Skiing Steep & Deep in Revelstoke, Canada
Tom Lewis, April 5, 2012
Being based in Vancouver for the season has forced me to spend copious days on the mountain, usually up at Whistler which serves as the local playground for this adventure hub. Determined to sample more of British Columbia (BC) and its famed powder, I headed further inland to Revelstoke with a couple of friends during March.
Making the switch
Since Vancouver and Whistler lie relatively close to the sea, their snowfall is often moist and therefore heavy. Revelstoke and other interior BC resorts are further away from the coast and are normally a bit colder and therefore more likely to get light snow. Revie also has an impressive claim to fame: the mountain claims North America’s greatest vertical at 1,713 meters. Needless to say I was stoked to ski the steep and deep.
The drive from Vancouver to Revelstoke is beautiful, and essentially follows the route of one road for eight hours, an unfortunate simplicity that attracts fleets of trans-Canada lorries hurtling at 150km/hour. The fact that you can drive the length of England and not even cover the breadth of a Canadian province gives a real sense of how massive the country is. The village of Revelstoke itself is based a little way from the mountain but there are shuttle buses as well as hotels right at the base if you want to roll out of bed and onto the lift.
With only four lifts (two of which are gondolas that take you to the top of the treeline, and two chairs that take you into the alpine on two sides of the hill), you may be fooled into thinking that Revelstoke occupies a small ski area. Since the resort is only into its fifth season, the lifts are all new which means they are comfortable and more importantly they are fast – we didn’t queue once over the weekend. The ride up the two gondolas to the alpine reveal a section of cliffs and pillow lines that, given the right conditions, would be a dream to ride. Visiting in March meant that the freezing line was higher than ideal, but if I am to visit again I’ll try to do so in colder months.
The morning of the first day was quite cloudy and we were advised by a local to stick to the trees. Underneath the Stoke chair (see piste map) the trees were extremely fun, they held snow well and the terrain was steep leading to a well paced ride down. Even the groomers back to the lift were entertaining – lots of rollers to fly over and plenty of space to make large slalom turns. Heading to the right off Stoke chair will lead you to the base of Ripper chair – the runs down here are a bit more chilled, with a bounty of glades to pick your own line down – doing a few laps and finding fresh each time is a delight.
Whilst bouncing through trees is good clean fun, the gem in Revie’s crown is a little harder to get to. On the Saturday night we got some snow and Sunday morning presented a beautiful blue bird sky, so we decided to make a hike left at the top of the Stoke chair to the North Bowl. This bowl is fairly large and when it’s full of untouched powder, you’d be hard-pressed to find a bad route down.
The beauty of Revelstoke became apparent when 8cm of snow felt like 20cm and it stuck around all day. The snow was so light that even ripping through the cut up stuff was a joy. In North Bowl, there are plenty of little rocks to drop off and on the far side some tight couloirs to make exciting turns down. If you stay hard left then you can make it back to the Stoke chair but for a more continuous run just keep going straight down and you’ll hit some more glades and eventually end up on a cat-track leading to The Ripper chair. If North Bowl is looking a bit tracked-out then continue on the traverse at the top and you will cross over into Greely Bowl that also leads to The Ripper.
For those that are really keen, another hike leads you to the Sub Peak. Off the Stoke chair, go a few meters to your right and the boot pack onwards will be obvious on the left. This walk takes around 20 minutes but is well worth it for the views alone. You then have many options to drop into the top of North Bowl, some choices easier than others.
With only a couple of days to explore, I felt like we didn’t have the opportunity to fully get to know Revie and would love to return, especially armed with a set of skins as the backcountry is extensive.
For more information on visiting Revelstoke, go to revelstokemountainresort.com.