Story by Michelle McChristie, Photos by Darren McChristie
It’s amazing how out-of-date a Lonely Planet guidebook can become after 18 years. My now vintage British Columbia edition has a little write-up on Powder Springs Resort—“a small ski hill on Mt. Mackenzie, just 4km southeast of Revelstoke” which “lacks the multiple chairlifts of bigger resorts, but its heavy snowfall (up to 1,200 cm), access to backcountry slopes and relatively cheap lift tickets make it a spectacular spot.”
These days, Revelstoke Mountain Resort boasts North America’s highest vertical at 1,713 metres, an average snowfall of 10.5 metres, 3,121 acres of fall line skiing, high alpine bowls, tonnes of glades and endless groomers—not small by any definition.
The transition from the Lonely Planet description of a typical small-town ski hill to the present-day behemoth started in 2005 with Revelstoke Mountain Resort opening in 2007. Two years later, the Sutton Place Hotel opened to offer visitors a premium ski-in, ski-out experience—luxury condominium hotel units featuring a stunning year-round outdoor heated pool and hot tubs (complete with complimentary bathrobes and slippers).
Revelstoke is a skiers resort. Only 7% of the runs are suitable for beginners, so you don’t see a lot of pizza and French fries on the hill. We visited in mid-March, hot on the heels of a dump of snow that was met with boisterous enthusiasm by locals who had endured a lengthily drought. On our first morning, we were welcomed by a 25-minute gondola line (trust me, it felt longer knowing that every minute spent standing at the bottom of the hill meant missing out on fresh tracks at the top and the extra 10 minutes to fix a mistake on our kids’ magnetic passes was damn near infuriating).
We beelined it to the Ripper Chair and headed for the South Bowl, enduring what felt like painfully long lift lines between each run (the wait was only about four minutes). Any stress from the first-world problems of the line-ups and screw-up was quickly replaced by powder glee. Everywhere around us skiers were hooting and hollering. By noon, the hill was a ghost town—locals had high graded for the best powder and then headed back to town to get on with their day.
We weren’t lucky enough to have more fresh snow during our three-day visit, but we didn’t need it. On our last few runs, we were still discovering powder stashes in the North Bowl and glades. And the terrain was varied enough to keep the adult tele-skiers, and the teenage freestyle and bump skiers satiated (not to mention Revelation Lodge’s poutine and butter chicken). We skied about 25,000 metres of vertical over three days and still managed to enjoy leisurely mornings on days two and three—we were on vacation, after all.
With more than 20 lifts in the master plan, including a new quad chair on the books for next season, the old Lonely Planet description is soon-to-be, if not already, relegated to pure nostalgia. It’s probably a blessing and a curse for locals who might have been happy not to share their little piece of paradise. I’ll be more empathetic the next time I show up on a powder day.
Flights are available from Thunder Bay to Kelowna or Calgary; Revelstoke is about 200 kilometres northeast of Kelowna and just over 400 kilometres west of Calgary. There are also direct flights between Kelowna and Revelstoke.
Revelstoke offers a full range of accommodation options, including the swanky Sutton Place Hotel (the only true ski-in, ski-out hotel)
Revelstoke has an impressive variety of restaurants, we recommend The Chubby Funsters and The Taco Club downtown and Rockford Grill in the village—all are family friendly.
Revelstoke offers a blend of terrain to challenge intermediate and advanced skiers for months (we talked to a Thunder Bay skier who has visits annually for a month and is still discovering new areas). If you are heading for the glades, be sure to keep your friends in sight and stop every 30 metres or so to make sure you haven’t lost anyone (speaking from experience here).