When I told a Canadian friend that I was going to ski Revelstoke, she had a request for me.
“If it’s family friendly, let me know.”
It was a fair request and a good question.
Revelstoke Mountain Resort has a hardcore reputation born of ski movies, photogenic extreme terrain and decades of world-class heli- and cat skiing in the nearby Selkirk and Monashee mountains.
Not necessarily the kind of place you’d take your young child to learn to ski. Or is it?
An Old Mountain, But A Young Resort
In 2007, Powder Springs ski area, a small, family-oriented local ski hill, expanded it’s footprint from a small circle at the base of Mount McKenzie to the mountain’s craggy summit. Within months, the mountain went from undeveloped cat skiing terrain to state of the art infrastructure in the form of a well-placed gondola and two high speed lifts.
Almost as quickly, a legend was born – the mountain with the most vertical in North America at 5,620 feet. A mountain that receives between 30-45 feet of snow each year. Steep fall-line skiing, spectacular alpine bowls accessible via bootpack and chutes galore made Revelstoke’s reputation. Soon pro skiers started calling the resort home. The Swatch Freeride World Tour made Revelstoke one of its perennial stops and the ski movies came calling.
Green, Blue and Black, But Mostly Black
Looking at a Revelstoke Mountain Resort map, the mountain appears to be covered in glades. Tree skiing abounds at Revelstoke with huge swaths of gladed forest open for the taking. Named runs are relatively few, considering how large the mountain is at 3,121 acres.
But what is also apparent is a surprising number of blue and green runs, not only mid-mountain, but from the top.
The mountain’s longest run, a winding fire road and cat trail called The Last Spike begins at the top of The Stoke chair near the Mt. McKenzie subpeak and terminates in the village. And while there is only one intermediate run from this position, it’s a doozy – an always groomed romp of swells and rollers called Critical Path.
More blues are found off the Ripper Chair which serves almost exclusively intermediate terrain and glades. While further down the mountain, the Revelation Gondola provides access to yet more intermediate terrain above the Revelation Lodge.
Still, the predominate trail color on this map is black, and up above treeline, its double black.
Moving from the map to the snow, the mountain is as challenging as you want to make it.
Based on length alone, runs like Snow Rodeo, an advanced run that turns intermediate part way down, will burn out your legs. Traverses in both directions from the top of the The Stoke chair open up amazing fall lines, from the mogul filled wide open faces of Jalapeno and Hot Sauce at skier’s left to the close-in playgrounds of Separate Reality and Vertigo to skier’s right.
And while it’s hard to bypass this steep fall line terrain, an easy bootpack or two offers even more rewards with awe-inspiring views, chutes and endless powder in North Bowl, Gracias Ridge and Greely Bowl.
Taken as a whole, Revelstoke is a difficult, inspiring mountain made for advanced and experts skiers.
But Revelstoke Mountain Resort can also be made easy.
What About Beginners?
Mindful of its hardcore reputation, Revelstoke Mountain Resort goes out of its way to cater to less-experienced skiers. It’s just a matter of making the big mountain a series of small mountains, each progressively harder and more challenging.
Starting with Turtle Creek, the resort’s beginner terrain and tubing hill just above the base village, never-ever skiers can practice on gentle slopes with their instructors from the Revelstoke Outdoor Centre. From here, the next step is as easy as a quick gondola ride to the Revelation Lodge, where you’ll find a variety of green and blue runs.
Next stop? The top of the Revelation Gondola where skiers and riders can follow The Last Spike all the way down, or they can turn off onto intermediate local favorites like Wooley Bully and Snow Rodeo.
Soon, so long as each skier and rider is over 8 years old, they’ll be on The Stoke chair at the top of the resort. From here, intermediate skiers and riders can access The Ripper chair which serves mostly blue runs and glades.
With each progression in skills, the mountain offers the next step in challenges.
Skiing Heaven for Some Families
When people hear the words “family skiing” they often think of beginners, of bunny slopes and of ski schools. While these are all important amenities, in fact critical amenities, there are lots of families that left the bunny slope way behind, a long time ago.
These are families where the kids grew up skiing, that is, the kids who are now the parents. They now have kids who rip, who don’t mind hiking, who like challenges and who want to ski where the pros ski.
One afternoon, as the as the light from the setting sun was turning the snow golden, I saw a dad and his two kids challenging each other to ski Snow Rodeo from top to bottom. The youngest child, a daughter, looked to be about 10. Laughing, she let it fly, carving huge turns and racing downhill. Her dad and brother followed hot on her tail, but I doubted they’d catch her.
As it was early December and most kids were in school, I figured they might be a local family, enjoying a couple quick runs at the end of the day. Or maybe, they were catching a quick pre-Christmas escape on excellent early season snow, before all the busy-ness of the holidays began.
No matter what their story, they were a trio that clearly lives to ski. They were a family that looked to be comfortable on any terrain, and up for all challenges. In short, the perfect Revelstoke family – not just visiting the resort, but living the ski life – even if they were 1000 miles from home.
When You Go…
Yes, Revelstoke is definitely for families, depending upon what families want. Mindful of the need to attract families, the resort offers parents skiing with kids age 5 and under free lift tickets, not just for the child, but for the accompanying parent.
Additionally, the resort offers a two person ticket for families that lets parents easily switch off childcare and skiing when they are with kids 5 and under. Both parents can’t ski at the same time, but they also don’t have to buy two tickets.
A huge mountain, but a small resort, the base area is limited to the fantastically comfortable Sutton Place hotel, offering condo-style lodging complete with year-round outdoor hot tubs and a pool, a seasonal tubing hill, and minimal dining and retail options.
If you visit a resort to ski or ride, and you’re not much interested in anything else, Revelstoke could be for you.
Childcare for toddlers 18 months and older is available, freeing mom and dad up to rip the resort, or indulge in a day of catskiing or heli skiing. Lessons are available for all levels starting at age 3. Come evening, if mom and dad need a break, activities through Kids ROC will entertain the groms.
While I stayed on mountain during my entire visit, I’ve heard good things about the town, especially the Village Idiot Pub. A more family friendly option, especially if you’ve got young boys who need an afternoon off, is the Revelstoke Railroad Museum. Before the small town took off as an international ski destination, it was a railroad and timber town.
In fact, it still is.
- Heli Skiing…And Falling…And Getting Up Again, January 15, 2014.
- British Columbia’s Family Paradise: Silver Star Mountain Resort, January 27, 2014.
- At Québec’s Le Massif, We Can All Be Lugers, February 4, 2014.
- Why My Family Loves Skiing Silver Star Mountain Resort, BC, April 13, 2011.
- Why My Family Loves to Ski Mountain Washington, BC, March 29, 2012.
- Why My Family Loves to Ski Whistler, BC, November 14, 2012.
- Ski Area Wind Turbines? Another Way to Be Green, February 24, 2011.
© 2014, Kristen Lummis. All rights reserved. Any use or publication of content, including photos, requires express permission.