Words and Photos: Chris Zimmerman
Vast stretches of wilderness, few gas stations and plenty of bears make the distance between Rossland and Revelstoke feel like the Wild West. Driving onto the inland ferry to cross Upper Arrow Lake, 50km from the nearest gas station, our Dirt Bag Powder Highway trip started to feel more like an adventure. But pulling up to the luxurious Sutton Place Hotel at the base of Revelstoke quickly brought us back to reality. While there are plenty of historic ski areas in North America, few have been built in the last decade. Only 10 years old, new-ish Revelstoke Mountain Resort lacks rickety double chairs but has the benefit of high speed quads and gondolas, covering the over 5,200 vertical feet of terrain—the most in North America.
This was a good time to clean up our Dirt Bag trip with a stay at the Sutton Place Hotel, and exchange the truck canopy for a dry room, hot shower and comfortable bed. After the constant dampness of lot life, this was the perfect way to break up the trip. Located at the bottom of the gondola, Sutton Place has a mini-resort village feel with its multiple restaurants and retail stores. Once we boarded the Revelation Gondola and were whisked to the top, any feelings of luxury evaporated alongside the thick cloud layer to reveal a sunny, steep and cat-tracked criss-crossed mountainside. Once at the top of the gondola, you have two chairs to choose from: The Stoke Chair or The Ripper Chair, both high-speed quads providing access to the upper mountain and hiking access to the top of Mt. Mackenzie.
It had been a little while since a refresh and our first day mostly consisted of cruising around on the many rolling groomers and finding side hits, the short line at The Ripper Chair helped make this our favorite zone. A quick quad to the top, we lapped a long run called The Chopper, finding plenty of room for laying out carves between the many side hits. One word of advice would be to make sure your board is well-waxed. To get from chair to chair requires making a couple flat sections and a fresh wax will leave you passing everyone else left unstrapping or skiers pushing along as they complain to themselves how some mountains just aren't made for snowboarders.
At the end of the day, we hopped on the bottom half of the 9.5-mile Last Spike cat track, which descends from the top down a full vertical mile to the base area. If you weren't ready for a beer and apres before the long run down, you will definitely be ready once you finally reach the bottom. Within the massive drop, temperatures rose just enough to make a fun, soft side hit skatepark run the entire way down. Once down, we enjoyed some beers and the view from the patio of the McKenzie Common Tavern.
When it snows at Revelstoke, the whole town must know because 8am found a long line for the gondola, full of hungry people eager to take advantage of a sneaky 15cm pow day. After a well-earned wait, we finally reached the top of The Stoke Chair and got to enjoy some blower interior pow. After finding some good turns on the top half of Pitch Black, we dropped onto the marathon run to the bottom before packing up the truck and heading south to the ferry towards Nelson. A word of advice about the ferry: heading north to Revelstoke, the ferry leaves every hour on the half hour, and going south, every hour on the hour. So if you miss it by 15 minutes both times, you have a bit of time to relax and make some coffee.
We were lucky to get to experience two sides of Revelstoke, a high-speed groomer day and a surprise pow day. Even though the resort is fairly new, with the infrastructure in place, terrain available and plenty of signature interior pow, it's safe to say Revelstoke is out to make a history of its own. Thanks to Carly Moran for the hospitality, Sutton Place for the upgrade and the old skier dude who complimented my toeside carve.