GOLDEN, BC - Just east of Golden, BC, the Trans Canada Highway turns into a wild stretch of road, twisting and turning as it follows the Kicking Horse Canyon. Down below, the Kicking Horse River angrily makes its way towards to the town of Golden, eventually spilling into the mighty Columbia River just west of town. For years, the folks living in Golden have witnessed the Kicking Horse River rage through their town during the spring runoff. These days, the folks living in Golden are witnessing a different "Kicking Horse" - the Kicking Horse Mountain Resort, and it's the talk of the town.
The Kicking Horse Mountain Resort is the biggest mountain resort to be built in North America in the past 25 years. When all is said and done, the resort will be a mountain Mecca, including hotels, spas, pubs, restaurants and shops. There will be an entire village with a unique alpine pulse - a pulse that only Canada's East Kootenays could transmit.
Dutch company Ballast Nedam is heading up this massive endeavor in British Columbia's southeast region. Ballast Nedam, a giant engineering and construction company, has led other gigantic projects, not only in Canada, but on the world stage as well. One of their greatest achievements is actually a bridge - the Confederation Bridge to be exact. The Confederation Bridge is a 13km, 850 million-dollar structure linking Prince Edward Island to Canada's mainland - not something just any builder could tackle. With the vision, know-how, infrastructure, and all other preliminaries underfoot, it's full steam ahead with the Kicking Horse Project.
In fairness to the folks who use to operate the Whitetooth ski area on the same bench, the skiing has been fantastic on this mountain for many years. The locally owned and operated Whitetooth ski area has actually been stamped on this hill for twenty years. The snow has always been deep, the fall lines steep and rugged, and the scenery breathtaking. Now it's like a small town actor turning famous, a minor league ball player making it to the "show." The ski resort could now be better described as the "Titanic of the Kootenays." It's become a massive mountain with so much more accessible terrain, the locals shudder when thinking of the pint-sized Whitetooth area.
When you really think about it, what would it take for a company to engage in a mega-project so diverse, so complicated, on the scale of what the Kicking Horse project represents? It's called the terrain, and it's the back bone behind this project. The rocky ridges falling to secluded natural bowls, the open glades plummeting to tree-lined cruisers, the upper cornices curling on top of white-speckled granite walls, that's what's made this possible. "As a planner and an architect I have visited mountain resorts all over North America, but I have never seen a setting as ideal as this, a location as inspiring," says Oberto Oberti, in a proudly published statement in the resort's information brochure.
Other distinguished people holding "lofty" platforms have also added their thoughts on the project. "British Columbia's newest ski area, Kicking Horse, will hit the big time in no time," says Rob Lovitt from Skiing Magazine. Lovitt goes on to comment on the area's incredible snow accumulations and inspiring terrain.
Although the resort opened with less than stellar snow conditions in 2001, which uncharacteristically lasted most of the year, the champagne powder of the Purcell mountain range is indeed world famous, not to mention divine. Normally this area wrings white puffy flakes (in obscene amounts) from east moving clouds until May. This area is not the heli-ski capital of the world for nothing. Squeezed between three mountain ranges, the Purcells, the Rockies, and the Selkirks, the area often receives an astounding 300 inches of white gold per annum. That's not bad if your idea of a good time is bathing in powder - something many locals are obsessed with.
Don Steinhaur, a long-time Golden resident and avid skier puts it this way, "With the snow, the quality of the mountain, and the unspoiled wilderness...they will come." They're starting too. The small town of Golden is on the verge of a boom, an explosion of mountain recreation seekers that aren't just stopping with the skiing.
The Kicking Horse Resort, with its famed eight-man gondola called "The Golden Eagle Express," is bringing summer sun worshippers up to alpine wonderland in droves. Bikers, hikers, photographers, and...you name it, are packing up their gear and taking the 4,000 vertical foot luxury ride to the summit. When they get there they are participating in activities they, until recently, just had fantasies about.
Hungry people are also making the super speedy trip up to the top (the gondola ride covers 4,000 vertical feet and takes less than 12 minutes). The new Eagle's Eye restaurant, the most elevated dining experience in Canada, is satisfying guests in fine style. This beautiful log structure, at an eye-watering, ear-popping, elevation of 8,033 feet, is worth the trip on its own. The restaurant has a warm, elegant atmosphere at a place only mountain goats have previously dined.
There are other activities not found on the mountain that bring people here too. The Kicking Horse River is a mean, frothy, rebel of a river. It brings kayakers and rafters in from all parts of the globe. There are numerous outfits in town that will take you down river for a full or half-day trek filled with wet, screaming, white-knuckled terror.
The golf course in Golden is also well worth your while. While there are plans for an additional course to play havoc with your high-altitude game on the benchland (closer to the actual resort), this second course will be a few years down the road. In the meantime, the Golden Golf Club is rock-solid championship golf with a laid back atmosphere. Its 6,800 yards of tree-lined (as opposed to condo or house-lined) fairways are a joy to navigate. The course is actually a top-ranked golf destination in British Columbia - you won't be disappointed.
Disappointment isn't really a word often used around Golden anyway. The people here are of a different breed. It's tougher to get frustrated when your neighbors are moose, elk, bear, and mountain goats. True mountain people understand the potential of what lies in one of nature's great wonders - the unsurpassed splendor of the alpine. True mountain resort planners understand what it takes to make a mountain playground so inspiring that people from every corner of the globe want to experience it. So grab your cameras, pack up your gear, and come find out what it's like to play at one of Canada's most exhilarating playgrounds.
Kicking Horse Resort
611-10th Avenue North
P.O. Box 839
Golden, BC, Canada
Phone: (250) 344-8626
Toll Free: 1-888-706-1117
Fax: (250) 344-8665
Eagle's Eye Restaurant hours:
May 11-June 17
Mon - Thurs 10:00 am - 3:30 pm
Fri - Sun 10:00 am - 9:00 pm
June 18-Sept 4
10:00 am - 9:00 pm Everyday
It is located 2.5hrs. west of Calgary on the Trans Canada Highway.