft. Mt. Mackenzie. There is a ridge that runs from the top down to the sub peak about 400 vertical feet below. The Stoke lift terminates just below that sub peak. The ski trails run away from both sides of the ridge.
If you are willing to climb a bit, you have access to a number of chutes like Powder Assault, Discipline and Mania that drop into the North Bowl. These are double black diamond adrenaline boosters that demand the best of you. Once into the North Bowl you can ski five different huge glades called Back 40, Snorker, Glades of Glory, Powder Monkey, and Stop at the Road. There is a lift in the North Bowl, but it only serves the intermediate runs and the glades. To get back up into the chutes you have to get over to the lift on the other side of the ridge by running an intermediate trail called Downtowner.
On the west side there is one beginner/intermediate and one intermediate trail that will bring you down from the top. The rest of the runs are all for expert skies. You should be forewarned that western mountain expert trails are at a whole different level than single blacks at many mountains in the East. That being said, the beginner/intermediate will find a large array of trails in the North Bowl and the lower mountain that will suit them as well. This allows the whole family to find something on the hill that fits their level of skiing ability.
And glades. Acres and acres of skiable glades, some of which can be extremely challenging. You start out in high mountain scrub and descend into huge firs. You can get lost in places like the Iron Glaiden, Critical Path, and Conifers of Gnarnia where days after a snow storm you can still find stashes of powder. These are not the little ski-in-ski-out tiny runs near a trail. These glades seem to go one forever. In these areas ALWAYS ski with a buddy. NEVER go in alone. The tree holes and ledges can be treacherous, but, the thrill of the woods is worth it!
Revelstoke has about every skiing option available: lift, cat, heli, or backcountry. In addition there is dogsledding, snowshoeing, paragliding, and guided backcountry day tours that take you into their legendary backcountry terrain. This rural area of British Columbia is a hard-core skiers dream.
Getting to Revelstoke is relatively easy. Fly in to Calgary, rent a car and drive West on the Trans-Canada highway through Banff National Park, over Rogers Pass, and right into Revelstoke. Takes about five hours, but you will pass through some unbelievably beautiful scenery on the way. For more information go to: revelstokemountain.com.