Kicking Horse Mountain Resort boasts some of the finest extreme terrain. It’s known as the Champagne Powder Capital of Canada…
but its neighboring mountain town of Golden is relaxed and unassuming. Residents here are salt-of-the-earth people, the main industries are still the railroad and logging as they have been since its earliest days. It’s a welcoming slice of the Canadian Rockies with a down-to-earth hospitality you can’t miss.
Where to Stay
The town of Golden offers chain hotels and motels at very reasonable prices as well as a handful of quirky local accommodations and slopeside condos at the base area. It flies just under the radar to keep crowds and high prices away, for now.
Glacier Mountaineer Lodge
Base area condos are a snowboard vacation and ski trip classic. The Glacier and Mountaineer Lodges are located steps away from the gondola and within walking distance of all restaurants and cafes in the base village. (We chose the Glacier Lodge as our home base for one Kicking Horse trip and would return again.) Some units include views of the mountain. The only downside is the hot tub area squeezed into a back corner, where there’s no view of the mountain or area to relax. Palliser Lodge, which is another Kicking Horse Resort property, is a short walk up the mountain and includes slightly elevated amenities in its condos compared to the Glacier and Mountaineer Lodges.
Days Inn by Wyndham Golden
One of the many budget-friendly chain hotels in Golden is right off the highway, includes a hot breakfast, and has a family-friendly indoor pool with a waterslide. Its accommodations are economy, like the price. (We stayed here during our first Kicking Horse trip and it’s basic, but we had no complaints.) Nearby are the Best Western and Holiday Inn Express, which are similar convenient accommodations options.
Eagle’s Eye Suites
Located at the very top of the Golden Eagle Express Gondola and right on the mountain are two worth-the-splurge suites ideal for couples. The ultra-exclusive Eagle’s Eye Suites have a Queen or King sized bed with en-suite bathroom. An overnight in one of the two suites includes dinner and breakfast for guests plus first tracks out the front door each morning. One room faces west for sunset, and the other faces east for sunrise.
Where to Grab Coffee and Tea
Start your morning right with a stop at Double Black Cafe for coffees and snacks to fuel a full day on the slopes. This base area coffee shop and cafe serves up classics with a flavorful twist. Our pick is a breakfast burrito (Theirs has a sweet perfectly balanced salsa.), latte, and energy balls to eat in the gondola. The to-go coffee cups give you all the advice you need as a Kicking Horse newbie: “wake up, kick ass”.
Stop by Bluebird Cafe or Purcell Coffee if you’re starting your day in town. Bluebird Cafe serves specialty coffees with Fratello Coffee Roasters, a wide selection of loose-leaf teas, and house-baked pastries and desserts. Purcell Coffee roasts its own responsibly sourced beans for fresh, flavorful coffees, and also preps grab-and-go snacks for breakfast and lunch.
Where to Après (Best Drinks and Deals)
A day on the slopes is not complete without après ski. Kicking Horse has casual bars steps away from the gondola, local pubs, and a brewery with an active après scene and, of course, great deals. Near the base area, Winston Lodge has daily specials, poutine, and pizza all made with fresh Canadian ingredients. The roaring fire adds to its cozy, casual atmosphere, and don’t be surprised if après turns into dinner. Double Black also serves up brews for the après crowd in addition to the daily caffeine fix. Whitetooth Grill in the Day Lodge at the base rolls out an après menu with drink specials and live music on the weekends.
In town, the Whitetooth Brewery fills up with visitors and locals every evening. The two-year-old brewery has a lively atmosphere, a wide selection of handcrafted suds, but indoor seating is scarce and rather cramped. A good option is to sample a few beers, then fill up a growler or two with your favorites to enjoy by the fire in your condo.
Where to Eat a Delicious Meal
When you’re on the mountain, pause at least once for elevated mountain cuisine at Eagle’s Eye Restaurant. The dynamo sandwiches, delicious cocktails, and wide selection of fine B.C. wines (with rotating varietals by the glass) make it well worth time away from turns. Eagle’s Eye Restaurant is open for lunch daily, and reservations are necessary to snag a spot in the dining room. The wild boar poutine and elk burger are local favorites, but the vegetarian options are just as hearty. Friday and Saturday nights, the restaurant opens again for dinner service. Feast your eyes on the gourmet food and the 360-degree mountain views.
For a quick bite on the slopes, pop into the Heaven’s Door Yurt at the base of the Stairway to Heaven chair for soups, sandwiches, and warm drinks before embarking on the windy chair. Peaks Grill is right at the base village and boasts hearty homemade meals to replenish after a full day on the slopes. There’s an outdoor patio or a bustling lounge inside with live music and more.
If après didn’t fill you up (did we not mention the poutine?) head to Copper Horse Steakhouse for a casual atmosphere and gourmet locally sourced food and wines from British Columbia. Located a short walk from the base, it serves up elk, bison, beef, salmon, and more.
In town, Whitetooth Mountain Bistro offers game meats and other Canadian specialties on its robust menu. Here, you’ll eat well and eat like a local.
If you prefer to prepare your own meals, there are two main grocery stores right in town. Both IGA Golden and Save-On Foods have a solid selection of fresh ingredients to fill up brown bag lunches and whip up dinners on a budget.
Getting There & Around
Golden is located right off the Trans-Canada Highway, but it is still an isolated mountain town. Mountain passes separate it from the nearest airports: Calgary International Airport is a 2.5-hour drive away through Banff National Park, Canadian Rockies International Airport (Cranbrook, British Columbia) is a 2.5-hour drive through the heart of the Kootenay Rockies, and Kelowna is a 4-hour drive away. The scenery along the drives is jaw-dropping, but the weather can change on a dime, so come prepared with winter driving experience and a vehicle that can handle snow and icy conditions.
For the 2019/2020 season, Kicking Horse Resort is adding a new shuttle connection to Calgary International Airport. It will run twice a week (Wednesdays & Saturdays) with an intermediate stop at Lake Louise.
“Everyone comes back to Golden.”
Worthwhile Attractions Off the Slopes
Golden has plenty of winter activities away from the slopes of Kicking Horse to tempt even the most hardcore snowboarders to take a rest day and explore.
Visit Boo… Kicking Horse Mountain Resort is home to the grizzly bear Boo. Boo enjoys a 3-acre enclosure (with ski-in-ski-out access) on mountain. He was rescued as a cub after his mother was shot by a poacher. If Boo is awake, you can try to spot him from the gondola above or riding along Buffalo Jump and Wiley Coyote runs. There are also interpretive tours available with a certified Boo Expert for an in-depth experience.
Spectate the Freeride World Tour… If your visit coincides with the competition, check out some of the best snowboarders and skiers as they compete on Ozone and a handful of the toughest chutes in the resort. The exact competition areas can change based on conditions, so check in with Kicking Horse staff to get viewing area suggestions.
Tour the Northern Lights Wildlife Wolf Centre… No reservations required, you can just drop in on the wolf pack any day of the week. The centre offers a 25 minute interpretive talk about the wolves and their role in the environment. You can also reserve a spot on a hike with the wolves or Blackwolf Photography session.
Snowshoe on area trails… Slow down a bit and soak up the scenery with a leisurely walk through the forest. Snowshoes rentals are available at Dawn Mountain Nordic Centre or one of the local shops in Golden. The Nordic Centre also offers cross country skiing lessons for beginners and cross country ski events.
Mountain tourism has played a major role in the town’s growth long before Kicking Horse Mountain Resort debuted. A small group of Swiss mountain guides helped launch Golden’s mountain tourism industry around 1900. Their families and friends soon followed, building a thriving Swiss community and spreading the love of the mountains in the small town. Some of their descendants still call Golden home. Tourism, railroad, and logging continue to drive the local economy today.
It’s not hard to see why the welcoming locals kept saying “everyone comes back to Golden.”