Dan Sculnick, who is the snow-school director in Revelstoke, British Columbia, turns and looks at his altimeter after our first run. “Five thousand six hundred twenty-three feet,” he says. “And it’s only nine o’clock.”
Welcome to Revelstoke, home of the most vertical ski terrain on the North American continent, where you’ll pass through four different climate zones (alpine, sub-alpine, coniferous, and deciduous) all on the same run and campaign for the footrest every lift ride. Of course, all this vert comes at a price. It’s a skier’s mountain, meaning no furs or high-end stores and that the gender ratio errs on the side of testosterone. Run names range from Kill the Banker, beneath the gondola (named for its financier’s first visit), to Conifers of Gnarnia, Parachute, and Brake Check. In all, as the local hill to a town of 8,500 harboring North America’s oldest ski club and revered as the birthplace of snowcat skiing, the resort serves up 3,121 acres of fall-line schussing, high alpine bowls, glades, and groomers that will have your quads begging for mercy.
It’s also the world’s only resort to offer lift, cat, heli, and backcountry skiing all from one village base. All this draws a diehard crowd, with film crews such as Teton Gravity Research, Poor Boyz, and Absinthe Films having already shot there this year and the Freeride World Tour having planned to stop in Revelstoke in March before the course venue was closed. A wealthy Russian businessman even showed up this year with his own private helicopter. And forget trying to set any sort of vertical record for a day; that’s already established in stone at a whopping 70,000 feet.
Here’s GrindTV’s guide to Revelstoke:
Lodging: While there are a bunch of options in town, stay slopeside at the Sutton Place Hotel for the best beeline to first tracks. Three large Jacuzzis (one seating 25) and a swimming pool will help your knees and back unwind after the day’s vertical, while easy access to après and dining will save your legs for another day.
Breakfast/coffee: En route to the gondo, swing by La Baguette for a quick bite and gourmet coffee (or almond-milk chai latte with apple-cinnamon brioche). Try its organic, freshly baked breads and pastries, or pick up a wrap to wolf down on the mountain. Local favorite: Montreal smoked meat sandwich on organic sourdough rye.
Lunch: To replenish those carbs used up by your quads, hit the Revelation Lodge for the Butter Chicken, complete with fresh cilantro and basmati rice. At the top of the gondola, hit the MacKenzie Outpost for a gourmet, local beef burger with full toppings.
Adventure skiing: Revelstoke is the only ski resort in the world offering lift, cat, and heli skiing, the latter through its Selkirk Tangiers Heli Skiing operation, whose permit encompasses more than 500,000 acres. Score the hat trick by combining all three.
Backcountry skiing: Bring your skins. You’re only 45 minutes away from Roger’s Pass, perhaps the world’s Mecca for backcountry skiing, located in the heart of Glacier National Park. Check in at the Parks office at the top of the pass for avalanche conditions and day permits, and then prepare to be blown away visually and vertically.
Transportation: The quickest access is to fly into Kelowna and then shuttle two and a half hours to the resort ($150 round-trip). You can also drive or shuttle from Calgary (six hours), or drive from Vancouver or Seattle (seven to eight hours) or Spokane (six hours). While behind the wheel, just remember that there’s a reason Revelstoke’s hard to get to.
New this year: This year, the resort widened Ninja Traverse, providing a new route from the resort’s south side back to the base of the Stoke Chair; improved access to Revelation Lodge via the new 007 run; and, perhaps most importantly, installed a new bomb tram at the entrance of Sweet Spot into the North Bowl, allowing patrol to open the area sooner after a big, Revelstoke-sized dump.
First-timer tip: Get the lowdown on Revelstoke Mountain Resort by reviewing the Beginner’s Mountain Guide. Also, consider hiring a guide for a private tour of the mountain. It’ll save you from getting lost (which is easy to do) while putting you in their secret powder loot.
High-end: Indulge yourself with Selkirk Tangiers Heli Skiing’s new Unlimited Vertical program on both its day heli skiing and multi-day heli skiing packages. Three-day, all-inclusive packages run $4,699, and it’s likely the best money you’ll ever spend.
Other activities: If you still have any energy left after skiing (say it isn’t true), you can try new-this-year snowshoe tours from the top of the Revelation Gondola, as well as snow tubing at the Turtle Creek Tube Park and, if your legs can stand it, night skiing at the Beginner Area at the base village.
Dinner/nightlife: In town, hit Twisted Annie’s for such hearty fare as organic quinoa-and-cauliflower salad as well as its “unbaked” brownie made with fresh chocolate and nuts. Benoit’s Wine Bar is a great low-key place for fondue and has a good selection of British Columbia and international wines. The Traverse Nightclub is a good spot to shake a leg (if you have any left), as is the Last Drop, which sports live music, jam nights, and stand-up comedy.
Après: Hit the MacKenzie Tavern, a snowball’s throw from your skis, for an Ugly Sweater or Mt. Begbie Pale Ale to wash down a plate of calamari or a charcuterie platter. Just be prepared for spritely conversation with a transplanted Kiwi or Aussie.
Where to ski: If it’s a powder day, head up 3,000 vertical feet on the gondola, then straight to another 2,600 on the Stoke chair. If patrol is still controlling North Bowl and beyond, lap Stoke and wait for the rope to drop to rip unending freshies to the aptly named Ripper chair. When you tire of lift-served pow, boot-hike an additional 377 feet to the top of Sub-Peak, which leads you into Gracias Ridge and Greeley Bowl. Then kiss your quads goodbye.
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