There are many mechanical ways to get up a mountain so that you can ski down it: gondola, chairlift, T-bar, helicopter, snow-cat, et cetera. But if the thought of burning millions of calories melts your ski wax, you can slap on the skins (grippy strips that adhere to the base of your skis) and go up via your own leg power. Yes, it is way harder – and way slower – but some will say way more rewarding for it, as well.
Ski touring is growing in popularity for numerous reasons: the freedom, the adventure, the workout, the lack of lift lines or crowded runs. Then there’s the heightened connection with the alpine world. They’re all legitimate.
For beginners looking to get into ski touring, there are some challenges, however. For starters, snow safety and gearing up can be daunting, putting on the sticky skins and working with adjustable touring bindings can be tricky, and understanding and mitigating avalanche risk is critical.
For your first foray into touring, your best bet is to go with a professional guide. As for locale, you can’t do much better than Golden, B.C., a legitimate contender for the ski-touring capital of Western Canada title. A fully guided, one-day backcountry tour setting out from Kicking Horse Resort is a good starting point for the touring novice.
A local guide such as Rich Marshall with Backcountry Solutions, will assess the group’s ability, assist with gear, provide mandatory basic avalanche training prior to starting out, and then guide everyone into the powder playgrounds that envelop the resort.
The best part? A gondola trip to the top provides a glorious, 1,260-metre “freebie” before you even start your trek beyond the resort boundary. Plus, you can end your day by skiing down a front-side cruiser run, then duck into the Kicking Horse Saloon at the base and brag about your backcountry bliss to the lazy skiers who rode the lifts all day.
While you’re in Golden, go skiing at Kicking Horse Resort
Touring-hubris aside, you can’t deny the awesomeness of lift-accessed skiing, particularly if those lifts are accessing the amazing spread of terrain at Kicking Horse Resort. A true “skier’s hill,” Kicking Horse has the fourth-highest vertical drop in North America and averages more than seven metres of snowfall (yes, metres) over the course of a winter. -Shelley Arnusch