The “Powder Highway” is the nickname given to the legendary snow-blessed route along Canada’s 95A, which consists of a 630-mile loop through interior British Columbia’s Kootenay Rockies and connects more than 60 different powder providers. Each Powder Highway ski resort has more than enough terrain and off-mountain activities to occupy you for days on end and many skiers prefer to stay at one resort and tack-on day trips. But, if you revel in the good ol’ days of ski road trips then you may want to experience the rewarding challenge of skiing and staying at every Powder Highway resort.
If you’re up for the full Powder Highway itinerary, you’ll want to set aside at least two weeks of vacation time in order to experience all the resorts, which include Red Mountain, Whitewater, Fernie, Kimberley, Panorama, Kicking Horse, and Revelstoke.
The guide below reflects an itinerary in which you would experience the Powder Highway in its entirety, but whichever itinerary you choose, you’re in for a reasonably priced, snowy ski vacation. All the Powder Highway ski resorts are about 40 percent less expensive than the average North American ski resort and boast an average of 33 feet of snow annually. Lift tickets range from about $60-120 USD (and can be even cheaper when packaged with lodging), and hotel rooms can go for as low as $130 per night.
Here’s a sample itinerary of what your Powder Highway trip could look like…
Fly into Spokane International Airport, Washington
Spokane is the perfect place to start your Powder Highway ski trip. Located just 92 miles from the Canadian border, Spokane International Airport is served by seven domestic airlines, including United and Delta and enjoys non-stop service from 13 major U.S. cities, including Atlanta, Chicago, Denver, Salt Lake City, Los Angeles, Portland, and Seattle, making it easy to get to from just about anywhere. There are eight on-site car rental services, including Hertz and Avis. Be sure to book your rental car in advance so you can pin down a winter-ready vehicle. Call or chat now with a Mountain Travel Expert to book your flights and rental car.
Drive to Red Mountain for the world’s largest cat-skiing operation
From Spokane, you’ll drive along US 395 S for about 2.5 hours. The Kootenay Rockies will appear larger and larger in the distance until suddenly you’ve arrived in this powder lover’s paradise. Red Mountain’s 2,912-foot vertical drop is full of playful terrain nuggets and untracked, consistent fall-line skiing, but snowcat operator Big Red Cats is truly where the resort derives its renown. Start the trip out with a bang, and book a day or two with Big Red Cats to experience their powder-filled 19,300-acre tenure. If you’ve hesitated when booking a cat-skiing trip in the past because you thought you weren’t experienced enough, think again. Big Red Cats prides itself on being the only cat-skiing operator in British Columbia to run trips for intermediate, advanced, and expert skiers or snowboarders.
Where to ski: Over the past decade, Red Mountain has grown by leaps and bounds with the additions of nearby Grey Mountain and the backcountry access only, Mount Kirkup. The options are virtually endless here but the trees accessed via the Powder Fields Traverse are hard to beat.
Where to stay: The Josie in Rossland is Red Mountain’s modern, downtown-located hotel. Its charm is immediately obvious upon entering the lobby and those staying at the Josie will enjoy ski valet services as well as an in-house sauna and wellness center.
Drive to Whitewater for some seriously deep snow
The inclination to simply drive to wherever the snow is best can be strong, but having a booked itinerary will ensure that you’ve locked in the lowest lodging and lift ticket prices. Take Route 22 northeast to 3A for about an hour until you reach Whitewater ski resort. Located just outside historic Nelson, B.C., which was recently listed one of North America’s Best Ski Towns by National Geographic, this laid-back, crowd-free resort receives nearly 40 feet of snow annually and boasts a 2,000-foot descent and plenty of opportunities for side-country and backcountry exploits. Powder Magazine calls Whitewater “one of best powder mountains on the continent.”
Where to ski: Avid skiers will enjoy the pristine black diamond glades located skier’s left off the Glory Ridge chairlift. Summit Side is another challenge seekers paradise with plenty more glades, steeps, and cliffs. Fat powder skis are an absolute must when skiing at Whitewater because more often than not it’s snowing.
Where to stay: One of Nelson’s most charming establishments, The Prestige Inn is modeled in the traditional style of the French countryside and features its own in-house restaurant as well as a ski valet.
Head to Kimberley for Bavarian ambiance and incredible tree skiing
To get to Kimberley Alpine Resort, hop on the main Powder Highway thoroughfare, 95A, for 3.5 hours. Formerly a mining town populated by German immigrants, Kimberley has a strong Bavarian background that is prevalent at both the ski resort base village and in charming downtown Kimberley. Families will especially appreciate Kimberley out of all the Powder Highway ski resorts because there are plenty of smile-inducing activities, like dog sledding, snowshoeing, and evening kids’ events.
Where to ski: Kimberley is home to British Columbia’s best tree skiing: the Black Forest. Night skiing is also available Thursday through Saturday until 8:30 p.m. on the resort’s main thoroughfare.
Where to stay: The new Trickle Creek Lodge is the place to be in Kimberley. Thoughtfully built, the lodge features a skier’s breakfast cafe conveniently situated near the ski room, which leads out to the slopes.
Visit Fernie for sunny, powder-filled bowl skiing
Fernie is another 1.5-hour drive along 95N to 3E. It’s a bit off the main 95 A route, but worth the detour. Famed for its mild weather and steep and deep skiing, Fernie’s terrain includes five powder-filled bowls. The resort boasts the most ski runs in the Canadian Rockies as well as a seriously impressive vertical drop. The base village facilities and accommodations have received a face-lift in the last couple of years, ensuring that there are plenty of high-spec, slopeside lodging options to choose from.
Where to ski: The Polar Peak lift—installed in 2011—propels skiers to a 7,800-foot summit and provides access to a bowl chock-full of expansive steeps.
Where to stay: Providing convenient ski-in, ski-out access to the Elk Quad chairlift, Lizard Creek Lodge offers a spectacular outdoor pool and spa, four-star dining, health spa, conference facilities, and pre-arrival grocery shopping.
Drive to Panorama for big vertical descents
Head back on Route 3 to 95 N and drive for the better part of three hours until you reach Panorama. Here you’ll be greeted with an impressive 4,000-vertical-foot descent and some of Canada’s best below-tree-line skiing and longest fall-line cruisers. If you’ve been dying for a day in the bird, here’s your first chance. Panorama ski resort offers the convenience of having a world-class heli-ski operator, RK Heliski, based right out of its village.
Where to ski: Tayton Bowl provides adventure-seekers with a taste of heli-skiing, as this zone used to be accessed only by helicopter. If you’re hankering for some airtime, Panorama boasts one of the Powder Highway’s best terrain parks.
Where to stay: The Panorama Springs Lodge puts you in the middle of all the action with ski-in ski-out access to the slopes. This lodge not only offers convenience to the lifts, but the property features a larger-than-life pool along with ski storage and a variety of other amenities.
Ski and Stay at Kicking Horse and experience an expert skier’s paradise
Get back on the road and head north on 95 for a little more than two hours until you reach Kicking Horse. The resort’s terrain is designated as 60 percent black or double black, making it bar none for skiers and snowboarders looking to challenge themselves. Before lifts were installed in 2000, Kicking Horse was a heli-skiing-only zone, and standing atop one of the resort’s 85 chutes quickly reminds you why. Kicking Horse has a 4,133 vertical drop with some serious steeps and is often compared to Jackson Hole. There are plenty of off-mountain activities to experience, including the resort’s 20-acre grizzly bear refuge, and nearby historic Golden offers plenty of restaurant options.
Where to ski: Don’t miss the chutes off Revelation Ridge. Some of the terrain requires a short hike, but the incredible snow, challenging pitch, and uber-long descent make it well worth the effort.
Where to stay: Whispering Pines’ luxurious three-bedroom townhomes provide exclusive ski-in, ski-out access to the gondola and Village Plaza. If your muscles are tired from tackling the slopes, the private six-person hot tub will be a welcomed amenity. Call or chat now to book your Kicking Horse lodging.
Head to Revelstoke for Canada’s deepest snow
In Golden, B.C., route 95 becomes BC-1, or the Trans-Canada Highway. Take 1 west for a little more than two hours until you reach Revelstoke, the veritable king of British Columbia snowfall—and vertical. Revelstoke is located in the Selkirk and Monashee Ranges where snowfall varies from 480 to 720 inches annually. Revelstoke was also formerly a heli- and cat-skiing zone, so the terrain is distinctly playful, steep, and long. In fact, Revelstoke boasts North America’s longest vertical descent: 5,620 feet. You can get a full 6,000 vertical feet—and the best access to North Bowl—with a moderate 15- to 25-minute hike from the top of The Stoke chairlift. The town of Revelstoke is six miles from the resort and provides a surprising array of great restaurants and some lively watering holes.
If you’ve fostered a hankering to go heli-skiing on a Powder Highway ski trip, Revelstoke is the place to do it. Local heli-skiing operator Selkirk Tangiers boasts a 500,000-acre tenure and 36 years of operations.
Where to ski: The Stoke chair provides access to long, sustained blue and black runs, glades as well as hike-to, above-tree-line bowl terrain.
Where to stay: It’s easier to be first on the chair if you’re staying close to it. The slopeside Sutton Place Hotel is located right in Revelstoke’s base village and provides convenient access for getting out the door in the morning on powder days. Call or chat now to book your Revelstoke lodging.
Tack on a day of skiing at Red Mountain or Whitewater on the drive back to Spokane
To break up the six-plus-hour drive from Revelstoke back to Spokane stop at Red Mountain or Whitewater for one last day of skiing and a place to rest your head. After getting your last turns in, get back on the road, drive to Spokane, drop off the rental car and hop on your flight home. Congratulations, you’ve just experienced the ski road trip of a lifetime!