Kicking Up Gold
By Susan Mate
Contributor to Travelink Publishing

In Golden, British Columbia, snow is falling on this alpine town – but you’d be hard-pressed to find anyone who’s upset about it.

The white stuff tumbling from the skies is as good as gold for this community of 4,000 as local residents – and powder hounds in the West – have eagerly awaited the first full winter season for Canada’s newest mountain resort in 25 years.

The $250-million Kicking Horse Mountain Resort opened its doors to critical acclaim in 2000 for its unique ‘champagne powder’, challenging runs and gorgeous vistas. Add to this, new amenities, expanded terrain and snow – loads of snow, and Golden seems to have struck gold.

“Our work crews have done an amazing job in showcasing some of the best skiing and snowboarding terrain in the world,” said spokesman Stuart McLaughlin of Grouse Mountain Resorts Ltd., which is part of the team developing the Kicking Horse. “This is one of the most beautiful and secluded resort settings in North America.”

Recreationists have been heading to the area for years for its abundance of year-round outdoor pursuits, but until recently, the town was mostly a refuelling stop for the thousands of motorists who travel past every day on the Trans Canada Highway. Unlike many mountain developments, this project has gained full community support – more than 90 per cent of residents voted in a plebiscite to expand the small, community-owned ski hill formerly known as Whitetooth. Situated 250 kilometres west of Calgary and 700 kilometres east of Vancouver, the Kicking Horse employs most of its staff from Golden, and has already boosted the area’s economic fortunes.

Several new tourist-related developments are under way and the area is gaining stature as a vacation property haven for residents of western Canada.

With 26 new ski and snowboard runs, the skiable terrain has nearly doubled. A 12-kilometre road to the base of the hill has now been paved, making the 15-minute drive from Golden a breeze. There are also are two private, ultra-exclusive suites perched at 2,500 metres (7,700 feet) atop the Eagle’s Eye restaurant – which the resort calls “Canada’s most elevated restaurant”. The ski hill’s vertical drop – 1,260 metres or 4,133 feet – is said to be the second highest in Canada next to Whistler, B.C. Guests are shuttled to the mountaintop in 12 minutes aboard the state-of-the-art Golden Eagle Express, an eight-passenger level walk-in gondola that affords panoramic views of the winding Columbia River and the town of Golden below. As skiers and snowboarders disembark on the ridge known as the Dogtooth Range, they are treated to an unbeatable 360-degree view of three mountain ranges and six national parks.

For those travellers who don’t enjoy slapping on the boards, there’s the Eagle’s Eye restaurant, which boasts vaulted ceilings, floor-to-ceiling windows, a gargantuan stone fireplace and a view to die for. Like the day lodge at the base, the Eagle’s Eye and some of its furnishings are made from timber felled by nature – not by man. The restaurant’s food easily matches the ambiance, going well beyond the usual ski hill offerings of hamburgers, pizza or nachos. Examples of dinner delights include apple butternut squash soup, pistachio-crusted halibut and grilled stacked portabello mushrooms with sweet corn coulis and pesto.

Given the Eagle’s Eye’s extensive wine list and its cleverly-concocted cocktails, guests should opt for a round-trip on the gondola, which is complimentary for guests with dinner reservations. If you’re going for he view akibe, the roundtrip gondola ride is C$17.75 for adults, C$14 for seniors and youth and C$7.25 for children. Tots are free and a family pass costs C$39.50.

The resort’s two exclusive mountaintop suites will be part of special packages that feature VIP gondola service, 24-hour butler service, personalized dining menus from the Eagle’s Eye and the ability to be first on the slopes in the morning before the crowds arrive. “This isn’t just another ordinary ski and stay getaway. It’s the ultimate, exclusive mountain top experience,” notes McLaughlin.

If You Go:

Kicking Horse Resort

For the rest of the world, accommodation is available in the town of Golden including an assortment of motels, hotels and bed-and-breakfasts. Two new residential developments at the resort – the Whispering Pines and Purcell Woods – are sold out and new developments are being introduced. By 2005, the resort’s long-range plan will result in a mountain village complete with 3,100 on-hill beds and bars, eateries and boutiques. Until then, the resort has launched new stay-and-ski packages via a new central reservation system at 1-866-SKI-KICK. One-day lift ticket prices are $49.75 for adults, $39.75 youth and seniors and $21.75 for kids age seven to 12. Tots age 6 and under ski free; half-day, multi-day and season passes are also available.

© Travelink Publishing - All Rights Reserved