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“Here, take this - and tell me that you don’t agree at the end of the day.”

I look at my hand and see a black sticker, on which a golden horse is kicking the backside of an ass. Kicking Horse, just up from the railway town of Golden, one and a half hours west of Banff, is well known throughout the ski world, but is little visited by the British skiing public.
2584 kicking horse canada

I’m sitting in a yurt next to the base station, which acts as the base of the Big Mountain Centre, who run safety courses, as well as offering guiding and instruction. Andy, a fellow Brit, is our guide for the day and tells us we’re going to be taking on the resort’s infamous chutes.

big mountain centre

“Just hang here for a while and watch the film while I get my board,” he says. I sit down and join a group on an Avalanche Skills Training course, who are watching a film on recognising avalanche trigger points. Andy’s soon back, and we trudge through knee-deep snow to the Golden Eagle Express gondola, walking straight on before sitting down.

“No queuing here,” Andy laughs, before explaining our plan. “OK, so there are four bowls, each one accessed by a ridge. We’re going to start on CPR ridge over there.” I look in the direction of his gesture, to see a rock band with a series of clean chutes/couloirs. They looked great, but what looked even better was that I couldn’t see any people.

“Where is everyone?” I asked.

“It’s always like this in the week, and even then it’s never really busy outside of national holidays, and when I’m talking busy, I mean a 2 or 3 minute queue.”

Guide Andy CREDIT Mark Borland

We were soon riding CPR ridge, which, while dropping away on both sides, was easy enough to follow without losing height. Andy stopped above a gap between a tree and a small rock face. “OK, this is Lower Heli Pad - it’s like an access point to a free heli drop.”

A couple of tight turns and then the chute widened out, and I was cutting some wide powder turns in the fresh stuff. I joined Andy for a high five at the bottom, and we rushed off through trees to the Stairway to Heaven chair lift to tackle Redemption Ridge. It was then I saw my first other people of the day: a small group of skiers were getting first tracks, one getting big air off a rock drop.

“They’re all pro skiers,” Andy said before shouting, “Hi Amy” and getting a wave in return. “They’re some of the best female freeskiers in Canada. They train here as they can loop the chutes and drops in powder all day.”

Pete in powder Kicking Horse CREDIT Mark Borland

The whole day followed in the same way as our first run. Andy chose one of the four ridges and we traversed it until we got above a chute he fancied and we took it on. Many of the chutes have tight and tricky entrances, some even need a rope, but most were easy to access. Before dropping into each new chute the fear and adrenaline would start to build in the expectation of the unknown, but once boarding, it was just pure joy.

The day ended with a 20 minute hike up Terminator ridge to the chutes of ‘Truth’, ‘Dare’ and ‘Consequence’. Feeling all righteous, I rode Truth and looking back at my lone tracks I realised that 1) I was still getting fresh tracks at the end of the day, and 2) Kicking Horse definitely kicks ass.

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