Kicking Horse Mountain Resort, Canada
Kicking Horse was once the haven of heliskiers and riders. Now development is creating one of Canada’s most significant new resorts.
Kicking Horse Mountain Resort in interior British Columbia is a jeweled crown in the making—a true work in progress. It’s on Highway 1, just 48 miles west of Lake Louise between Kootenay and Glacier national parks in the town of Golden. The once locally owned day hill is undergoing a huge infusion of money from its new owners, the Netherlands-based construction giant Ballast Nedam International, a company that traditionally builds dams and bridges.
Originally run by local volunteers and known as Whitetooth, Ballast Nedam renamed this potentially world-class ski area Kicking Horse and transformed the site, adding two new lifts including a bottom-to-top gondola, two ski lodges, its first slopeside lodging and other amenities. Their goal is to make this resort one of the largest ski areas in North America.The name Kicking Horse has its origins in a near-fatal accident suffered in an 1858 expedition to discover a route through the mountains for the railroad. In an effort to retrieve a recalcitrant pack horse, Sir James Hector was kicked so severely that he was thought dead and almost buried by his guides. When he later discovered the desired pass through the mountains, the nearby river and pass were named after his kicking horse in his honor.
Kicking Horse Mountain Resort’s peaks were once prime heliskiing terrain, a vast wilderness ripe with other peaks that are still used for heliskiing and snowcat skiing. What Mother Nature has provided in her “eagle eye” views from the top of the ski area combined with its natural ski terrain make it hard for skiers and riders to resist.
The resort is situated amongst three mountain ranges—the Purcells, the Selkirks and the Canadian Rockies, a region full of national parks in every direction—Banff, Jasper, Glacier, Kootenay, Yoho and Mt. Revelstoke.
The resort has a hardcore reputation. As with many other resorts with steep terrain, the avalanche danger at Kicking Horse is ever present, so ski and ride with care and respect for the mountain. The resort benefits from its location by missing wetter weather that can plague its southern B.C. neighbors. It gets lots of snow, though it can be heavy powder.
The goal is to make this resort one of the largest ski resorts in North America. The resort has a 4,133-foot vertical drop, second in Canada only to Whistler Blackcomb. When its skiable acreage increases from 2,750 to 4,005 at build-out, Kicking Horse will join the ranks of Vail, Squaw Valley and Whistler Blackcomb, all monstrous when it comes to lift-accessed terrain. The resort also will soon reap the benefits of a government investment of $125 million in roadway improvements. The funding will be used to augment the highway to four lanes, improving access to the resort from the east.
Down the road, Golden is a logger’s village in the throes of a failing timber industry that sits at the foot of a developing ski hill with a very bright future. The influx of outside private and local provincial money promises to change Golden’s fortunes.
Beginner and lower-intermediate terrain is greatly improved by grooming and access. The addition of a midstation on the beginner Catamount chair accesses shorter runs. The first phase of a child-care facility offers a convenient guest service for those with kids. The resort continues its real estate development as well.
Kicking Horse Resort has extreme potential and its new owners have the vision to make it happen. The resort’s reputation has a real skiers’ mountain appeal for advanced and experts.