Crave The Deep Stuff? Hit British Columbia's Powder Highway
A deep powder day hypnotizes top-end skiers and riders, so a trip to Western Canada's Powder Highway is an obvious destination.
Eight resorts sit on a 600-mile loop in the snowy Kootenay Rockies southwest of Calgary, and they've earned their moniker honestly with deep powder and precipitous pitches -- all inside the ropes. Snow-catting and heli-skiing aplenty, too.
Let's start with RED Mountain (2,700 a. inbounds, 2,900 vert), a three-hour drive from Spokane in the snowy Selkirk Range. All six chairlifts are fixed-grip across three mountains. But there are so many double-black diamond runs at RED that black diamonds seem like cruisers.
Powderhounds focus on Grey Mountain (6,870 elev.), with its persistent fall line and over-the-top tight lines in the trees. Add in extreme "cliff areas" that require straightlining and air drops. Smaller Red Mountain (5,219) is no slouch, with a tidy cohort of double black glades.
Snow can be heavy, because of lower elevation, and famous Kootenay Fog rolls in. Ikon Pass works. Nearby Rossland (4,100 pop.) has classic mountain mining vibe.
An hour northeast is Whitewater (1,184a., 2,044 vert.), another down-home, fixed-grip gem that averages 40 feet of snow and 60% expert terrain. Online Powderhounds rates it No. 1 in Canada because of its renowned tree skiing on four distinct aspects.
Powderhounds head to the forested cirque Summit and the peel-off-the-piste Glory Ridge sectors that hold Whitewater's private treasures: traverse-to alpine bowls and steep-steep glades.
All four chairs are fixed-grip but, oddly, some run faster than others. Basic base facilities include grab 'n' go, rustic pub with local beers, and a yurt. No cell service at all. Rustic civilization down the road in funky Nelson.
Finally, there's Fernie Alpine Resort (2,500 a., 3,500 vert.), the biggest of its nearby Powder Highway cohorts and the farthest east (4.5 hours from Spokane). It averages 29 feet of powder a year, and has the tallest vertical drop in western Canada. However, weather can be mild, and it often shuts down in February. So, make plans early ... and bring an Epic Pass.
The trail map presents a classic layout: Five peaks hold five alpine bowls that drain into five distinct trail systems below timberline. Up top, it's more than 1,000 acres of blacks highlighted by Polar Peak Headwall (7,000 elev.) that's got its own chair. Innumerable pitches dive off the ridges below.
Two high-speeds and eight fixed-grips do what they can to get powderhounds up into the high country. The best stuff requires a traverse, but the freshies stay longer because of that effort.
Base village features the usual suspects, including three overnight spots and hangouts. Coal-mining town Fernie is just down the road, with turn-of-century feel and modern amenities.