Skiing British Columbia: Fluffy Stuff and Face Plants at Revelstoke Mountain Resort

Skeptical of Dan's giant powder skis.
(D. Herscovitch)
It’s not easy being average. If you’re a beginner, you’ve got so much learning to look forward to, so many new things to try. If you’re a pro, you boldly attack the most difficult option in front of you knowing full well it’s not out of your league.

If you’re average, you’re stuck. You’ve got more to learn, but are just within reach of taking on expert-level challenges. You're above the beginner options, but not quite ready for the hard stuff. Though applicable to other situations, in this case I’m specifically referring to skiing.

I donned skis for the first time four years ago in Alaska. Until our trip to Revelstoke, I'd never taken a formal lesson. The only comparable terrain I'd seen was at Alyeska, and I've been mostly on small hills in Pennsylvania since. My first real ski trip was an eye-opening, sore-leg-creating wonder of an experience. It was a reminder that it's okay to be average, but it's essential to remember to manage your expectations.

The town of Revelstoke, nestled in the Columbia Mountains of British Columbia, was founded in the late 1800's when the Canadian Pacific Railroad was built through it. It's a picture perfect little mountain town. Hardcore skiers from around the world have visited Revelstoke for years, and with good reason. The mountains are tall, steep, and breathtakingly beautiful, not to mention the 40-60 feet of annual snowfall.

Revelstoke Mountain Resort (RMR) is only four years old and thus one of the best-kept drop dead gorgeous ski resort secrets. With over 5,000 vertical feet to ski from top to bottom, RMR has the highest drop in North America. In addition to 54 runs, one of which is over nine miles long, short hikes take you to the North Bowl and Greely Bowl as well as the summit of Mount Mackenzie for some serious powder.

Lots of Snow, Lots of Avalanches

After spending a beautiful night at the Hotel Eldorado in Kelowna, BC (best fish and chips ever!), Dan and I took off for Revelstoke. We spent the day playing car tourists, including a stop at Rogers Pass in Glacier National Park. Both Revelstoke and Glacier National Park are part of the larger Columbia Mountains, a stunning set of ranges covering over 52,000 square miles.

The beautiful terrain at RMR, avalanche-free!
Before the trip, I watched two pretty cool avalanche control videos that illustrate both the power of the terrain and the incredible ability of area personnel to manage it. We’d heard of week long Trans-Canada Highway closures due to avalanches, and experienced it first hand when we attempted to leave Revelstoke to pick up friends in Kelowna. The highway was closed 20 miles outside of town for two hours for avalanche control, and we turned back.

That being said, of course all backcountry travel requires extensive knowledge of and experience with avalanche terrain. Without it, park rangers even recommend steering clear of what would normally be easy day hikes. I'm not ready for serious backcountry skiing yet, but regardless, due to our lack of avalanche terrain knowledge, any backcountry travel was out of the question. There's so much I wanted to see that we couldn't access because of our limited exposure to that type of terrain. Where I grew up and where I live, avalanches just aren’t an issue. But an avalanche course or two could open up a whole new world of opportunities, and those classes are at the top of my to-do list now!

It's Not Easy Being Average.

When the foot of snow fell on our first night in town, I woke up elated and ready to experience my first real powder day! Dan and I stuck mostly to blue runs that first day, though I did manage a serious face plant after getting my tips stuck in powder. The rest of our group, all experienced and talented skiers, arrived that night. As a result, all subsequent days involved harder, steeper runs and a lot more speed. Most of them would jump in and out of glades, fly down steep groomers, and talk about hiking up to the summit of Mount Mackenzie to make fresh tracks in knee deep powder. I did my best to hold my own, go as fast as I comfortably could, and even duck in and out of the occasional group of trees. But with a place like RMR at your disposal and a group of ballsy, experienced folks with you, it's not easy being a Type II skier.

In the Greely Bowl trying not to panic. (D. Herscovitch)
I spent a good bit of the week feeling intimidated by the terrain. Revelstoke is steep, plain and simple. And it snows a ton and a half there, which means a significant amount of powder. Though all North American ski areas have the same ratings for runs, the black runs out west aren’t comparable to black runs where I’ve been skiing. They were, as expected, much harder. Revelstoke doesn't use double black diamonds to signify the hardest of the hard runs, which means some black runs were more difficult than others. I did my first hike to a run ever in the North Bowl of the resort, and when we reached the end of the hike, the drop in to the bowl looked like a step off a cliff. But I did it, and it was amazing.

I fought feelings of guilt for being one of the last down each run, feelings of frustration because I wanted to keep up, but couldn't, and the occasional feeling of terror. But I also felt incredibly lucky to be with a couple of patient, talented skiers to watch and learn from. They'd give me pointers when I wasn't too frustrated to listen, encourage me when I made it down a run I didn't think I could, and they'd push me to try things I was too scared to do. I took my first lesson with friend Amanda the day before we left, and though I need at least ten more, I learned a few things that made me more confident. I even managed a long series of sweeping turns in knee deep powder without falling on the last day!

All in all, it was an amazing trip, and Revelstoke is a beyond amazing place. Who wants to go back with me? Who's been there?

Comments

Tali said…
I don't ski so I can't say too much on this post beyond the images are fabulous!

As far as feeling average, I get that, totally. I don't climb enough to be brilliant but I have enough expereince that it's not a whole new world anymore. I sometimes get caught up in just being average, but then I remember, it's still fun. That's all that matters.

Big hugs!
Yes, to paraphrase Alex Lowe, the best skier is the one having the most fun! Sounds like your ski trip to Revy was much like mine - amazing snow, quiet pistes, and just ever so slightly terrifying in places. I'm glad to hear you had a great time (I should definitely have thought of having a lesson) and yup, count me in for a return trip!
I'm not a skier (anymore) either, but don't buy in to the average thing. If you look you can find something that you are not quite ready for but can just barely handle, and there's your new thing to try. And in skiing or climbing there is no top end -- even the best have things they can't do, so in that sense pretty much everyone is average.

The advantage (or disadvantage, maybe...) of not being an absolute beginner is that you have the option of staying within your comfort zone if you so desire (and there's nothing wrong with that).
Katie said…
Laurel, I never thought about it that way. If you're a beginner, your comfort zone is miniscule if not nonexistent. At least as an intermediate skier, I can choose the blue and green runs if I want to take it easy, or black diamond runs to challenge myself. I love your perspective, thank you so much!
rockiesgirl said…
I can totally relate to your experience! When I first moved out here I found a lot of the runs were much harder than their similarly coloured eastern counterparts. Since then I've been doing a lot of skiing with my husband and friends all of whom are tons better than I am. I'm always the last one down every run, trailing behind, but in the long run I think it's been a good thing. My ski partners are great about pushing me yet still being understanding of my abilities and it's helped me improve by getting on more challenging (for me) terrain.

Anytime you want to come ski out west let me know & I'd love to road trip out to join you! If you liked Revy you could also try Kicking Horse Mountain Resort in Golden. If you want to do some ice climbing too you can check out Lake Louise or Sunshine in Banff both of which I highly recommend :)
Katie said…
Sarah, thanks so much for empathizing :) It really does make a difference to be around people who are patient and willing to push you to get better. We talked about going to Kicking Horse, but between all the avalanches and what Revy had to offer, we figured we'd be just as happy staying put. Our friends did make it to Kicking Horse and Lake Louise, and had great things to say!
George said…
@Nicola, I was just about to post the same thing re: having fun. That's the most important part :)

Great writeup Katie. Glad you had a fun time. And don't worry about being the "intermediate" skiier, just enjoy the snow and the mountains. That's the objective anyways :)

And yes, I'm game for the next trip!
Tiffany said…
Great post! I can relate. The first few years of skiing I felt like all I was doing was chasing my ski partner who was advancing faster than me and it was frustrating. Once I moved on to other ski partners, or even skiing by myself, I realized my mind relaxed and it didn't matter how beginner, average or intermediate I was - all that matters is fun. Feeling balls? Sure, I'll hit that black. Want to take it easy, blue it is. It's like in climbing - a clear and calm head leads to a great relaxed day of fun, no matter the level of intensity. I'm happy you've got a great group of ski friends!
I'm not a skier (anymore) either, but don't buy in to the average thing. If you look you can find something that you are not quite ready for but can just barely handle, and there's your new thing to try. And in skiing or climbing there is no top end -- even the best have things they can't do, so in that sense pretty much everyone is average.

The advantage (or disadvantage, maybe...) of not being an absolute beginner is that you have the option of staying within your comfort zone if you so desire (and there's nothing wrong with that).
Yes, to paraphrase Alex Lowe, the best skier is the one having the most fun! Sounds like your ski trip to Revy was much like mine - amazing snow, quiet pistes, and just ever so slightly terrifying in places. I'm glad to hear you had a great time (I should definitely have thought of having a lesson) and yup, count me in for a return trip!
@ginabegin said…
Holy cow! This is a must visit (even more than before!). Thanks for sharing.
Katie L. said…
Glad you enjoyed it! I'm glad to provide more info about places to eat, places to stay, etc. based on my experience if you end up going there. It's an incredible place!
@ginabegin said…
I just saw your reply. Sorry Katie!