Nestled in the Purcell Mountains on the Eastern edge of British Columbia, Kicking Horse Mountain Resort is a wild, rugged ski resort made for the adventurous rider…
This is big mountain terrain tamed just enough for our safe enjoyment. “This horse rules.” It is an adventure just getting to this remote mountain destination. Whether flying into Kelowna or Kamloops, B.C. and driving east or Calgary, AB, and driving west, there are formidable mountain passes between you and the slopes of Kicking Horse Mountain Resort. For us, that only adds to its appeal and makes the mountain that much sweeter.
Kicking Horse boasts 3,500 skiable acres with 4,000 feet of vertical that can keep advanced riders entertained and challenged for a full week. This is a ski resort that leaves you wanting more… more time, more runs, and sometimes more of its patented Champagne Powder Capital of Canada snow.
The best way to think about snowboarding at Kicking Horse Mountain Resort is to start with the central runs (Bowl Over and Crystal Bowl) near the Eagle Express Gondola. After a solid warm up, work your way farther out to the resort boundaries, increasingly difficult terrain, and the hike-to areas.
The black and double black options far outnumber the blue and green runs at Kicking Horse, and they will test even the expert riders. However, the beginners aren’t overlooked, and the slopes are ideal for leveling up no matter what your starting point. There is a convenient learning area and dedicated lift on the lower mountain as well as a green trail that winds from the top all the way to the bottom. All ability levels can reconnect up top or at the bottom between runs.
Best Runs at Kicking Horse Mountain Resort
Kicking Horse is known for extreme alpine terrain, marked by exposed cliffs, couloirs, and spine-tingling spines. There are more than 85 chutes, five powdery bowls, and challenging steeps.
Whitewall/Feuz Bowl: Of the countless drop-in points along the wall, 101 Last Chance and 102 Two Trick Pony stand out. Past the biggest cliffs and located in the middle of the wall, these lines are a straight shot into powder heaven.
Ozone: This exposed alpine slope was once reserved only for Freeride World Tour competitors. Now, all guests willing to make the hike (and able to carve back down) can pick their own line down the sheer face.
Rudi’s Bowl: Accessed via an Ozone traverse or a Middle Ridge bootpack, this brand-new bowl holds snow for weeks. Towering rock formations separate it from the rest of the in-bounds terrain, and don’t be surprised if you’re the solo rider.
Terminator 2 North Ridge: At the far north boundary of the resort lies T2, which offers an open alpine face as a reward for long, steep climb.
Best Powder Stash at Kicking Horse Mountain Resort
On a powder day, you can do no wrong and there are zero bad runs on the slopes of Kicking Horse. You should stick with at least one friend though. There are fresh tracks for the taking after a storm dumps. Even without new snow, there are powder stashes aplenty at the far reaches of the resort.
Terminator 2 (T2), hands down, holds the snow the longest and gets the least traffic of all areas at Kicking Horse. Diehards head here as soon as it opens on a powder day, but powder and superb snow quality persists for days, and weeks, afterward.
Remote and newly added Rudi’s Bowl is also a powder haven worth the hike. It’s easier to access than its remote location may lead you to believe with two manageable options.
If the formidable peaks beyond the resort bounds beckon, book a cat or heli day with a local operator right out of the base. One day in the backcountry shows off what lies beyond the resort boundaries, but also lets you realize how incredible the in-bounds terrain really is.
Where to Eat on Mountain
Kicking Horse has a growing base village. It’s in a phase Goldilocks would approve of, not too big and not too small, just right. It has everything you need—coffee shop, a few restaurants, condos, and a gear/rental shop—and nothing you don’t.
Start your day at Double Black Diamond. This base area coffee shop and cafe serves up classics with a flavorful twist, coffees and snacks to fuel a full day of riding. Our pick is a breakfast burrito (their’s has a sweet perfectly balanced salsa), latte, and energy ball to eat in the gondola.
On mountain, pause for elevated mountain cuisine at Eagle’s Eye Restaurant with dynamo sandwiches, delicious cocktails, and a wide selection of fine B.C. wines conveniently with a rotating selection by the glass. Or for a quicker bite, pop into the Heaven’s Door Yurt at the base of the Stairway to Heaven chair for soups, sandwiches, and warm drinks before speeding up the windy lift. Back down at the base, the Whitetooth Grill in the Day Lodge serves up comfort food cafeteria style all day long. It’s named after the original local ski hill.
The Most Instagrammable Places at Kicking Horse Mountain Resort
Kicking Horse’s extreme terrain is extremely photogenic whatever your ability level. Pro tip: Don’t wait to snap photos at Kicking Horse, and any of the mountains of Canada. When you see a mountain or a view, pause, and photograph it right then and there. If you wait to capture a view on the next run, the clouds may move and obscure it.
Dropping into Whitewall… Whitewall is exactly how it sounds: a sheer snow-packed drop off into a wide powdery bowl below. The hike along the top or any of the many points of entry make for excellent photo opps.
Top of Ozone… Ozone is the highest point in Kicking Horse Resort with an elevation of 8,218 feet. The reward for the steep climb to the top is a bird’s eye view of all the peaks and several bowls in-bounds. Snap a shot and then drop in and choose a Freeride World Tour-worthy line.
Golden Eagle Express Gondola… The gondola doubles as a cozy photo booth. The best shot is when the cabin nears the top and Terminator 1 peak appears perfectly framed in the window.
Eagle’s Eye Restaurant… The gourmet lunch spot offers up a feast for all the senses, with gorgeous views inside and out. The stone fireplace, lofted ceilings, beautifully plated food, and of course the picture-windows overlooking the snowy peaks.
Heaven’s Door Yurt… because yurt. Inside the cozy circular building or outside in the beer garden are both fun photo options.
Why You’ll Love Riding Kicking Horse Mountain Resort
Kicking Horse is a playground for powder hounds and this experience is both safer and more enjoyable with a companion. Here, there are friends on a powder day. There is so much snow, there’s plenty to go around. The ski patrol closures will largely guide your run selection as they blast and confirm slopes are safe.
We’ve come for two days at a time and could easily shred for a week straight, dropping into each different line and pushing ourselves to try new sections and hiking farther and retracing our tracks to finally send it off that rock.
We’ve never encountered a lift-line here and people disperse to their preferred terrain so it never feels crowded. This welcoming slice of the Rockies has stolen a piece of our hearts, but we’re okay coming back year after year in futile attempts to retrieve them.
Snowboard Traveler Favorite:
We LOVE that the only way to reach the very best terrain at Kicking Horse is via a bootpack hike. Everyone who wants to ride Whitewall, Ozone, Rudi’s Bowl, and T1/T2 has to earn their turns.
Getting There & Around
Golden is the nearest town and 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.
“this horse rules”
- Hours: Weekdays: 9:00 am – 3:30 pm Weekends: 8:30 am – 3:30 pm
- Opening/Closing Dates: Early December – Mid April
- Average Annual Snowfall: 288 inches
- Address: 1500 Kicking Horse Trail, Golden, BC V0A 1H0
- Nearest Airport: Calgary, AL, Kelowna, BC
- Pass Access: Epic, RCR
- Instagram: @kickinghorsemtn #thishorserules
Kicking Horse History
The indigenous Ktunaxa people were the first inhabitants in the Golden area. It wasn’t until the 19th century that European explorers came over the Rocky Mountains and saw the beauty of the area firsthand. John Palliser led the expedition to discover the route across the Continental Divide that the Canadian Pacific Railway would later follow. The pass and river earned the name Kicking Horse after naturalist and geologist Sir James Hector was kicked by his horse. He survived, though his expedition members thought it was a fatal blow.
Canadian Pacific Railway surveyors set up camp in what would become Golden. The settlement grew as the railroad construction progressed and residents named it Golden City to one-up the neighboring Silver City. The Canadian Pacific Railway also brought in professional Swiss guides to bring travelers and residents into the rugged landscape around them. Mountain tourism has played a major role in the town’s history ever since.