Chasing The White Gold Rush- To The Back of BC and Beyond
PART 2: REVELSTOKE
Mrs Simpson, wife of Don Simpson, the original visionary and former resort developer of Revelstoke, once described Revelstoke to me as ‘It’s like Aspen was in the 60’s’. Of course, I wasn’t around in the 60’s in Aspen to be able to verify, but it’s a pretty complimentary comparison, and I think I can see why. 2011 marked 125 years of the community of Revelstoke, originally founded as a railway town, when the Canadian Pacific Railway was built through the Selkirk and Monashee mountains, the town soon saw the tourism potential and named Mt Revelstoke a national park in 1914.
As the owner of Total Heliski, my heli and cat ski travel company, I have valid reasons to become acquainted with Revelstoke or ‘Revi’ as the locals call it. It’s the epicenter in British Columbia of several of the world’s best heliski and catski operators, and the resort has been designed in fact around its own heli and catski operations making it the only resort in the world, that you can do all three from the resort. The town is also situated as next to Rogers Pass, which is world famous for it’s back country skiing. With an average snowfall of 12-18 metres per year, the winter adventures available out of Revelstoke are almost endless. And Revi offers another great advantage in the fact that it is really easy to get to, with the shuttle service to and from Kelowna airport run by the wonderful people at The Revelstoke Connection
With ski adventures in mind, I chose to base myself in Revi for sometime this January, in between my heli tours. I arrived the evening after completing one of my client heli tours at Eagle Pass nearby. Fitting with Mrs Simpson’s comments, the first thing you sense about Revelstoke is how magic, yet undiscovered it is. Set on the famous Columbia River, in winter when the streets are high in snow, it’s like a winter wonderland. There’s barely one ski shop (Skookums, who really looked after my new ski boot issues), one movie cinema, 2 pizza shops and one excellent sushi place. Guest houses and hotels abound, but they are well camouflaged with the sleepy streets, and thus in the dead of winter, the whole town has a somewhat ‘Fargo’ feel about it.
I chose to base myself in the cheap and cheerful centrally located Powder Springs Inn, since I wasn’t sure how long I’d be staying, and was pleased to discover that it houses one of the town’s main pubs called ‘The Last Drop’, meaning I didn’t even have to go out doors to get a feed or a beer. Speaking of which, they serve Mt Begbie (local micro brewer) on tap, named after the famous mountain that overlooks Revi, it’s a fine drop at that. The resort shuttle bus (to take you to the resort a few kilometres away), departs right near their front door of the Powder Springs Inn, and guests are entitled to free entry to Revelstoke’s impressive aquatic centre- complete with spa, sauna, steam room and heated water slides! If this wasn’t enough, the real gem of Powder Springs Inn, was the in-house ski guide – Kiwi skibum known as ‘Fly’, he will take you and your group out skiing, and show you the resort’s infamous powder stashes anytime you like.
On my 2nd morning in Revi, I took the skiers shuttle up to the hill, with Fly, and he took me to the top via two gondolas and one chairlift. Revelstoke boasts North America’s highest lift-serviced vertical at 1,713m. I was pleasantly surprised to discover with Fly’s guiding, that there were still some remnant powder stashes around, despite the fact that it hadn’t snowed in 2 days. Ie .Trees, bowls and endless vertical plus the awesome views down the Columbia River Valley and across to the Monashees from the top of Revelstoke all contributed to my enjoyment of the resort. Fly took me over to North Bowl, South Bowl and all bowls in between, and we barely had to wait for lift access the whole time.
In the afternoon, he informed me that he had a rendezvous with a local, my ears pricked up when I found out it was the local Mt Begbie Brewing Company rep. Their beer I’ve already mentioned. Turns out, Fly is organizing a weekly community ski race and would like to get Begbie involved. What a great idea I thought. Made me want to go and give up life in the real world as they say and go and hang out in a ski town. I’ve been thinking of this idea for a while, maybe it’s getting closer to a reality…