by: ski53 - 16th January 2008

  • 5
  • Beginner
  • Intermediate
  • Expert
  • 5All-Mtn. Terrain
  • Family Friendly
  • 3Aprés Ski
  • Terrain Park
  • Overall Value

Full review

Kicking Horse is a superb skiing mountain. One of the best I've ever seen. But it is not a destination resort. Craggy, steep, and intimidating, the Horse is really most suited to expert skiers. The terrain is "super gnarly" to paraphrase one of the locals I was skiing with, ranging from wide open bowls to numerous chutes (I think they claim to have 70 IN BOUNDS) to really good tree runs. It is not very well suited for beginners; they'd have to spend time on the Catamount chair and would never see the spectacular views from the top. The green run (singular) from the top is no joke. Never mind the fact that it's 6.2 miles long, its pitch is that of a difficult blue at many Colorado resorts. If you make the mistake of taking the Stairway to Heaven quad chair up there, good luck! The (singular) blue run from the top of that chair is Colorado-black-diamond steep! And the visibility is often really bad. Not a good combination. Also, I'm not really sure how they differentiated between a single and a double black. If you're used to single black diamond runs other places, you might really want to consider which lines you're going to take at Kicking Horse. Cliffs and rocks abound in the upper area. Personally, I would label the entire north face of CPR Ridge as double black, with maybe one or two exceptions. They are all labeled single black. If you're going to have double black diamond runs, and many resorts opt not to and just have black diamond be the hardest, then you should probably label a chute named "Tunnel Vision" (which bottlenecks to less than 6 feet wide, requires a mandatory drop of various heights depending on the snowpack, and is over 45 degrees in pitch) as a double black. If you want to ski the really hard stuff, then you'll be skiing every other run from the top of White Wall all the way back to the gondola. That's 4100 feet of uninterrupted vertical in one run, and once the steeps are done, you've got two to three thousand feet of bumps to punish your quads further. If, that is, the gondola is open. If not, there are options to pursue on the lower mountain from the Pioneer lift, but the line gets long and the trees get skied out. The base area at Kicking Horse, while beautiful, is subpar at best in function. It seems that the resort doesn't want to develop the area to the extent that it can be. There are a few cool bars, including the "Local Hero" where the atmosphere is really chill and laid back. Neaby Golden is apparently pretty fun, but I didn't spend any time there other than sleeping. I was way too tired. For truly unsurpassed views and excellent food, I definitely recommend the Eagle's Eye restaurant at the top of the gondola. They do dinner on Fridays and Saturdays, and lunch every day. So, long story short. If you want to really challenge yourself, go to Kicking Horse. You will not be disappointed. Its steeps and technical terrain will keep you happy, and exhausted, for weeks. But if you want the whole family vacation experience, Banff is probably more suitable, but certainly more expensive. They do offer daily shuttles to the Horse, though. I didn't look into that too much, but it seems like a viable alternative to staying in Golden.
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