A day at KMHR is skiers paradise. This is a mountain of iron thighs and legendary lungs.
By Mike Berard
There are exactly four “highways” that cross the entire stretch of the Canadian Rockies. Four. And Golden is also where Kicking Horse Mountain Resort (KHMR) is located.
KHMR is an anomaly in North American skiing. First off, it’s sharp; every edge pokes and prods like a dagger into the sky above the Rocky Mountain Trench. (Curiously enough, KHMR doesn’t sit exactly within the Rocky Mountains; it’s across the river in the Purcell Mountains.) Chutes descend into the valley from every jagged, intimidating ridge off the summit. Look at the map…it bristles with double black–diamonds. There’s but one lift that goes from the base area to the summit, with a vertical relief only 6.5 feet shy of Jackson Hole’s, and it features similarly gnarly skiing: pillows, cliffs, ridges, and straight-up steepness. Kicking Horse is the real deal.
Golden is a place of confluence. It’s where mountains, rivers, railways, roads, and cultures come together. Explorer David Thompson arrived here in 1807 in search of the Columbia River Valley, a valuable path to the Pacific that travels over 1,200 miles 2,000 from south of nearby Invermere to the Oregon coast.
Golden is a town bisected by Canadian Pacific Railway’s (CPR) robust rail network, the same steel-and-timber iron-horse highway that fueled the country’s rapid growth in the 1800s. In the middle of town, snowmobiles rattle in the backs of pickups as they cross multiple railway crossings on their way to secret big-mountain staging areas. The town itself was seeded by Swiss mountain guides whom the CPR hired to help build railroad lines through tumultuous mountain terrain and create the crossroads it remains today.
It’s also a crossroads of Canada’s best skiing. In Sherpas Cinema’s film Children of the Columbia, skiers Dane Tudor and Christina Lustenberger track the river from the Canadian border north to just the other side of this range, skiing some of the best powder seen on the screen in years. Rogers Pass lies a short drive away. Dozens of cat-skiing, ski-touring, and heli-skiing operations work the area. Down the road on the other side of the range, Hans Gmoser invented heli skiing. Golden may be on the far side of the Rockies, but it sits in the centre of Canada’s hardcore ski scene.
A day at KMHR can challenge the strongest skiers. This is a mountain of iron thighs and legendary lungs. There’s one gondola to the top, and there’s no mid-station. From the Eagle’s Eye Gondola, skiers follow the ridges to either side. To the south, the two Terminators (T1 and T2) offer some of the best lift-accessed, hiking-required steep and deep on the continent, skirting permanent closures and cliffed-out sections along the way. Towards the valley falls CPR Ridge, a wild and rowdy collection of chutes, pillows, and mini couloirs. To the north, a fixed grip quad takes you to Blue Heaven, where the steepness of Whitewall awaits. Ozone—a venue for the Freeride World Tour—opened to the public in 2019, accessed by a 20-minute hike—easy by Golden local standards.
Because Kicking Horse locals are hard. They ski fast and loose. They climb like goats. They have stamina. Carved from years of mogul-smashing and cliff-stomping, Golden’s hardest can withstand Chamonix, Jackson, and La Meije. But they rarely leave. It’s hard to. And that’s the just the way they want it.
Kicking Horse Mountain Resort, in Golden, B.C., is a 3-hour drive from Calgary. You don’t have to hike to enjoy it, but if you are willing to bootpack a few steps, you’ll enjoy access to much, much more of it.