My time on the Banff/Lake Louise/Mt. Norquay area came to a close. Next stop: Revelstoke. I was following my season passes—Ikon and Epic—and Revy was the next closest, on my way to Whistler.
I had never heard of Revelstoke until this past summer, when the Twin Cities JACL book club selected Obasan by Joy Kogawa. I read the book which chronicles the Japanese Canadian experience during World War 2. The family, who had been farmers in Alberta, ended up in Revelstoke area during the war years—a cold, inhospitable mountain area tough to get to, equally tough to escape. As a person drives the Canadian Rockies there are many references to the Japanese Canadians both as internees in the Canadian concentration camps but also as integral parts of the history of the Rockies. I stopped in the Canmore and Revelstoke museums; both had sections on the Japanese and Chinese impact on their regions.
The drive from Canmore/Banff area to Revy is all Trans Canadian Highway. I imagined a fine four lane freeway, but through those mountains the Trans Canadian became a two-lane road for much of the way. The mountains through this area are rugged, steep and avalanche prone. The road was closed between Lake Louise and Revelstoke—all vehicles were pulled over in Golden, British Columbia. They were blasting the mountains to control the avalanches which caused a two-hour delay for me. Golden has one short old town main street where I had lunch in a Japanese sushi restaurant and then I strolled the main street. Coming into Golden, avalanche sheds cover the roads so that the avalanche flows over the shed and road, causing minimal damage to the road itself. After the two hour delay the roads opened. I let the buildup of trucks and cars go ahead of me—I followed, feeling safety in numbers.
You have to feel confident driving in the mountains. It’s not for the faint of heart. And this was a pretty decent, popular road. Highway 1, Trans Canadian Highway is the traffic pipeline across Canada. Between Lake Louise and Golden, near Field, BC is a famous area where “spiral tunnels” are designed to facilitate the trains crossing the steep grades across the passes. There were many references to these fascinating engineering feats that allowed trains to navigate the Rockies safely. Google “spiral tunnels”. It’s fascinating.
I had booked Pat’s AirBNB (aka Zach’s Place) five minutes from Revelstoke ski resort. Pat owned the local CBD store, and built his house specifically for AirBNB clients. It was a comfortable, spacious home, the ground level for guests, the upper two levels for him and his family. His mom, who was my generation, was visiting, and she and I had a warm visit about her little dog, her visit with her son, my adventure.
I had two days at Revy. My plan was to ski the mountain in one day, and spend the second day resting. There were no free tours at Revy. This was a local skier’s delight, not a tourist draw. Of course there were many folks like me but a high percentage of the skiers/boarders were more local people.
Day 1 dawned foggy and cloudy. I was bummed, but determined to work my plan. I drove up to the resort and had a laugh out loud moment. In the first parking lot were two or three pickup campers that looked like they came out of a 1970s-time warp. They were clearly “local” (150-mile radius, maybe) and parked free. I laughed because the last time I had seen one of these campers was in 1977 when my then boyfriend from Seattle borrowed a friend’s camper and drove out to see me in Iowa. His camper then looked as old as these campers did now—43 years later.
As I rode up the gondola from the base to the mid-mountain, I asked one of the locals if he had any advice. He said, “Don’t go out of bounds. People die going out of bounds here.” Uh, ok. Advice taken. He then said, to my relief, “It’s sunny up above.” And he was right. As the gondola rose, so too did we rise above the clouds. It became a bluebird day, with spectacular mountain vistas from the top. The gondola from the base is called Revelation. Aptly named.
I got off the gondola and took a left. Not too much farther I rode a chair, Stellar, and took a couple runs off Stellar. I thought this was the North Bowl, and was a little surprised that it was so small and had only green and blue runs, but every area has its quirks. I went back to the gondola unloading area and stopped at a small lodge, Mackenzie Post where I refreshed. I then headed to Stoke, the chair to the top of the resort. Stoke services the South Bowl and most of the mountain. There are black, blue and green runs off Stoke, so it serves every guest. And from the top of Stoke there are runs from the top to the base. I took Devil’s Club and Snow Rodeo runs from top to bottom, and then green (Greenhorn, The Last Spike) and blue (Critical Path, Ninja Traverse) runs off Stoke. As I skied to the bottom, I ran into the clouds and fog. It was like driving into powdered sugar—all white, everywhere. I ended up staying close to the trees near the edge of the runs. I tried to follow people down, but they skied faster than I was comfortable. The day was a long one, and I was tuckered out by the last run to the bottom.
The upper parking lots at Revy are theoretically ski in/ski out, but I didn’t quite figure it out in two days. It’s not that complicated, but park in the upper lots closest to the mountain slope and you have a good chance of being able to ski to your car.
I had time at the end of the day to explore downtown Revelstoke, a quaint mountain town with many restaurants and sporting goods stores. I found the local museum—not the better-known railroad museum—and got a nice taste of local lore and history. My AirBNB host had recommended several steakhouses, and I ended up at Zalas, a true local steakhouse. It was a great meal (the Zalas steak special) at a reasonable price.
I made it back to the AirBnB around 8 pm where I relaxed by watching the Australian Open tennis on TV, and reviewed my ski day by pouring over the trail map. That’s when I realized I had missed the entire North Bowl. The lift I thought serviced the North Bowl was the beginner chair and bridge to get to the Ripper chair in the North Bowl. OMG, I missed one third of the mountain! So, my plan for Day 2 was set. I had to ski the North Bowl.
Day 2 dawned similarly to Day 1—cloudy and foggy at the house. I was hoping it was going to clear again at the top.
I wasn’t so lucky Day 2. It remained cloudy all day, but not the soupy, thick fog that blanketed the base on Day 1. This was cloudy but the runs were visible. I went to the North Bowl immediately, and skied Chopper, Sally Alley, Burn Down. Some of the blues were groomed, some not. Those that were not were choppy and had moguls, but since visibility was good, so was the skiing. I stayed off the black runs, and the bulk of the black runs in the North Bowl are actually accessible by a short hike from the Stoke lift in the South Bowl. No thank you…
I made my way back to Stoke taking the Stoke Connector and made one more run from top to the bottom. The area had been having unseasonably warm weather, and I paid the price at the bottom of the mountain. I took Snow Rodeo down, and at the base, the snow was choppy, slushy and crusty. I took one fall at the base and slid what I thought was all the way to the bottom. The second time I fell, I really did slide to where the trail ended. I was so embarrassed. I was wearing my show-stopping Alchemy of Ride snow clothes, but fortunately no one was there to see me. “If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?”
If I fall on a ski run and no one sees me, have I really fallen???