I know it seems like we dropped off the face of the earth, but in reality, we've had a pretty cool, busy summer. But now, it's the shoulder season - summer is over, trail running is slowing down, and ski season doesn't start until November. So, it seemed like a good time to catch up on some blog posts. First up - back in April we took a trip to Kicking Horse Mountain Resort. It's a pretty sweet spot, although as you can tell from my title, it wasn't the easiest place we'd ever skied. We had it all planned out - a free weekend, with no direction - we waited until the last minute to try to find somewhere, anywhere that was going to get some snow. And Kicking Horse was a good deal, since A. We could drive there (a 10 hour trip, up to Golden - passing the "Golden Rim, Motor Inn - Soft Water and a Color TV" (that's a Tragically Hip reference for those of you who care)) B. It was reasonably priced, and C. it's somewhere I've always wanted to go.
We stayed at the Vagabond Lodge, which was a great bed and breakfast right at the base of the mountain. It was fairly new, I think only 1-2 years old, built and run by a couple from Edmonton that had always dreamed of living in the mountains. We were walking distance to the lifts, and the scottish pub down the road. Add to that a comfortable TV room (for watching the final four), a BYO bar, fireplace, great breakfast and lunch, and I couldn't recommend the place more.
As for the skiing - well, it was the worst I have skied in about 8 years. Not entirely because of the mountain, but a little. Here's the deal - this is the hardest mountain I've ever found myself on - lots of steeps, lots of chutes, narrow trees - you name it, it has it. Most of the black diamonds were comparable to the double blacks I've seen in Whistler. Now, there are some moderate runs as well, but the bulk of those are on the lower part of the mountain, where the snow wasn't quite as good, and frankly, there wasn't much in between. Some good stuff for beginners to get their feet wet, and a ton of expert terrain. The part of the bowl I ended up liking best was actually a double black diamond area, but it was wide open, so I didn't need to worry about drops & chutes on entry, or narrow trees at the bottom. That said, the few runs I had on great snow were excellent. From what I could tell, the best part of the mountain is the open access to the backcountry - but without the necessary equipment or friends, I didn't actually check it out. It also has a bit of a weird lift setup that says if you want to do laps on the main ridge, you have to go all the way back to the base and take the gondola back up. I did first tracks one day - that was a great idea - as you can see from the photo there were only like 20 people that did it - which meant that you had a lot to choose from - a great powder run down through the trees ensued! But to top it all off, on the last day there I had probably my 2nd worst wipeout ever. I was flying down a blue run called "Show Off" when it got just a little steeper and just a little icier. Oops. I slide about 800' feet down the hill, lost both skis, broke the boot warmer off of my boot, just about took out 3-4 people in a ski lesson, and finally stopped myself in the mogul field beside the run. The bruises were legend - waitforit - ary.
One of the highlights of the trip, beyond the humbling skiing, was dinner at the Eagle's Eye restaurant - the highest restaurant in Canada. The food was good (I liked it more than L) - but the experience was what really made it. You take the gondola up to the top of the mountain at night, they give you blankets to keep you warm, and then you take it back down after dinner, with a great view of the valley below.
All in all it was a fun trip - the skiing was tough, but gave me some perspective, and the company, the drive, and the experience were all great...