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Pick a mountain [for western Canada, coming from Australia]

post #1 of 16
Thread Starter 

G'day everyone, 

 

I've just been to Canada for a holiday in January and had a great time!! This has inspired me to do something I should have done a few years ago and head over for a season. Being from Australia the usual thing would be to head to Whistler or Big White however I am looking to do something a little different. Now I have been to Whistler, Big White and Sun Peaks and out of the three of those Big White was my favourite, the big thing for me was the small community vibe, ski-in-ski-out and great snow (Again being from Australia I am looking for a bit of a sea change). I've done a bit of reading online and have shortlisted a few mountains, in no particular order - Kicking Horse, Sliver Star, Revelstoke, Whitewater, Fernie, Red Mountain and Panorama.

 

Are there any other suggestions out there?

 

Is there any reason I should go to one of these over the other? 

 

 

Thanks for any input,

 

 

Paul 

post #2 of 16
Whitefish is just south of Fernie. You have to cross a border, though. But there's enough Canadians here that you might not notice. Also has a "real" town.
post #3 of 16

I'm a big fan of Sun Peaks and spend each winter there but if they ever screwed up my favourite lift, the Burfield chairlift, I would look to move halfway between Whitewater and Red. Strange as it might seem, although the 2 resorts are only about 1.25 hours apart, skiers from Red don't ski Whitewater and skiers from Whitewater don't ski Red. A big rivalry I guess is the reason.

 

Revelstoke does not have very many runs but they are very long. However the mountain has very low elevation and they didn't do a very good job setting up the lifts so you could ski the upper mountain and not need to go too low all the time into the wet snow or rain soaked runs. OTOH you can stay up top and just ski the 2000 vertical feet off the upper mountain Stoke Chair, but it only services 6 runs. IMO Revy is best suited for a short visit or for skiers who want to access the back country from the lift or take a short drive to Rogers Pass and start hiking. Revy has very few runs for intermediates.

 

Kicking Horse also has a flawed lift system as they built a 4000 vertical foot gondola with no mid terminal. The upper mountain is steep with more than adequate snow and the lower mountain is flat with less than adequate snow. They have had some poor starts to the year with not enough snow to even open for Xmas. Another place that intermediates don't like.

 

Panorama is mostly intermediate, does not get a lot of snow but does have a lot of snow making. The black diamond area, Tayton Bowl, has a long outrun at the end of the runs and then it takes 4 chairlift rides to get back for another Tayton Bowl run.

 

If coming for a season then a season pass for Sun Peaks ($749CDN if bought in May or June) also gets you 25% off lift tickets at most other BC resorts and 50% off lift tickets at Whistler. Sun Peaks is the only BC mountain that has a reciprocal deal with Whistler.

post #4 of 16
Thread Starter 


Thanks Sib, 

 

Will look into it. 

 

Thanks for the input Dano, 

 

I have spent a little time at Sun Peaks, I'm not sold on it but I will keep it in mind. Thanks for the info!!! 

post #5 of 16

For overall terrain quality and decent snow I'd base in Fernie, particularly since Castle and Whitefish are within 2 hours' drive.

post #6 of 16
Quote:
Originally Posted by DanoT View Post
 

Kicking Horse also has a flawed lift system as they built a 4000 vertical foot gondola with no mid terminal. The upper mountain is steep with more than adequate snow and the lower mountain is flat with less than adequate snow. They have had some poor starts to the year with not enough snow to even open for Xmas. Another place that intermediates don't like.

 

I'm going to be a pain here....

 

 

I think that Kicking Horse's lower mountain woes are a bit overstated. It's base isn't high, but it is respectable for BC. It's 500 feet higher than Fernie, 2200 feet higher than Revelstoke, a touch higher than Red, Panorama and Silver Star and only 200 feet lower than Sun Peaks.

 

In BC, only Big White and Whitewater have bases that are significantly higher. 

 

The lower mountain runs (at least to the Catamount chair) aren't flat either. They aren't nearly as steep as the upper mountain, but exiting the super bowl to Terminator is a great way to use all of the vertical on the hill. It's solid fall line skiing. 

 

Snow quality and quantity changes as you get lower, but it is rarely unskiable, and if you have a real problem, it is easy to zip down a groomer to get back to the gondola in minutes. 

 

The gondola lines are an issue on some Saturdays, but I never finish my day at the KH with a tonne of energy to burn. Increased lift infrastructure would probably improve the skier experience, but it isn't a deal breaker to me.

 

For opening dates, KH aims for mid December. If they miss opening day by a week or two, they'll miss Christmas. But you are more likely to see a preview weekend than a missed opening. That said, I wouldn't book a Christmas here in advance.

post #7 of 16
Quote:
Originally Posted by Tony Crocker View Post
 

For overall terrain quality and decent snow I'd base in Fernie, particularly since Castle and Whitefish are within 2 hours' drive.

 

And Red, Whitewater, Kicking Horse, Lake Louise, and Sunshine can be reached in less than 4 hours. These might be attractive 2 day excursions.

post #8 of 16

A  Fernie local that I once talked to said that the summer population of 5,000 grows to 10,000 people in winter. Then add in the day skiers from Calgary.

 

It might be a good idea to secure Fernie accommodation early for next year, if that ends up being the destination.

post #9 of 16
Thread Starter 

Thanks everyone!! I really appreciate the input!!

post #10 of 16

DanoT doesn't know what he's talking about when it comes to Revelstoke. To say there's only six runs off the top of The Stoke chair is downright wrong, and to say you can't spend the whole day skiing the upper mountain is also wrong (unless you're one of those people who insists on skiing to the lodge for breaks). I would also say that Revelstoke is the type of mountain that rewards staying the whole season, since there's so many little fun zones that require exploring to get to, since the vast majority of the mountain isn't visible from the chairs.

 

Anyways, here's how I would chose:

Snow: Revy, Kicking, Horse, Big White, Whitewater. HM to Red and Fernie, which can get great snow but are also prone to more rain.

Terrain: KH, Revy, Fernie and Red

Town: Revy, KH (Golden), Fernie, Whitewater (Nelson) and Red (Rossland) - all these are actual towns with life beyond skiing.

Backcountry access: Revy, KH, Whitewater.

Crowds: Nowhere in the BC Interior is all that busy, except on long weekends and powder mornings.

 

That said, if you want more of a summer-camp vibe where everyone you work and hang out with lives, eats, skis and breathes on the mountain, then Panorama, Silver Star, Sun Peaks and Big White are the places to go. Personally, I think Sun Peaks and Panorama would be a waste of a winter because of their poor snowfall.

 

If you do chose Revelstoke, I would try to line up accommodation in advance. It's in short supply and is getting more expensive every year. It's not Whistler, but housing probably is the most pressing issue in town right now.

post #11 of 16

I have to agree that DanoT is exaggerating the downsides of Revy, Kicking Horse and Panorama. I only have a single day at Revy this year, and also skied the three areas around Kelowna (Apex, Big White and Silver Star) and Sun  Peaks this year. I skied Kicking Horse and Panorama last year when we skipped Fernie (and Revy and Whitefish) last due to high rain line followed by freeze. I still need to get to the other areas including Red and Whitewater. Hopefully I get to do more personal research in the next few years.

 

Even only skiing the Stoke chair at Revy, there are more than 6 runs and all are slightly over 2K' vertical. But if you take gravity traverse, slight uphill walk (both of which we did) or one of the steep bootpacks (we did not do these) you get into North Bowl where there are more than 10 named runs. At least half of them end at Ripper chair where base is lower than Stoke so you are getting ~2500' vertical and maybe more (couldn't find these elevations, but I thought my watch counted 2700'). I was surprised at the amount of uphill on runs at Revy including exiting Ripper to get back to Stoke, exiting far skiers right of North Bowl, to get to Jalapeno and in other places. Some of these can be avoided by carrying speed. And we were forced to ski 4700 vertical feet to lodge as neither of us were carrying water and it was not available at top of gondola without waiting in long line at small cafe there.

 

I'm not sure I agree with Alex C rating Revy highest on snow. Using Tony Crocker's numbers on bestsnow.net 1000' from the top of Revy gets a little less snow than middle of Fernie and 12% less than base of Whitewater. I do agree with Alex C rating Kicking Horse above Revy on terrain, especially expert terrain although too much of it commits you to skiing to base of gondola.

 

During my visit in Feb 2015, the groomed to bottom runs at Panorama were in better shape than the same at Kicking Horse. And while Tayton Bowl has a long runout and requires a short hike to get to it, it only requires 3 chairs, not 4 to get back to the top. Snow on expert runs was also better at Panorama although expert terrain is limited and ski-in/ski-out lodging seems mostly for vacationers there and at most other areas mentioned. Trying to have ski-in/ski-out limits you to mostly very small base area villages with only Big White and Sun Peaks being slightly bigger from my limited experience.

 

 

 

 

 

post #12 of 16

You are right about my evaluation of the number of runs off the Stoke Chair at Revelstoke as I forgot to count Jalapeno and Hot Sauce. Originally those runs did not lead a skier back to the Stoke Chair until some locals corrected the error and part way down the runs they cut a trail through the woods leading back to the chair. I think the mountain has now acknowledged their mistake by putting in a cat road to the chair. I also did not include the treed areas between the runs in my evaluation and probably should have.

 

The Ripper Chair (I call it the Rip-off Chair) was supposed to provide intermediate skiing but when I was last there I only counted 2 intermediate runs plus the lower half of the lift line (the upper half is a mogul field). It was also hopped that skiers coming off the North Bowl would be able to then ride the Ripper Chair to gain enough altitude to ski down hill to the Stoke, but this apparently is not possible.

 

As far as Revy's North Bowl goes, there is some great terrain there but thanks to Revy's flawed lift system it is a bit of a uphill ski/skate to get back to the Stoke Chair. This is probably something that locals get used to and is no big deal. However it annoys the hell out of me that the newest and thus the most modern ski resort in Canada screwed up the lift system and Kicking Horse as the second newest resort in Canada is another annoyance as they screwed up by omitting a mid terminal on their gondola. While the Gondolas at both mountains are very fast, I don't think they have enough lift capacity and could benefit from more gondola cabins on busy powder days when there are line ups.

 

Oh well, I guess flawed lift systems are better than no lift systems.

post #13 of 16

I agree more with DanoT than Tseeb in the above 2 posts.  I was with tseeb on the 2015 trip, which had very anomalous conditions for western Canada.  How often does Panorama have the best snow conditions in B.C?

 

Tseeb has not seen Fernie, Castle, Red or Whitewater.  I suspect he'll change his opinion once he has skied those places.

 

DanoT is basically correct in his criticism of the Revy and Kicking Horse lift systems.  For basing a whole season, I'll take Fernie/Castle over Revy/KH in a minute.

post #14 of 16

I think a lot of this really depends to on what OP wants - not only are the resorts all different terrain and snow wise, but so are the towns (or lack there of) and the surroundings. I think it would also help clarify if OP mentioned if they need a job while they are there, what kind of accommodation (for one person, family etc). Does driving distance to airports/towns even matter? Does a long season matter (ie are you planning to be there from december to may, or from january to march etc?) all of that could make a difference...

post #15 of 16
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by albertanskigirl View Post
 

I think a lot of this really depends to on what OP wants - not only are the resorts all different terrain and snow wise, but so are the towns (or lack there of) and the surroundings. I think it would also help clarify if OP mentioned if they need a job while they are there, what kind of accommodation (for one person, family etc). Does driving distance to airports/towns even matter? Does a long season matter (ie are you planning to be there from december to may, or from january to march etc?) all of that could make a difference...

G'day, 

 

I am looking for a good mix of quality snow/terrain and lifestyle around the hill, I don't think i'll be working while there as I'm looking to use this trip as sabbatical from work. Really looking to get a fair amount of skiing in and socialising. I am pretty keen on a party but not big on the idea of whistler because I'm trying to get away from the vibe they have there. Looking to stay in a house with a few mates as we are all looking to head over/some are already there. I'm not really fussed about distance from airports but having relatively easy access to a town would be ideal but not absolute. Looking to be there between December and March. 

 

Hope that clarifies.

post #16 of 16
As a northwesterner, Started out west...W/B, mt baker, then White, Silver, then SP and from there side trips to all above mentioned. Agree with DanoT....also, on the couple recent (last 10-15 years) poor snow seasons we found SP with 3 mountains...had enough to save the season. We run off to vail and Montana to visit, but ....
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