Revelstoke is Huge: Here’s How You Ski It

From the resort to touring to heli skiing, options are limitless in this BC gem

PHOTO: Garrett Grove

Connaught Creek may be one of the more popular destinations in Rogers Pass, one of British Columbia’s most widely known backcountry ski destinations. But on this day in March, it doesn’t feel like it. We’ve been breaking trail since leaving the parking lot and have only seen one other party all day. Steady snow and a swift breeze have covered any tracks, giving us a perfect canvas as we drop in off a rib below Ursus Minor.

I follow Chris Delworth and Dave Scott, two Revelstoke-based ski guides, through the open area. Every turn billows snow onto my chest. When we slip behind a line of trees it gets even deeper: Each time my skis submarine, face-fulls of snow spray over my head.

We regroup at the bottom of the pitch with huge smiles and pole taps. As I’m catching my breath I look around. The Connaught Creek Valley runs away in both directions. Ski lines are everywhere: bowls, chutes, glades, faces. And it’s just one valley of dozens in Rogers Pass—there’s a 300-page guidebook to the area. Closer to Revelstoke, there are even more options. So while Revelstoke Mountain Resort may be one of the most exciting ski hills in Canada, with the longest vertical on the continent (5,620 feet) and up to 50 feet of snow a year, it’s got nothing on the nearby backcountry.

“More than some places, it’s good to be conservative when you first arrive here,” says Delworth. “We wait weeks and months here before skiing some lines, just waiting for the conditions to be right.”

From lunchtime laps across town to weeklong tours in the Selkirks, there’s enough here to keep even the busiest backcountry bum occupied for a lifetime. No wonder Mr. Vertical, Greg Hill, and many other top backcountry skiers, call the town home. But while the snowpack tends toward deep, it can be tricky to understand and the terrain is huge.

“More than some places, it’s good to be conservative when you first arrive here,” says Delworth. “We wait weeks and months here before skiing some lines, just waiting for the conditions to be right.”

Plus, in Rogers Pass there is a backcountry permitting system that needs to followed. To ski zones above the highway and railway, skiers need to check in at the Rogers Pass Discovery Centre and follow strict rules. Not adhering to the protocol has shut these areas down in the past. “It’s really important for people who want to ski the pass to educate themselves before they get on the snow,” says Scott. “Parks Canada has done an incredible job to open these areas to skiers. But if people do not play by the rules, they’re not going to be able to keep them open.” It’s a unique situation, but part of an overall ethic of being a visitor in someone else’s neighborhood: Check in with a shop or guide to find out about any local rules, be polite, leave only ski tracks, play safe, and be grateful. Especially if you score like I did on that day in Rogers Pass.

“When the conditions are good—and they often are—this place is magical,” says Scott.

Avalanche Beta
The area around Revelstoke is covered in three avalanche forecasts. The North Columbia covers the mountains to the north of the Trans Canada Highway, while the South Columbia forecast is best for the resort and areas south. Rogers Pass is covered in a separate bulletin produced by Glacier National Park (http://avalanche.pc.gc.ca/bulletin).

Where to Ski Rogers Pass
The easiest and most popular spot is Connaught Creek area. From the Rogers Pass Discovery Centre, head to the northeast corner of the parking lot and pick up the summer trail. Climb into the trees directly uphill for quick glade laps or skin up the valley until it opens up and gain ridges and ribs on the side of Ursus, dropping back down avalanche paths and through open trees.

RMR Sidecountry
All boundaries are open at Revelstoke Mountain Resort. Easiest access is to the south onto open slopes, bowls, and tight trees. Traverse into the runs from the top of The Stoke Chair or after hiking to the summit. Ski to the cat track and traverse back inbounds. More options spill out of the North Bowl zone and off the back of Mount McKenzie. The terrain here is bigger and more challenging.

Get to the Chopper
Revelstoke based Selkirk-Tangiers Helicopter Skiing offers heli-assisted touring packages, including those with single lifts and guiding.

Lunch Laps
The closest touring from town is across the valley in an old burn and through avalanche paths on the lower flanks of Mount MacPherson. Access to the Fingers and Burnt Knob areas is from the Revelstoke Nordic Ski Club trails, about four miles south of town on Highway 23.

Resources
There are plenty of ski guides in town, including Revelstoke Alpine Adventures ($450 per day). Revelstoke Mountain Resort offers guided trips from the resort and avalanche awareness programs. Buy and rent backcountry and safety gear at Valhalla Pure Outfitters in downtown Revelstoke.

Rogers Pass: Uptracks, Bootpacks & Bushwhacks is a beautiful and thorough guide to backcountry skiing in Rogers Pass ($38; geobackcountry.com). The website Backcountry Skiing Canada has basic directions to several Revelstoke area ski tours.