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kIcKiNg HoRsE, eH?

post #1 of 12
Thread Starter 
Taking into account that most anywhere is great when the snow is great, and taking into account that interior southern BC has been having one of their worst snowpacks in 50 years... In a nutshell, this place ain't all it's cracked up to be.

THE GOOD: The town of Golden is a cozy town with plenty of genuine, friendly people. It doesn't have that contrived, sicky-sweet resort atmosphere so prevailent at modern ski destinations. The low key restaurants serve great food and aren't in a hurry to turn you over. The people are easy to talk with and obviously haven't yet gotten burnt out by the hoards of tourists which will inevitably disrupt the flow of a normal living community.

The configuration of the lifts currently is setting the mountain up as more of a "hike-to-the-goods" ski area, much like Whitewater 150 miles to the southwest. The main up-loader dumps people out on the center of a ten mile long ridge which connects numerous east-facing bowls. To access the bowls beyond the boundarys there's not a lot of vertical hiking but ample horizontal to cover. The two main bowls currently accessed (Crystal & Bowl Over) have some sweet chutes that begin right at the top of the Gondola and get you pumped immediately. If you want to keep getting fresh untracked, just keep working your way out to the further bowls (Super Bowl to the south and I don't remember the name of the one to the north) on fairly easy 20-40 minute hikes. Unlike the the rest of the Columbias, this place gets the drier snow of the Rockies so while stability may not always set in quick, we're talking Champagne powder here. Once below tree line, the trails become good solid 2000' shots of large, well spaced bumps.

THE BAD: First, whomever designed the layout of the new trails below tree line should be fired and whoever approved them should be shot! Completely devoid of character, these trails are basically four or five giant clear-cuts straight down the fall line that are about as interesting as an airport runway. Perfect example of a ski area developed by the "new school" resort developers, not skiers - sacrifice the skiing experience for quantity and ammenities. We spent most of our lower mountain skiing on the old trails cut by the original Whitetooth ski area.

Of course, this is mostly an aesthetic complaint and the real problem starts above tree line. The two bowls are actually more like long drainage ravines and their sides have very little vertical till you get to the bottom of them, maybe only averaging 300-400 feet. So, unlike places like Fernie or Alta, where you can take a high traverse to get out to further lines around the bowls, here you actually end up in the bottom of the bowl before you know it the run is over before it's begun. All thats left is a long, boring flat run out to the top of those clearcuts I mentioned - which is about the only option because this is all second growth forest, thick as a brick, and leaves little in the way of tree skiing.

It was only halfway through the first day before we were already climbing the area where the new chair is proposed - My Blue Heaven. It was skied out enough after only a few runs that we started heading into the bowl to the north and out of the area boundarys. This means we had skied most all the inbounds area by 2PM the first day - see the problem?

Admittedly, the northern bowl we shared with a few local powder junkies on the second day was very nice. Super Bowl to the south was a more serious knife-edge ridge hike, thoroughly posted with threatening deterents and unfortunately in full view of the top patrol facility so we only jumped the ropes a couple times (sorry BSR) but were treated with the best this place probably has up its sleeve. Avy conditions were considerable so we couldn't get onto much but the lower angle slopes. The steeper chutes were sluffing right down to the rock bed surface so it was pretty cleaned out by day three.

Don't think this place will ever have the terrain of Fernie or the snow of Whitewater. It's still early in their growth, and it's still a very impressive mountain, but I think their marketing has been even more impressive.

THE UGLY: The bottom of my new fats!
post #2 of 12
Cheap-o, good post about a new area I've wondered about. Is kicking horse do-able as a day trip from Fernie, whitewater or maybe LL?
ps--where you been guy?
post #3 of 12
Thanks for the honest review, we are thinking of going there next year for a few days. Might reduce the days and spend more time at fernie and Panorama.
post #4 of 12
Hey Cheaps. Good to see you back. I'm guessing you're the original.
post #5 of 12
wait for the snowreports before making any decisions, kicking horse would be my choice over panorama any day! maybe sub a day at panorama for one at lake louise, its less than 1 hours drive from golden. Panorama can be fully experienced in a day or two.
post #6 of 12
Thread Starter 
It's probably about 2 1/2 hours or more from Fernie to Kicking Horse. The place to go from Fernie is Castle Mt - 'bout an hour southeast, and/or Big Mt in Whitefish, MT - bout two hrs south. Whitewater is a long way around to get to Kicking Horse. Ben skiing.
post #7 of 12
Cheap Seats:

You forgot to mention that they installed a 3700 vertical foot Gondola WITH NO MID STATION. As soon as i heard this i knew the resort was owned/designed by people without ski industry experience. I've been told the area is suseptable to temperature variations and fog, and currently there are lots of stumps on newly cut runs.

I've also been told that once they install an upper mountain chairlift the skiing layout will improve substancially. Only problem is that the main financail backers are a Dutch company that got a favourable construction contract on the Confederation Bridge to PEI which also called for an additional investment in Canada. So Kicking Horse was that investment. The question remains as to how much additional investment will be forthcoming.

In any event they have a Gondola with a restaurant up top that will get summer use form Banff overflow tourists.
post #8 of 12
I read that they can put a mid station in later if need be, the design handles it. I thought it was a bit short sighted. Thanks for all the tips, in light of this info we have decided to reverse our trip (originally Calgary/ Big Mountain /Fernie /Panorama/ KickingHorse/ Jasper / Edmonton and back to Calgary). Then if we move on from Kicking Horse and Panormama earlier than expected, we have more options available in the Fernie area, with Castle Mt etc. Have done the Lake Lousie and Sunshine areas a couple of times, so want to try new areas, and ones with less people.
post #9 of 12
like Jo says I wouldn't discount Kicking Horse just yet , this has been a bad year all through this area. It would be a place you won't want to miss , on a normal year Kicking Horse would have at least double of what Panorama see's for snow. ....Maybe you should stay away now that I think about it, yah don't go there ....and Jo don't be talkin about it anymore.
post #10 of 12
Sorry Leeroy,
just didn't want to see anyone piss away their time at panorama. I surely hope that someone got up and went to check the mountains, what a great site this am in calgary. Just when i thought work couldn't suck any harder.....
post #11 of 12
Ya know Jo, if this keeps up all our little powder secrets in this area are gonna be gone .....you haven't told anybody about Parkers Ridge have you?
post #12 of 12
Jo - Leeroy's right, if you mention Parker's Ridge, you'll hafta "swim with da fishes..."
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