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When the mountains to the west are capped with white, it’s tempting for Calgary skiers and snowboarders to hit the hills closest to home. But further into British Columbia’s mountainous interior is a rich offering of ski-in-ski-out resorts with big-mountain terrain, iconic après-ski bars, elevated overnight stays and unique amenities. While getting to these spots might require an investment in drive time, the payoff is you won’t need to do any more driving once you get there.
Here are a few destinations to consider if you want to make a week (or two) of it this winter.
Drive time from Calgary: Approximately eight hours
The oldest resort in Western Canada, famous for being the formative hill of legendary Olympian Nancy Greene, has expanded its terrain by more than 30 per cent in the past decade. The resort gained an entire new peak (Grey Mountain) in 2013, a 200-acre terrain expansion with $10-per-run cat-skiing in 2014, and a lift and 300 more acres in 2019. With these expansions, Red is now the third-largest ski area in B.C.
The biggest surprise for new visitors will probably be the lack of other skiers — waiting for a chair is rare. Red is a five-minute drive from the postcard-cute town of Rossland, located in the middle of the West Kootenays, and is just out of the way enough to fly under the tourist radar. In fact, if locals come and see there’s a lift line, they’ll turn around and go home, according to longtime snow host, Mike Ramsey.
Even on weekend days, there are usually only about 1,200 skiers shredding up Red’s 3,850 acres of tree runs, steeps and mogul fields that pimple the face of the original namesake mountain, which hosted Canada’s first downhill ski race in 1897. There are plenty of less-advanced runs, too, including groomed cruisers and gentle glades on neighbouring Granite Mountain’s sunny south side.
Indeed, what endears Red to riders — besides the regular dumps of powder and the absence of crowds — is its variety of terrain. With 119 runs, you could ski here for a week and never take the same run twice.
The slopes may be empty, but Rafters, the hopping après-ski bar (basically the attic of the day lodge), will probably be packed. It’s worth calling it a day before last lift to grab a table, order a pint of B.C. craft beer, and kick-start muscle-relaxation mode.
From Rafters, it’s mere steps to The Josie, a slope-side boutique hotel whose ski valet will whisk your planks away so you can make tracks to the cedar barrel sauna. Following that, a delicious dinner at The Velvet Restaurant and Lounge — now helmed by Takashi Harada, who moved to The Josie from the Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge — is a fantastic way to end the day.
Drive time from Calgary: Approximately five hours
From the top of Revelation Gondola at Revelstoke Mountain Resort, nothing beats the view of the Columbia River Valley, its snaking namesake often obscured by a bank of low-lying clouds punctured by the toothy peaks of the Monashee Mountains. From here, it’s just one more chairlift to the upper reaches of Mount Mackenzie and its four alpine bowls that, once upon a time, were reserved for cat-skiing. The terrain became lift-accessible in 2007 when the new resort opened, with a new gondola and chairlift that made it easy for expert-level riders to lap chutes, glades, wide-open powder fields, and the biggest vertical drop in North America, at 5,620 feet.
Some wondered if “Revy” would become the next Whistler. Fortunately, that hasn’t happened: locals want the town and resort to grow more sustainably, says Robyn Goldsmith with Tourism Revelstoke, who likens Revy to Jackson Hole, Wyoming, instead — a historic industrial town that just happens to have an amazing ski hill.
Revelstoke is downright charming, with craft breweries, a smattering of farm-to-table restaurants, and a railway museum for a dose of history. It’s also an epicentre of heli-skiing, and powder hounds have been making the pilgrimage to carve fresh tracks in the freeride terrain of the Selkirk and Monashee mountains for more than 50 years.
The primary accommodations at the resort are at The Sutton Place Hotel, which has 200 condo-style suites over three buildings and an all-season outdoor heated pool. But five minutes’ drive from the resort base, private group lodge The Flying Moose Chalet takes things to the next level with heli-in-heli-out capabilities. Along with a private helicopter landing pad, the 8,200-square-foot, eight-bedroom, timber-frame house comes with a stocked bar for après-ski beverages; bartender, lodge manager, housekeeping, one hour of stretch class each morning and four hours of massage therapy per day; a chalet host who can organize heli-ski day trips; and a chef to prepare breakfast and dinner. And, last winter, Calgary-based Frank Architecture & Interiors converted the three-bay garage into a luxe heli-lounge with a big-screen TV to watch the day’s face-shot footage.
Drive time from Calgary: Approximately eight hours
What started as a community hill in 1958 has grown into one of B.C.’s largest resorts, with 3,282 acres of terrain split between the steeper runs on the shady backside, and the groomers and sun-dappled glades on the front face. Don’t let its location close to Kelowna fool you into thinking it’s crowded, either — you can expect to ski on to almost every lift.
The cheerful mountain village (modelled after a colourful Victorian-era town) and its family-friendly reputation are a big draw for SilverStar, located a 25-minute drive northeast of Vernon. Families soon discover it also has challenging terrain, along with the other activities beloved by kids such as tubing, ice skating and junior snowmobiles to try out.
Start the day with a warm-up on the easy cruiser, Far Out, ending up in Trinity Trees and its rollicking woods with plenty of powder stashes. Then you can head up the gondola, traverse over to Attridge Mountain, and do laps on the leisurely Alpine Meadows chair to get to less-skied, powder-filled runs like Ridgeback and Attridge Face.
To mix up your winter fun, ride the gondola to SilverStar’s summit, clip into cross-country skis, and proceed to glide your way back to the base on the resort’s extensive network of Nordic trails. You’ll cross downhill runs on the upper mountain, and pass snowshoers and fat-bikers when you reach the multi-use paths near the village. The experience will convince you that, nowadays, mountain resorts truly are for all winter sport enthusiasts — not just downhill riders.
For a unique on-mountain experience, rent one of the resort’s Victorian-style homes. Some, such as Alpenglow Whole House, can sleep multiple families. It’s tempting to do all your après in the private hot tub, but the rustic vibe at Long John’s Pub is worth an order of nachos and a pitcher of beer for the plus-19 crowd.
Even if you do land accommodations with a private hot tub, you’ll still want to treat your tired muscles with a proper massage. Don’t hesitate to book an appointment at Elevate Spa, an Aveda Concept spa in the Silver Star village, that offers full RMT services as well as the ever-popular hot-stone massages during the winter season.