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Kicking Horse: AT for slackcountry?

post #1 of 8
Thread Starter 
I'm heading to Kicking Horse for a season this year and am looking to do a bit of skiing in the backcountry around it.

I hear the backcountry is pretty much lift accessed so I am wondering how much benefit I will see out of getting a pair of AT bindings versus getting regular bindings and boot packing my way up the ridges. My main concern was just how frighteningly more expensive AT bindings are!
post #2 of 8
I'm no expert on Kicking Horse slack country, but most of the goods seem to be accessible by traversing or a really short boot pack. There are a lot of chutes and lines for endless fresh lines.
post #3 of 8
I was there 2 years ago for a week, & did hikes off both sides of the mountain with my regular alpine gear. It was awesome. The last day I took my touring gear & spent the day skiing an adjacent bowl, but really only scratched the surface of what is there. Talking to locals, it sounded like the possibilities are endless. I'm going back this year for at least a few days at the end of Feburary. If I was spending a season there I would definately want an AT set-up. Of course, you will need all the requisite avi gear & training as well. There are a lot of veteran guides in the area, so contact them & do your homework. It is a high avalanche region.

Here is the KH portion of a trip report I did at the time:

2/19/07 Golden B.C.
I get in the car early & pick up a hitchhiking employee on the way up to the mountain & pump him for information. It is a short 10-minute drive to the mountain. The first thing he shows me is close in parking, right next to the lifts. One nice thing about KH is everything is really close to the Gondola. Lodge, Shops, restaurants all a slide and a few steps. Well today is still a holiday and KH is still relatively busy. I am toward the front of the line when the lifts open. It is a partly cloudy day, with about 6" of fresh snow at the bottom & about 10" at the top.

Kicking Horse is a big mountain with a lot of hard core skiers & a spattering of Snowboarders. The base elevation is 3900’ & tops out at 8033’ for a total vertical of 4133’ & 2750 inbounds acres. The Golden Eagle Express Gondola rises 3900’ vertical in one shot. There are 3 other fixed grip chairs, Catamount for beginners, Pioneer which serves the original area, & Stairway to Heaven, which is the newest & gets you to the top elevation. The Stairway lift accesses Feuz Bowl, Redemption Ridge, and some fabulous O.B. terrain that goes on to the west forever with touring equipment. The main skiing is on the North flanks of CPR Ridge & Redemption Ridge, but there is much, much more to be had.

I begin the day with a run down through the widely spaced trees off the northeast-facing flank of CPR ridge in untracked snow. When I reach the valley below I continue down the main falline to the bottom in virgin snow all the way. The crowd is picking up when I get to the bottom, but I’m already impressed, & start trying to figure out how many days I can stay here. Even though KH doesn’t receive huge skier numbers yet, the drawback is that they depend almost solely on 1 lift to get people up the mountain & the Gondola line can get long even with only 1500 or 2000 skiers. Once you’re skiing though, there is plenty of terrain for everyone. I spend most of the day exploring by myself, skiing the North Chutes off CPR Ridge (there are 16 of them), then up the Stairway chair to the North Chutes on Redemption Ridge (25 more here) then to the bottom & back again. Late in the afternoon I meet up with Justin a first year instructor in the Snowsports School, but a great skier. He leads me out to one of the further chutes on CPR where we find some good steep, deep snow. From there he leads me on a "Mr. Toads wild ride" run through the trees & bumps back to the bottom. We hook up with a few Snowboard instructors I had met in the morning & get one last run & a lot of information… Thanks Guys & Gals!

Tues. 2/20

Windy Cold, Partly Sunny Day.

The wind overnight & a little fresh snow have filled things in nicely, & I basically do a repeat of yesterday with my first run being outstanding. The wind, which I’m told is uncommon here, is playing havoc with the lifts & they keep stopping or running slow. Consequently the line is huge. I give up on the Gondola in the afternoon, & ski a few runs on the old Pioneer chair, until it stops for about 15 minutes with me on it. At the same time it begins dumping snow. I get one last run in the fresh snow, but by now I am too frozen to continue & call it a day.

Wed. 2/21

A mostly clear day with things filled in nicely!

First ride up I meet Pat, a photographer who is here for a few months from Bozeman. We ski together for a few hours till I decide it is time to try the "Stairmaster from Hell" up Terminator Peak. At the base of the climb I meet Anders & Bo, 2 more Swedes. They have been skiing off the back of this peak all week. I ask if I can tag along. It becomes apparent that I am no match for Anders, & can barely keep up with Bo. Justin, told me the hike to the top takes about 20 minutes, Anders is there in 7 minutes & he times me in 13, but I’m pushing to keep up! 20 minutes is a more realistic average.

From the summit, we sideslip down the ridge about a hundred yards, and drop into a great steep shot in totally untracked deep snow… AWSOME! After the first shot we skate, sidestep & traverse out a little further to a run the locals call T2. A nice powder bowl that empties into some 2nd growth trees in an old avalanche path. At the end we make a sharp left into an old growth forest, back toward the resort. When we reach a clearing Anders declares this is the dessert. A few more fresh tracks & over 4000’ vert. later, we reach a groomed catch trail back to the base of the Gondola.

Our second lap follows basically the same route with a few variations. At the top we drop in a little lower on a steeper run that chokes into a cool narrow chute between some cliffs.

When we reach the top of the Gondola, we decide to have lunch at the Eagle’s Eye Restaurant. This is a really nice place with menu service and a 360 view on the top of the mountain, it’s the highest restaurant in Canada.

We spend the afternoon skiing the chutes off the ridges, & bumps at the bottom. Anders & Bo want to hire a guide & go touring in Revelstoke, about an hour away. I’m afraid I would hold them up. They are younger, & Anders is some kind of Norse Nordic Superman. He’s going skate skiing tonight. I am bushed, I tell them I’ll look for them tomorrow, & we’ll talk about Revelstoke for Friday or Saturday.

Thurs. 2/22

Flat light & flipping cold!

After a few runs I stop in the lodge for some hot chocolate & meet Tessa. She has the same blue Langes as I do, & an ABS pack. We talk about the boots & the pack, which is a smaller version of mine. She says her sponsors supplied it to her. It turns out Tessa is a young big mountain skier from the area & spends a lot of time in the adjacent backcountry. She pulls out a map & starts showing me some routes that are easily accessible from the lifts. We talk for quite awhile, but the light is too flat for her today.

I go through the motions of a ski day, but quit around 1:30, make an appointment with the realty office to look at some Condos. I never do run into Anders & Bo. I go back to town get my car oil changed & do some grocery shopping.

Friday 2/23

A Bluebird day, the nicest so far!

A few more of the usual runs, till I decide to hike up Terminator and ski the inbounds Glory Bowl. Next I take Tessa’s advice and try the hike from the top of Blue Heaven Peak. The next peak over is about a 15 minute hike, but not as steep as Terminator. The guy & gal I’m hiking with are equipped for touring, but say they’ll make sure I get back to the resort safely. To the right is a massive steep chute, which is a permanently closed area. When we reach the summit we run into another friend of theirs who describes all the options. There is even a film crew up here taking advantage of the beautiful day. There are extreme lines as far as the eye can see! Below the impressive cornice is an array of rock lined couloir’s some of which are dead ends. I spy a narrow one, which is the most direct, right off the summit. Everyone agrees this one goes all the way, so the 4 of us drop in one at a time. Tessa told me these lines were steep & long, she wasn’t kidding. At the choke of the couloir there is barely enough width to do hop turns. I have to say this was the most aesthetic & exciting run of the trip. Eventually the line opens up into a huge bowl, called Rudy’s. As my partners prepare to skin up they direct me back to the resort. I think about bringing my Rondonee’ gear out tomorrow. There are endless untracked lines in this bowl, & the skin track is already set.

When I reach the top of the Gondola I decide to try the hike up Terminator one more time. Just before the summit, there is a traverse to the climbers’ right which leads to an area the locals call Super Bowl. This is a large bowl that empties into the same area we skied on Wednesday. It is getting pretty skied out at the bottom, but I manage to have great skiing most of the way.

Sat 2/24

Partial sunshine early with snow shower by mid morning.

My last day at KH, & I decide to by a 1 ride ticket, bring all my gear & go touring in Rudy’s bowl. On the hike up I meet a group of 5 telemarkers from Denmark. Most of them speak English, so I again ask if I can join them. As we reach the summit the light goes totally flat. They choose to ski what is supposed to be the easy line to the skier’s right. I politely volunteer to go last. The first guy seems to edge his way in with no problem, but the next 2 are a little shaky. Being in the back of the line I cannot yet see over the cornice to evaluate the situation. When the 3rd guy gets ready to go, I can finally get a look. Jakob & I watch from the top as # 4 freezes up on the steep exposed face about 6’ below the cornice. There is a hairy traverse above some jagged rocks before he can come back right to the main chute. Watching him & the flat light are making me nervous, so I tell Jakob thanks, but no thanks. I prepare to retreat with my tail between my legs, when I see a girl up on the summit. I sidestep up to her and it is my friend Tessa. I show her where I skied yesterday, but I want to find something with an easier entry with the flat light & the soft flexy boots I have today. She says to come with her. We make a couple of turns down the ridge to a wider chute with only a small drop off the cornice. What a run! Long, steep & deep. I only wish the light was a little better. When we reach the bottom of the bowl, we watch as the Danes come safely down from the other side & rejoin us at the top of a moraine. Tessa didn’t bring her skins, & is heading back to the resort. I hang with the Danish group, skin up & make some laps up & down the moderate Rudy’s Bowl. The climb on each lap is about 25 minutes, & the light is in & out. From the top of the bowl there is another bowl & another ridge past that one, the skiing is endless. Tessa told me there is a traverse that leads all the way back to the resort, & more extreme lines in the next bowl. We are content to ski the bottomless snow in Rudy’s till our legs are worn & head back to the lodge for a few pitchers of beer. SKOAL!

I'm jealous you get to spend the winter there. Have Fun!

post #4 of 8
Thread Starter 
Wow 4ster that has got me super psyched for the season I have about 2 months and 2 weeks in Kicking horse in total, and then two or three weeks in Whistler before I head home to Australia. I have worked hard this year and saved lots of money so I am not working at all the whole season

I just hope I can ski well enough to enjoy the best of Kicking Horse!

And I got some Marker Baron bindings. Not the lightest but by the sounds of it perfect for the skinning I need to do at Kicking Horse.

I leave for Canada in 9 days, I can't wait!
post #5 of 8

I just got some Barons as well. They ought to be perfect for you to get a taste of some of the skiing beyond the boundaries at KH. The Barons should also be reliable for the tons of great inbounds terrain that is available. The best skiing at KH are the steep chutes off both CPR & Redemtion ridge. I would suggest hooking up with some good skiers, or taking a few lessons to improve your technique so you can enjoy what the mountain has to offer. Also, early season storms tend to produce the highest avalanche danger, so make sure you know what your getting into before venturing beyond the ropes. Our plan is to spend 2 weeks between Kicking Horse, Rogers pass & Revelstoke, depending where the best skiing is.

Have a great Holiday.
post #6 of 8
Originally Posted by m00j View Post
I'm heading to Kicking Horse for a season this year and am looking to do a bit of skiing in the backcountry around it.

I hear the backcountry is pretty much lift accessed so I am wondering how much benefit I will see out of getting a pair of AT bindings versus getting regular bindings and boot packing my way up the ridges. My main concern was just how frighteningly more expensive AT bindings are!
There is fantastic skiing around the edges of KH that can be accessed by hiking with your alpine gear but (as 4ster said) the AT possiblities are virtually limitless. When I was there last year I rode the gondola with some locals that were going off area west from the top and said that they could go over and hit any one of 5 valleys with AT gear and return by the end of the day, and that didn't include heading in other directions from the area. If you've got the skills you could ski untracked almost every day of the winter at and around KH.
post #7 of 8
Thread Starter 
Originally Posted by 4ster View Post

early season storms tend to produce the highest avalanche danger, so make sure you know what your getting into before venturing beyond the ropes.
I have been studying hard about avalanches. Read through "Staying alive in avalanche terrain" and plan to take an avy course before venturing out. Then when I do venture out it will only be with other more experienced people who I will inevitably meet over there.
post #8 of 8
Glad to hear it m00j. From my experience, it is not a good idea to trust just anyone. Find out about reputations, & do some small stuff first. Remember an old guide is usually a smart guide, but sometimes their just lucky .


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