The mighty Columbia River looked like a slender ribbon far, far below the top of Mount Mackenzie at Revelstoke Mountain Resort, and it didn’t look like there was any easy way down. Boasting the highest lift-serviced vertical in North America at 5,620 feet, Revelstoke lives up to its reputation as the ultimate playground for powder hounds. Its location just west of the Canadian Rockies ensures an ample supply of fine, desiccated powder.
Two gondolas and one high-speed detachable quad whisk guests from river-level to near the top of Mount Mackenzie. This network, plus one new quad, the Ripper, comprises the entire lift system, but incredibly, it services 54 named runs and hundreds of lines in more than 3,000 acres of superlative terrain. Lift lines are almost non-existent.
On a recent visit, after one of the frequent storms that sweep the area dumped a few inches of light, dry, fresh powder, we explored the mountain we had heard so much about. We warmed up on Critical Path, a so-called intermediate run. The pitch of the groomed run was comparable to Siberia at Squaw Valley or Wolverine Bowl at Alpine Meadows, the difference being that, rather than tapering off fairly quickly to a lower angle, this run retained the steep pitch for approximately 2,000 feet. The snow had a marvelous light quality that made the run very speedy.
After warming up on a few groomed runs on the front face of the mountain, we made our way to the legendary North Bowl, as friends had told us we’d find an enormous open bowl plunging through gladed runs to the Ripper Chair. We cautiously approached an entrance called “Meet the Neighbors” and were reassured to find an easy traverse that allowed us to drop in trouble-free. One difference between Tahoe ski runs and Revelstoke is that in Tahoe many of the expert runs have tricky entrances, narrow cruxes or tight turns through rocky outcroppings. These features may be found at Revelstoke but many of the named advanced runs were not intimidating to get into and had wide, open runs, or nicely spaced glades.
There are three main ways to get into North Bowl, ranging from an easy traverse, a moderate hike, or a steep and prolonged hike. The hikes get you higher into the bowl, allowing access to more terrain, while the further you go into the bowl the more of the off-piste area can be accessed. It’s worth the hike to gain access to miles of gladed runs below the bowl.
When you’re ready to come off the mountain, remember to allow plenty of time and some reserves of energy. You don’t want to tackle the 9.5 mile run to the bottom when your legs are a quivering mass of jelly. No amount of gym training will prepare you for this.
Beginner and Intermediate Skiers
Strong intermediate skiers can find plenty of groomed runs to enjoy, and they even have a small beginner area with a Magic Carpet. However, this mountain will appeal most to advanced and expert skiers.
Cat and Heli-skiing
Revelstoke evolved from a well-established heli-skiing operation through Selkirk Tangiers Heli Skiing, which was acquired by Revelstoke Mountain Resort. Now, cat skiing is also offered, for a complete adventure line-up. Backcountry programs and avalanche training (with six different classes) is also offered.
It’s unusual to find a ski area under development in these days of stagnant skier-days and a stalled economy. Comparing notes with friends who skied at Revelstoke two years ago there have been many changes already, and much more is planned. According to the Master Plan, when the area is built out there will be as many as 20 lifts, which will service an unparalleled amount of terrain.
Currently there is an inadequate day-lodge that is sorely in need of expansion in both food service and seating at the gondola mid-station, and a small warming hut at the top of the gondola.
Revelsoke lives up to its reputation
Gazing at the Monashee Mountains rising up behind the Columbia River, I thought, “we’re not in California any more” and tucked into the 9.5 mile run to the bottom, wishing I could enjoy the fluffy, light snow forever. Rest stops were required.
The steeps were amazing, yet approachable, the grooming stellar, the off-piste beckoning. Skiers looking for a challenge will revel in the terrain that Revelstoke has to offer through lift, cat and heli services, while luxuriating in the Nelsen Lodge, at the base of the mountain at the end of the day.
See related article for more information about the Nelsen Lodge and town of Revelstoke.
See slideshow of Revelstoke Mountain Resort at left of article.
Revelstoke is located on the Trans-Canada Highway on the Eastern side of British Columbia, west of the Rockies.
San Francisco and Tahoe travelers can fly into Vancouver International Airport (YVR). From Vancouver connect on Jazz or West Jet to Kamloops Airport (YKA) or Kelowna Airport (LYW), rent a car or arrange for shuttle transportation.
Drive time from urban areas:
- Vancouver, BC 7 hours
- Kelowna 2 hours (Shuttle available)
- Kamloops 2.5 hours
- Seattle, WA 7.5 hours
- Calgary, AB 4.75 hours (Shuttle available)
2950 Camozzi Road
Revelstoke, British Columbia
V0E 2S0, Canada
Refer to the Revelstoke Accommodation Partners for lodging in the town of Revelstoke.
Revelstoke Mountain Resort: $74 (adult, all day). Like most many ski areas, check the Revelstoke Mountain Resort website for discount options, including ski and stay packages.
Support for this trip from Revelstoke Mountain Resort is gratefully acknowledged.