Kicking Horse

British Columbia, Canada

Home to some of North America’s best expert terrain, Kicking Horse is still one of the best kept secrets in skiing. With over 60% of the terrain black and double-black diamond runs, Kicking Horse has earned a reputation for being one of the best resorts for advanced skiing and snowboarding. Being situated in the heart of British Columbia, snowfall is abundant and it's light, dry powder is a major drawcard (known as the Champagne Capital of Canada!). Minimal crowds, a great mountain-town vibe in nearby Golden, and one of the longest vertical in North America, Kicking Horse is a great option along the 'Powder Highway'.

Scout Loves

  • This is heaven for advanced skiers – big bowls, hike-to terrain, gladed runs and dry powder.
  • The incredible heli-skiing option where you can take your skiing to the next level!
  • There’s also a 10 kilometer top-to-bottom beginners’ run.
  • Eating and drinking at the bar at the Eagle’s Eye Restaurant is a must – you’ll get amazing views and great food.
  • A lazy breakfast at Double Black cafe.

Scout Tips

  • A lot of the expert terrain requires some work to get to it. There are only two lifts that access the top half of the resort, one of which is a slow old three-seater.
  • There’s a good mix of accommodation options at the base area, however there are not many restaurants and bars to choose from. Downtown Golden, meanwhile, offers more variety in terms of après ski, but only basic motel-style accommodation.
  • It’s a great idea to visit Kicking Horse as part of a road trip – combined with Revelstoke, Panorama, and/or the Banff area ski resorts.

Scout Review

Kicking Horse is one of those awesome ski resorts that delivers pleasant surprise after pleasant surprise. But until you find yourself on the mountain you will have no idea how good it really is – so you’ll have to take Scout’s word for it.

The good thing is that Kicking Horse has yet to be discovered by the masses – which is great for those who make the effort to go there. Even though the lifts are limited, the terrain isn’t and there’s oh so much fun to be had no matter how experienced you are. The resort is home to a competition stop for the Freeride World Tour, so that's saying something about the level of terrain on offer!

In its previous life, the resort was known as ‘Whitetooth’ and consisted of two lifts in the lower mountain area. Kicking Horse was established in 2000, and since then there’s been the introduction of the Golden Eagle Express gondola and the Stairway to Heaven lift – which increased the accessible terrain to 3400 acres/1375 hectares (This includes the 4 big bowls up top and the lower slopes). The resort offers incredible views from the top - the vertical is almost 4314 ft / 1315 metres - which means ridiculously long runs back down to the base area. The bottom third is fairly flat, however.

Kicking Horse is so confident of its powder quality that it’s trademarked the slogan ‘Champagne Powder Capital of Canada’. So the chances of getting a good dump of light and dry pow while you’re there are pretty good.

However despite its serious terrain, it’s quite obvious that this resort is still in its teenage years – the base area is growing quickly but still has a lot maturing to do, and the lifts are limited. On the plus side, this means Kicking Horse has retained a friendly, local atmosphere. But the drawback is that there are only a handful of cafes, bars, restaurants and shops in the base area (which consists of just three main buildings) – don’t expect a vibrant après scene. Saying that, the Peaks Grill is a fantastic spot for a laid-back dinner, or the Copperhorse Steakhouse for something a little fancier. For those who love a slower start to their day, breakfast at Double Black cafe is a must (those cinnamon buns are to die for!).

The base area is also where you’ll find two of the resort’s main accommodation options – The Glacier Mountain Lodge and the Palliser - with the remainder being within relatively close walking distance. Meanwhile, downtown Golden (which is about 10 minutes away) has more restaurant and bar options – plus a resort shuttle that runs on weekend evenings to transport party goers into town.

Kicking Horse is an absolute gem for skiers who are looking for that little bit more off-the-beaten-track - and with the incredible snowfall, advanced skiing, and laid-back local's vibe, you'll fall in love with Kicking Horse.

Kicking Horse Skiing

While Kicking Horse has some great beginner and intermediate terrain (and is of course suitable for snowboarders), those that will love it most will be the advanced and expert skiers.

The opportunities to challenge oneself to the point of shaky knees are endless. Five mammoth bowls provide an ample supply of cliffs, chutes, steeps and deeps that are as good, if not better, than most of the seriously hard terrain in other American resorts like Jackson Hole and Whistler Blackcomb. Nearly 50% of the resort’s 120+ runs are marked double black and there are more than 85 inbound chutes. It is rugged and raw – you’ll want to be confident with your ability when you head down many of these runs.

The drawback is that much of the expert terrain requires a hike, however that's also a benefit as it preserves those slopes for those that really can and want to ski them. The Terminator Peaks (T1 and T2 South Ridges) are a fan favourite, and take a little bit of effort to get to, however the reward is great. A short hike up the ladder at the top of Stairway to Heaven chairlift provides many points along the ridge to drop in and carve your own lines down the infamous Whitewall. Many skiers continue on to Middle Ridge, where a decent hike gains great access to Rudi's Bowl (often left untracked for days). For those who love fast groomers, the lower mountain offers plenty of fun routes to stretch out those legs after a gnarly chute descent.

But don’t let us scare you. If you’re a solid advanced skier who doesn’t necessarily want death defying leaps with every run, there is still so much fun to be had. Most of the terrain that can be accessed immediately off the two high lifts is great for the advanced skier. Add a short hike and/or traverse along a ridge or two and you’ll find even more – Kicking Horse has so much inbound potential for those that are willing to work a bit harder for it. There are even quite a few backcountry opportunities for skiers with the right skills and equipment. (Note that avalanche danger can often be extremely high, so be sure to observe warning signs and stay up-to-date with the latest information on conditions). 

If you were seeking even more adrenaline, Kicking Horse now offers heli-skiing right from the base of the resort. Purcell Heli-Skiing is our go-to for a memorable day out exploring the powder of the Purcell Mountains. 

Kicking Horse is a great place for high intermediates and advanced skiers to really push their skills to the next level, and the ski school has a specific guiding program called ‘Big Mountain Center’ for those keen to learn how to make the most of this mountain.

The only downside for advanced and expert skiers is that many of these runs will require an exit that takes you all the way to the bottom of the mountain, over intermediate terrain. (Then there will be another long Gondola ride to get back up). But these downsides are mitigated by the fact that crowds are usually minimal, and anyway you’ll be so exhausted by the time you get to the bottom of the mountain that the opportunity to chill out on the gondola will be welcome.

If you have beginners or intermediates in your group, there is plenty of fun terrain at the bottom of the mountain, plus a few options from the top of the mountain. The resort has made some significant improvements to the bottom half over the last few years, but sometimes the snow coverage can be minimal, particularly at the beginning and end of the season.

Kicking Horse is part of the EPIC pass, making it even more value for families in Canada. You can receive up to 7 days of skiing (total) at the Resorts of the Canadian Rockies resorts (including also Fernie and Kimberley).

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Kicking Horse For Families

Like any good resort, there is a ski school at Kicking Horse with a learning center and magic carpets to get your children started, as well as daycare facilities for kids aged 18 months to 6 years. As they progress, the new Kid’s Trails zone the bottom of the mountain will have them whooping with joy. The ski school is also decently priced compared to other big resorts.

Most of the kids’ activities are centered around the small base area, so it’s easy to get them organized in the mornings. The base area is also where you’ll need to ski back to during the day to catch the gondola, which makes it easy to check in on your kids.

Kicking Horse Accommodation

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Kicking Horse has a decent variety of accommodation spread around, and not far from the main base area – and three of the condo buildings are practically ski-in ski-out. The Glacier Mountain Lodge and the Palliser Lodge are our two favourites, with easy slopeside access. The Glacier Lodge is right at the base area, so you're in the heart of the action, while Palliser is a short walk up the hill (about 5 minutes) and provides a quieter home base. There are condos and townhouses to rent, as well as a few small lodges – some that are more like B&Bs.

Kicking Horse Mountain Resort is about 10 minutes from Golden, a small but fun mountain town. The accommodation in town consists almost exclusively of highway-style chain motels.

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Resort Activities

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If your body can handle any more exertion, there are quite a few other activities at Kicking Horse – which is unusual for such a small resort. For instance, there’s a small ice-skating rink, as well as snow tubing, snowshoeing, cross-country skiing and spa services.

Kicking Horse now offers heli-skiing options right out the base of the resort via Purcell Heli-Skiing - a must for true powderhounds!

Further afield, there’s also snowmobiling, backcountry skiing and a wolf center. And non-skiers can join their skiing friends at the Eagle’s Eye restaurant by buying a sightseeing Gondola ticket.

Getting There and Around

Kicking Horse is about 10 minutes from the town of Golden; about an hour from Lake Louise; an hour and 45 minutes from Banff; and just over 3 hours from Calgary International Airport.

If you’re staying at Kicking Horse you will mainly be walking (or skiing) to get around, since it’s fairly small. A car or taxi is required to go down to Golden. A taxi from Golden to the resort costs about $40 one way (usually they can fit 6-7 people).

Options for getting here without your own car are limited to just a few public shuttle services per week, or a very expensive private shuttle. We would recommend renting your own car as it will give you flexibility. There are daily shuttles to and from Banff and Lake Louise.

A Kicking Horse Day Trip is available to those staying in Panorama - running every Wednesday throughout the season, it's only $199 + tax which includes return transfer plus lift ticket.

When To Go

Kicking Horse opens for the season around mid December and stays open until mid-to-late April. January and February can be pretty cold, but this is also when there are some great chances of powder dumps.

Facts & Figures

Mountain Information   Lifts   Terrain    
Base Elevation 3900ft / 1190m Gondolas 1 Beginner 20%  
Summit Elevation 8218ft / 2505m Quad Chair 2 Intermediates 20%  
Vertical Drop 4314ft / 1315m Double Chairs 1 Advanced 45%  
Skiable Area 3486+ac / 1410+ha Surface Lifts 1 Expert 15%  
Annual Snowfall (summit) 295in / 7.5m          
Operating Hours 9.00am –4.00pm          
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