B.C. Winter Staycation Guide 2023: What It’s Like to Ski Kicking Horse

The steeps of Kicking Horse are made for the thrillseeker—and for anyone looking to up their ski game.

Emile Lavoie_Kicking Horse Mountain Resort

Credit: Emile Lavoie. Kicking Horse Mountain Resort

The steeps of Kicking Horse are made for the thrillseeker—and for anyone looking to up their ski game

There’s no way to sugar-coat it: there was a moment on the slopes of Kicking Horse when I flipped into full-on panic attack mode.

It was day one of three tackling those legendarily steep slopes, in a season when I’d skied only once to that point (COVID, scheduling conflicts, blah blah blah). And as most avid skiers know, Kicking Horse is not a mountain you cruise. Nearly half the resort is rated as advanced terrain; another 15 percent is expert. It’s adored for the peak runs you access by boot packing—off come the skis, up you huff to reach fresh powder and incredible views. As one local told me, “At Kicking Horse, you have no choice but to get good, fast—and you do.”

Kicking Horse Mountain Resort. Photo Jeff BartlettJeff Bartlett. Kicking Horse Mountain Resort

I’m no boot packer. But even intermediate skiers like myself get a rush from the gorgeous, light, powdery snow you only find in the interior of B.C.—a thrilling shift from the heavier coastal snow that falls in my own Vancouver backyard. 

That panic moment? My own doing, when a few friends convinced me to take a short black diamond transition to an appealing blue a little farther down. I rounded a corner and froze at the sight of a run that was clearly over my head—though after that initial rush of fear I did take on the challenge, and made it through to the blue. But that wise local I had spoken to earlier was also right. By day two, I had pushed past the fear, and my skiing was bolder, faster… better. And by day three? I was shrugging and saying “sure” whenever my friends led me toward yet another black diamond. The thrill? Glorious—and the panic-sweat I had experienced only two days earlier was already just a battle story to bring home from this gorgeous spot in the Rockies.

Dave Best. Eagle’s Eye RestaurantDave Best. Eagle’s Eye Restaurant

Best spots to eat around Kicking Horse

Even non-skiers will want to summit the resort gondola to hit up Eagle’s Eye Restaurant at the peak of Kicking Horse. With a 360-degree view encompassing the five national parks that surround the mountain, it’s a place made for long après afternoons (and possibly taking the gondola back down, too). Grab the note-perfect classic Cobb salad or, if it’s been a boot-pack kind of day, the prime rib burger—bacon jam, brioche bun, applewood smoked cheddar—for a solid refuel.

Rockwater chicken slidersRockwater chicken sliders

In the nearby town of Golden, the Rockwater Grill and Bar looks like a rough-and-ready live music joint—and it is that, too—but it also cranks out one of the most incredible burgers I’ve had in recent years. The bison burger comes perfectly seared, and is topped with both blue cheese and housemade fig compote, pairing nicely with any one of the deep list of craft beers they stock (even Whistler’s Forager gluten-free beer—a happy discovery for my gluten-intolerant self). 

Bacchus Books & CafeBacchus Books & Cafe

The nearby Bacchus Books and Café is one of those gems you’re thrilled to find in a town the size of Golden (population 4,000). The curated selection is excellent—from cabin reads to literary treasures to highlighted local authors—and upstairs is a warm and welcoming café dishing out comfort-food classics like oven-roasted chicken, cranberry and brie sandwiches (with a side of kettle chips, natch) and all-day breakfasts (Belgian waffles for the win).  

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