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Steamboat Magazine

Revelstoke: Steep, Deep and Dramatic.

12/08/2022 03:00AM ● By Deborah Olsen
(Photo: Janelle Yipper skis at Revelstoke, which boasts the longest vertical descent in North America. COURTESY OF REVELSTOKE/HYWEL WILLIAMS) 

Steamboat Springs, CO - Steamboat’s diehard skiers speak of Revelstoke Mountain Resort in British Columbia with dreamy-eyed awe.

“It’s an incredible ski area,” says longtime Steamboat ski patroller Johnny Sawyer, “but it’s a long ways away from anywhere.” Sawyer, now retired, has visited Revelstoke twice. 

Revelstoke is, indeed, out of the way. The resort is 250 miles from Calgary via the Trans Canada Highway. In summer, the trip takes about 4 ½ hours, but it can take considerably longer in winter conditions. The route has been described as one of the most stunning drives in Canada and takes you by Banff National Park, Lake Louise and Golden, B.C. 

Revelstoke’s nearest international airport is 2+ hours away in Kelowna. You can also get to the inland ski area via the Canadian Pacific Railway from Vancouver, but it takes eight hours.

With the longest vertical descent in North America at 5,620 feet, Revelstoke isn’t for everybody. Only 12% of its available terrain is designated for beginners, although Spike Run, a 9.5-mile green run, takes beginners from the top of the mountain to the base area. 

(Photo: Kai White catches air at Revelstoke, British Columbia, which is on the Ikon Pass. Not unlike Steamboat, the ski area overlooks a vast valley. Those who have been to both resorts say Revelstoke reminds them of Steamboat 50 years ago. COURTESY OF REVELSTOKE/HYWEL WILLIAMS) 

“Revelstoke is steep,” Sawyer says. He recalls one area on the backside of the mountain that is mostly off-piste. “You’ll be skiing, and you’ll see a sign, ‘cliff ahead.’ It could be a 100-foot drop. You have to be on your toes, and not get yourself into a place where you have to hike out.” 

The resort comprises 75 runs and four bowls. “It’s fun to ski on a mountain that big in North America,” says Sawyer, who compares the experience to skiing in the Alps.

Revelstoke offers 3,121 acres of terrain. By comparison, Steamboat currently includes 2,965 acres, with planned expansion to add an additional 650 acres in ski season ‘23-24. 

“It reminds me of Steamboat years ago,” says local Rich Gibson. “It’s kind of laid-back, it’s not developed, and it’s pretty far out of the way.” 

Revelstoke Mountain Resort has consistently taken top honors in “best of” contests. It has twice been named Canada’s Best Ski Resort at the World Ski Awards; it is a five-time finalist in USA Today’s best resort competition (People’s Choice); and it has been named one of the 10 best ski resorts in the world by Snow Magazine on multiple occasions. 

The number-one reason for all the accolades: snowfall. Revelstoke averages more than  
400 inches per year. “The snow is comparable to Steamboat,” Sawyer says, and that’s no  
small statement. 

(Photo: Bambi sets first tracks in Revelstoke, which boasts an average annual snowfall in excess of 400 inches. COURTESY OF REVELSTOKE/HYWEL WILLIAMS) 

“Powder – and not just any powder, the best champagne powder you can find anywhere in the world,” says Snow Magazine (apologies to Steamboat, which introduced the term “champagne powder” to skiers’ vernacular and trademarked it decades ago).

Revelstoke’s expansive terrain is serviced by seven lifts, including a two-stage gondola, three chairlifts and two people-movers for beginners. Sawyer reports that in his experience, liftlines were almost nonexistent. Other skiers and riders concur, with the notable exception of powder days, when locals have been known to come out in force. 

A big addition to the lift service is the availability of both helicopter and cat skiing. The New York Times called Revelstoke “the heliskiing capital of the world,” and the cat skiing, which mainly takes place in open glades and bowls adjacent to lift-serviced terrain, is suitable for advanced skiers and riders. The catch? Popularity exceeds availability, so it can be difficult to secure a cat seat.

Revelstoke may sound like a skier’s paradise, but it’s not without its challenges. The week Sawyer first visited was so cold that one day, the resort did not open at all. It was -40° F. Following his trip, Sawyer received a letter from the resort congratulating him for skiing on the coldest day of the year. It didn’t deter him; he went back for a second trip to this remote Canadian resort.

You might be tempted to go back for seconds, as well. 

The Ikon Pass includes seven days at Revelstoke; the Ikon Base Pass includes five days. 
Daily tickets range from Canadian $181 (early and late season) to Canadian $251 during peak season. The exchange rate varies but is generally favorable to the U.S.

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