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Powder Highway BC
Powder Highway BC
Start and finish at Kelowna Airport with detour to Baldy
Start and finish at Kelowna Airport with detour to Baldy
Powder Highway start/finish at Kelowna Airport
Powder Highway start/finish at Kelowna Airport
Southern part of the BC Powder Highway with detour to Castle Mountain
Southern part of the BC Powder Highway with detour to Castle Mountain

Powder Highway

Brush off those powder skis and snowboards to hit the Powder Highway of Canada! The famous Powder Highway BC, aka the "Powder Triangle", is just like the Bermuda Triangle. Many people have ventured into this area never to return to their home land. Once you get a taste for the BC Powder Highway it is hard to ever leave.

The Kootenay Rockies in the southeast corner of British Columbia (Interior BC) has a high concentration of ski resorts, snowcat skiing operations, heli skiing, and other backcountry skiing spots that form the Powder Highway. The region is characterised by dry powder and some areas score an abundance of blower powder.

Powder hounds can visit just one destination on the Powder Highway BC, or many people join a multi-resort safari (see the Canada ski tours) or a DIY road trip of part or all of the circuit.

One of the huge benefits of the Canada Powder Highway is that everything is relatively inexpensive. Lift tickets, food and accommodation are reasonably priced (especially if you stay in the nearby town rather than on-mountain) when compared to the likes of Whistler Blackcomb or Banff. Many of the Powder Highway ski resorts have less infrastructure in comparison to these juggernauts, but the Powder Highway ski areas well and truly make up for it in terms of the quality and quantity of powder and the comparative lack of crowds.

All that powder in the Powder Triangle (aka Powder Highway) should get a powder hound's tail wagging with excitement.  Either that or all the pow will get a powder hound drooling for more! 

Where is the Powder Highway Canada?

There isn’t a completely consistent definition of where the BC Powder Highway is, as it depends on which marketing consortium you’re talking to! However the general gist is that the circuit includes Revelstoke and further along Highway 1 to Kicking Horse. Turn south onto Highway 95 and there’s Panorama and Kimberley, until you hit Highway 3 where you can do a small detour to Fernie. Then head west on Highway 3 to Red Mountain with a minor detour via Whitewater, and then head north again up to Revelstoke.

There are several gateway airports for access into the Powder Highway area: Calgary in Alberta Canada; Spokane in Washington USA; and Kelowna in BC. The cost of flights is one factor in your decision making here, but another important factor to consider is car rental. Car rental is generally more expensive in the US which may more than offset any savings you make by flying into Spokane. Also remember that you'll need to return the car to the same country from where you picked it up. For example you can't rent a car in Kelowna BC and drop it off in Spokane. 

We found the most economical and easiest access was to fly into Kelowna, rent a car with snow tyres, and start the journey there. If you need to spend the night in Kelowna you can look at Kelowna hotel options here.

There is also another Powder Highway, the “Northern BC Powder Highway”, a term we’ve coined for another great road trip around the areas of Smithers and Terrace.

Powder Highway Ski Resorts and Routes

With the help of google maps you can plan your own itinerary, but here’s the potential outline of a route for the Powder Highway.

Fly into Kelowna and get a rental car. If your legs need a warm up, you may want to consider a day at Silver Star (63km from Kelowna and sort of on the way to Revelstoke).

Revelstoke
The trip from Kelowna Airport to Revelstoke is 187km (2:15 hours). Revelstoke is arguably the capital of the powder highway! Hopefully your legs are warmed up because Revelstoke Mountain Resort is like Silver Star on steroids! It boasts over 1,700 metres (5,600 ft) of vertical and a fast efficient lift system that whisks you up to the top in a matter of minutes. Do two runs before your morning coffee and you could have covered in excess of 11,000 vertical feet! This is a steep mountain and whilst it has lots of intermediate runs, it is predominantly a mountain for advanced riders. Combine all of this with an annual snowfall of 9-14 metres and you have a powder hound paradise. Revel in the deep!

You could easily spend a week at Revelstoke Mountain Resort and not get bored. However if you have the budget, a visit to the Revelstoke area wouldn't be complete without at least one day of heli skiing.

Eagle Pass Heli Skiing is not for the faint-hearted, and when conditions allow, it has some amazingly varied and challenging terrain. You have the option of small group single day heli skiing or 3-plus days of heli skiing staying in a beautiful fly-in fly-out lodge. The multi-day packages generally need to be booked a long way in advance.

Selkirk Tangiers are another Revelstoke heli skiing company. Mid-week they offer large-group single day heli skiing that is ideal for first timers and those with minimal powder riding experience. They also offer multi-day packages with lodging (either large or small group) which is some of the most economical heli skiing in Canada.

Mustang Powder offers 3 and 4 day cat skiing packages, whilst Revelstoke cat skiing at the resort is probably a waste of time because the terrain is so small and it only runs occasionally.

On the way towards Golden you could stop off for some backcountry skiing in the famous Roger’s Pass. Or you could schedule in some cat skiing with the fabulous Chatter Creek. The only problem is that it’s incredibly popular and you have to book a LONG way in advance.

Kicking Horse & Golden
Kicking Horse Mountain Resort near Golden is 159km NE of Revelstoke. The resort has some similarities to Revelstoke and has a huge vertical of 1,260 metres (4,133 feet) and impressive terrain. One of the stand-out features of Kicking Horse is the scary double black diamond runs. No matter how good a skier or boarder you are, you will find something to challenge you and get you shakin' in your boots.

Or if you really want to feast on fresh powder lines, head out heli skiing with Purcell Heli Skiing who are based in Golden and offer single day heli skiing.

Panorama
Kicking Horse to Panorama Mountain Resort is a 152km drive. Panorama is an excellent all-rounder ski resort but we probably wouldn’t put it up there as a top priority for a powder hound ski area as it doesn’t receive huge amounts of snow. However it’s definitely worth going there if you add on some heli skiing with RK Heli Ski because the heliski tenure receives more snow than the resort. RK Heliski offer single (or multi) day heli skiing starting at 3 run packages.

Kimberley
Kimberley is 141km south of Panorama. We probably wouldn’t put this ski area high on your powder hound priority list considering the low snow volumes and lack of expert terrain.

Fernie
From Kimberley it’s a 118km drive SE to Fernie BC. Some would argue that Fernie isn’t on the Powder Highway, but as a good powder hound destination, it deserves the right! The Fernie Alpine Resort has plenty of great terrain and it scores copious snowfall! As the name suggests, Fernie Wilderness Adventures Cat Skiing are based in Fernie. Offering single day cat skiing trips, FWA cat skiing is an awesome way to score a good fix of fresh powder!

Island Lake cat skiing are also based in Fernie, but your chances of being able to find availability are slim to none.

A Powder Highway add-on from Fernie (or if you’re starting and/or finishing your trip in Calgary) is Castle Mountain Resort, which also has a cat skiing operation dubbed the Powder Stagecoach.

Nelson and Whitewater
From Fernie it’s a 326km drive to Nelson (or it’s 259km from Kimberley). If Revelstoke takes the title of the capital of the Powder Highway, then Nelson can be the king of the Powder Highway! Nelson is one of our favourite British Columbia destinations. It is a spectacular town located on the shores of the majestic Kootenay Lake and is central to some of Canada's best skiing.

Nearby Whitewater Ski Resort is our favourite ski hill for powder hounds in Canada. It’s low frills, has some fantastic terrain, and scores big snowfalls. When the snow is on, it is like a lift-accessed back-country resort with powder stashes everywhere.

Cat skiing in the Kootenays is about as fabulous as it gets and nearby is Valhalla Powdercats that offers single day cat skiing (book well in advance).

North of Nelson there’s a high concentration of awesome multi-day cat skiing operations within 1:45 hours drive such as Retallack, Selkirk Snowcat Skiing and White Grizzly which all book out well in advance.

Stellar Heli Skiing is also in this region.

Rossland and Red Mountain
Rossland is 76km southwest of Nelson. Rossland is the closest town to Red Mountain which is only 3km away. Red Mountain Resort can be a gem for powder hounds when the snow is on. The tree skiing is some of the best you will find anywhere in the world with perfectly gladed runs, and there is some very steep gnarly terrain for those who like a bit of extreme air-time. Combined with the incredibly laid-back friendly atmosphere, Red is a great place to hang out.

A must-do is to go cat skiing with Big Red Cats. BRC has a huge tenure and separate snowcats for different ability levels so you’ll get the best out of your day (or days). It is highly recommended to book your BRC Cat Skiing a decent way in advance.

Return to Kelowna
The Powder Highway then heads north back up to Revelstoke (you could stop for a few days of cat skiing with Great Northern Snowcats on the way).

But assuming you’ll be driving a little further west to get to Kelowna, options for powder detours along the way include Baldy Mountain Resort, a little unknown ski area where you’ll have no difficulty in getting fresh tracks.

Or another option to take a wide berth back to Kelowna is Apex, where crowds won’t be an issue either!

If you haven't had enough skiing or snowboarding yet, you literally drive right past Big White en-route to Kelowna. For the first time you might actually have to compete for fresh lines! Big White is famous for its family friendliness and the abundant long cruisers.

Snow

Well it’s not called the Powder Highway for nothing! The Powder Highway British Columbia is located in the sweet spot of Western Canada for great snow! The regions close to the coast get big snowfalls but the powder tends to be very heavy, whilst the Alberta ski resorts have dry snow (or icy slopes) but not a lot of it. Other than a couple of anomalies, the Powder Highway ski areas receive large volumes of snow. Here’s the stats for snowfall per season: