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Powder Highway Runs Deep Into Canadian Rockies Steepest Terrain

KH-Cover Most anywhere the Powder Highway, you can drop off a ridge into waist-deep powder, with the Canadian Rockies as a backdrop. (Image via Kicking Horse Mountain Resort Facebook)

The farther you go on western Canada's Powder Highway, the more rugged, remote and challenging the ski and snowboard mountains get for serious powderhounds.

Start with Panorama (2,975 a., 4265 vert.), probably the least known along the Powder Highway. It's 3.5 hours' drive from Calgary -- on a clear roads -- and 5.5 hours from Spokane. Despite its remoteness, it has an extensive base village for lodging, as nearest town is 30 minutes away. Ikon Pass works for seven days, Mountain Collective too.

Half the trail map is black-rated with just one summit lift. Super pitch-y glades and natural chutes cover top half of the hill. Powderhounds have to ride three chairs to that high ground, where a ridge subdivides Panaroma Mountain. Skier's left finds sparse glades served by lappable Summit fixed-grip quad.

Same but more on the other side. Extreme Dream's double blacks -- long and technical with hidden cliffs -- stick close to the ridge. Farther out, Taynton Bowl's long ridge traverse ends up with more open bowl skiing. A $24 snowcat shuttle cuts traversing time. Since no lifts, only way out is return to base.

Next stop on the Highway is Kicking Horse, an Epic Pass resort. Probably the most concentrated collection of chutes, couloirs, drops and straightlines anywhere. Runs are long and test fitness: "I got kicked by the Horse today." Famous for ridge-drops with slot entries that thankfully open up into alpine bowls.

Spread across five ridges and bowls, more than half the hill is black-plus. With only the base gondola and lappable Stairway to Heaven fixed-grip quad serving high ground, a good portion of the best stuff requires traversing and boot-hiking -- and long runouts. Less than half of acreage is directly lift-served.

Cold temps make powder snow among lightest in B.C. Decent lodging at base, more in quaint Golden nearby.

And then there's Revelstoke (3,121 a., 5,630 vert.), with the most vertical drop in North America and a trail that goes for 9.5 miles. Vertical is unrelenting; several black runs extend all the way to bottom. It's much taller than it is wide, with a main gondola and two upper, lappable chairlifts.

PeakRankings calls it "decidedly wild." It's aimed at the seriously adventurous. Once you push off, there's nowhere to bail. Both bowls have lifts but also require a hike. Down from there it's trees, trees and more trees. One reviewer: "It's a ski area in a giant forest with a few trails and bowls that get in the way of all the tree skiing and off-piste."

Persistent fog and snowy weather reduces visibility and adds to the challenge. Because of the vertical drop, snow can vary widely from top to bottom. Revelstoke holds Canadian record of 80 feet in a season. Several snowcat and heli-ski ops load at the base. Seven-day Ikon Pass and Mountain Collective work.

Base area modest and with minimal lodging. Town of Revelstoke (8,700 pop.) has a limited number of beds with places to eat and drink. Calgary is a four-hour drive.

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