Two Days on the Powder Highway
Day 1: Fernie
Our crew from Teton Gravity Research is en route to Alaska, but a couple stops on the Powder Highway can’t be missed. Our first stop: Fernie. Pulling in late at night, light snow is falling and we use our remaining energy after the 12-hour drive to unload the car, and immediately crash. Daylight arrives with crisp, blue skies. Before us lies unexplored terrain and powder — the skier’s carte blanche.
More of an ideological place than a physical location, the Powder Highway includes resorts, cat ops, heli ops, and backcountry zones in Southeast British Columbia. At any given time during the winter, any or all of these places can be firing with some of the best snow on the planet.
We make fast laps on the lift-serviced terrain, picking the low hanging fruit first. The snow is forgiving, and the small cliffs and chutes provide more than ample entertainment. Satisfied with our warm up, we head out into the side country. A quick side step, a little boot packing, and an avalanche warning sign later and we’re in untracked, gladed terrain. The skiing goes from good to great, with pillows and knee-deep powder for the remainder of the day.
Packing up the car in the parking lot as the light fades, it’s hard to not be consumed by the feeling that we’re leaving too soon. But such is the nature of the skiing road trip: as good as it is one place, one must always assume it’s better at the next location to keep things moving. The grass being greener must be treated as fact, not idiom.
Day 2: Kicking Horse
Lucky for us, at Kicking Horse 15” of fresh are greeting us on our first day. Kicking Horse is a big mountain skier’s resort. The lift infrastructure is minimal, with the main gondola providing most of the access to over 4,000′ vertical of couloirs, ramps, and pillows. Outside of some small boot packs and traversing, it’s essentially fall-line, top to bottom.
While the snow was deep in Fernie, it’s really deep here. It’s brag-to-your-friends deep. The snow flies over our shoulders and faces, and we’re only able to see completely between turns. At moments, we’re not skiing on the snowpack, we’re part of the snowpack. It’s the type of snow that justifies every mile marker and foul cup of gas station coffee. It’s the type of snow that not only justifies the trip, but the life-path we’ve chosen.
Back in the parking lot, things are a little bittersweet. The blacktop of the Alaska-Canada beckons and those 2,000 miles aren’t going to drive themselves.
Editor’s note: This content was produced in partnership with Kootenay Rockies Tourism.