Think size matters? Then Revelstoke Mountain Resort has to be high on your must try list.
Hard to argue with North America’s biggest vertical for starters, but there’s plenty more than great terrain happening here as it grows says Bronwen Gora.
There’s nothing like a good snow storm to cement your faith that skiing and snowboarding have a solid future in this supposed rapidly warming world. Take the Saturday morning of February 23 this year for instance. A storm that dumped well over 50cm on Revelstoke mountain drew thousands of weekend warriors from as far afield as Calgary, a four hour plus drive away, and everywhere in between. The queue for the first gondola snaked all the way along the base area and ran for almost 50m back to the jam-packed car park. Now that’s excitement.
It was well rewarded, too. But as is always the story in ski country, those thousands should have been there the day before. That was when the skies were actually puking with the biggest storm of the season so far which had started the night before, falling as if someone was holding a huge packet of Lux flakes above the town with the entire lid open. This is what this area is famous for, and it’s why, despite hiccup after hiccup (mostly of the financial kind, no surprises there) Revelstoke is putting the ‘stoke’ back into mountain riding.
It’s evidenced by the clientele too. This is a place where virtually everyone you see can ski, as opposed to some of the more commercial resorts where the groomers are filled with people skidding out of control or worse. If there is one criticism it would be from the men – simply because the place is full of them. Ladies, if you want to be seriously outnumbered then come to Revelstoke. There are men everywhere, from the slopes to the bars. If you don’t meet them on the lifts – a near impossibility – then hit the Rockford Wok Bar and Grill for après ski and you are guaranteed to strike up a conversation.
The men – and many of them are business types too – are attracted not only by the skiing but by the chi chi nature of Revelstoke’s brand spanking new facilities. The hotel at the base, Sutton Place, has as it’s lower level a range of shops as well as a couple of restaurants and bars that exude a sophisticated, upmarket air. The coffee shop is like something out of any major city, with inventive gourmet food, organic wraps, a ridiculous number of teas and coffees and a range of gelato that defies belief.
In town there is not one but two Japanese restaurants, and The Regent Hotel the main watering hole in town, spruced up its main dining room a few years ago thanks to the influx of city sophisticates. Heli skiers with Canadian Mountain Holidays had been coming here for years, but it took the stream of new clientele drawn by the burgeoning ski resort to make things really happen.
It’s even more remarkable that this has happened as Revelstoke only has three – yes three – lifts, the Revelation Gondola, The Stoke Chair and The Ripper Chair, which is testament to just how much skiing there is here and how good the quality of the snow. The ski field is complemented by the helicopter skiing operation Selkirk Tangiers, which can pick up clients right from the base, and a cat skiing operation offering sublime terrain. This gives visitors a treasure chest of some of Canada’s best, and most exciting, skiing all in one extraordinarily accessible spot.
What’s more the master plan is remarkable, having more than 20 lifts penciled in. This will cost – wait for it – $1 billion – according to the current estimates and take 15 years to complete. The lifts will go into the existing western side as well as the southern side which has all those incredibly tempting fields rolling into the distance that are presently used by the cat skiing operation.
Helping fund the mushrooming of lifts and runs will be about another 1500 condos, 2000 more hotel rooms, 850 town homes and 550 house lots. This will bring with it more large scale commercial and retail.
The main reason so much focus is trained on Revelstoke, which started its ascension in its current form in 2007, is simply because the skiing here is – well – so damn huge.
Revelstoke offers the most vertical in North America, 1713m, beating Blackcomb’s 1609m, Whistler’s 1530m and America’s longest, Snowmass at 1262m.The longest run is 15.2km, a thigh burner in anyone’s language. Grooming is excellent and its possible to schuss down kilometres of super fun blue runs like Show Rodeo, a big hit with everyone, with banked turns and a wide open trail on which to lay over those boards. Indeed, read any page of reviews on Revelstoke, and speak to anyone who has been there, and the first thing they will comment on is run length. Put in a few squats and leg presses before coming here because the slopes will test your leg strength. It seems to take forever to get down. If you’re sick of places where the slopes are always too short, and you always seem to be on a lift, then this is the resort for you.
Not into groomers so much? Chutes and glades also abound on the upper mountain making this not the sort of place to ski alone. Always err on the side of caution in Revelstoke and take a buddy when hitting the trees, especially off the Ripper Chair. This place will test just how good a skier you think you are, too.
You’ve been warned.
Revelstoke [the ticket]
Air Canada one stop to Kelowna (2½ hours shuttle, 199km) is the most direct way to get here. Kamloops 210km / 2.5 hours & Calgary 413km / 4.75 hours are other options. Self drive is easy, it’s just off the Trans Canada Highway.
Sutton Place Hotel offers ski in/ski out condo hotel convenience for first shot at pow days but remains very affordable, especially if you lob on the early bird special deals.
Downtown Revelstoke has a range of everything from backpackers upwards, plus some winter RV parks if you’re on the shoestring budget.
Cat skiing and heli skiing (Selkirk Tangiers) operate from the resort for the complete experience. Days go from $CAD 300 early season, $475 main season. Cat skiing books up weeks ahead usually, so add it to your package when booking if you are serious. If you are unsure of your ability, or just want to tone up for you Cat Ski experience, a Cat/Heli Prep day for $CAD 108 is ideal. You get 6 hours of coaching to work on picking lines in the trees, using terrain to conserve energy & generally being ready to get the most from you cat/heli day/s.
Backcountry day programs are a bit more effort but equally rewarding. You’ll need avi gear, skins or split boards (these can be hired at the resort). Of course the Snow School offers all the regular stuff as well.
Great Canadian Snowmobile Tours start from 2 hours for $CAD 159 to all day, paragliding and dogsledding, or Turtle Creek Tube Park are other options.
Flights www.aircanada.com Resort www.revelstokemountainresort.com
Heliski www.selkirk-tangiers.com Safari Trips www.nonstopsnow.com
Ski packages www.travelplan.com.au
snowfall 9-14m top lift 2,225m base 512m vert 1713m
terrain 1263ha • 47.5% adv/exp • 45.5% int • 7% beg
longest run 15.2km lifts Gondola, 2 express quads, t-bar, 2 carpets
day pass $cad 76