Passing Through: Revelstoke

Big snow, big vert, small town: What else do you need?

SKIER: Max Morello | PHOTO: Nic Alegre

Revelstoke is all right. I moved here on a bit of a whim in 2012 and, as I head into my fourth winter living in the heart of the Selkirk and Monashees, I’ve got a few complaints.

First of all, enough with the snow. I wake up every morning from late November to mid April and guess what? It dumped overnight. I have to shovel myself out of the house so I can get to one of a handful of coffee shops downtown, which are guaranteed to be full of people jabbering about their plans for the day and raving about last night’s fundraiser/live music/potluck. Then I still have to come home and probably shovel again because it’s likely still snowing.

Also, every time I go skiing I get lost. Revelstoke Mountain Resort is so much bigger than you would expect, given that it only has one gondola and two chairs. It takes forever to ski from top to bottom, and if you hook up with someone who’s into ‘working for their turns,’ forget it. You’re spending all day in powder over your knees and having to make fresh tracks because nobody else even knows these places exist inbounds. It’s exhausting. No wonder people have strung up secret hammocks in the trees all over the place.

The après scene is great as long as you like local craft beer: Mt. Begbie Brewing Company is everywhere. It’s like nobody’s even told Revelstoke about Budweiser or Coors Light. Long underwear and big insulated rubber boots are the latest fashion, apparently. Jeans and plaid shirts are for special occasions. People have ‘fancy’ toques they reserve for more formal events.

Come if you want. But don’t say I didn’t warn you…

Revelstoke Mountain Resort is known for having the most lift-served vertical in North America (5,620 feet) and for being a bit gnarlier than your average ski hill. Warm up with some mid-mountain laps from the top of the Revelation Gondola. Slick groomers and fun runs will get the blood flowing, or you can hit Kill the Banker and the Conifers of Narnia for some more technical drops and trees. Grab a burger in the sun at Mackenzie Outpost, then ride the Stoke Chair to the top for an afternoon of quad burning fun and adventure. Start with Separate Reality or take the Lemming Line over into North Bowl where Three Bears and Gracias Ridge await. It’s all downhill from there.

There’s an enormous swath of north-facing terrain called Greely Bowl that requires a bit of effort to access, but is always worth the work. Hike up the boot pack to Sub Peak from the top of the Stoke Chair, drop into North Bowl and catch the first traverse you hit, tracking right. Bring friends and snacks: You’ll be out there for a while. Always stay inbounds, though, and keep your eyes peeled for surprise cliff bands. This is not the bunny hill.

Revelstoke’s best social scene is most definitely in town at a few of the local pubs and restaurants. The Last Drop and River City Pub are fairly typical Irish-style pubs complete with live music and sticky floors. I’ve been told that some of my best nights happened in these two bars. The Village Idiot is the iconic ski town hot spot with incredible pizza and pulled-pork poutine. Just down the street, Chubby Funsters is a new addition with creative signature cocktails, a refreshingly diverse menu and arguably the best patio in town.

Most of the above serve just as well for food as they do drinks. For the more refined palate, however, I have three recommendations: Kawakubo is a remarkably fantastic sushi spot for a small, land-locked ski town; Woolsey Creek offers a thoughtful menu influenced by local flavors and international cuisine; and Paramjit’s Kitchen is tiny and not at all fancy, but has incredibly delicious and authentic German and Indian food, sometimes both in the same dish (think Butter Chicken Spatzle).

With a free shuttle running between town and the mountain all day long, there’s no reason not to stay downtown. The Regent Hotel has cornered the market in terms of convenience. It’s right in the center of town, houses a pub (River City Pub), a beautiful restaurant (The 112), a late-night cold beer and wine store (Cheers), and glory glory (CMH Heli Skiing). Swiss Chalet Motel is the best deal in town, however. It’s a quick walk to the main drag, has a shuttle stop out the door, offers clean, comfortable rooms and one heck of a continental breakfast.