Nestled in between the silver-blue peaks of the Columbia Mountains and the Canadian Rockies, Golden is an authentic ski town that procures the feel of an alpine village. Located in the Kootenay region of south-eastern British Columbia, Golden has a range of outdoor winter activities, from sledding to snowshoeing to cross-country skiing.
Unlike the majority of B.C., Golden runs on Mountain Standard Time. The quaint city of nearly 4,000 locals has a hockey team, a dance studio, an art gallery and a local farmer’s market. The semi-permanent population of seasonaries greet each other on the streets, keeping the town feeling balanced between being overrun with tourists or stagnant with born-and-raised locals.
At the confluence of the Columbia and Kicking Horse Rivers, Golden is an outdoor adventurer’s paradise. Perfectly situated less than a two hours’ drive from six national parks, Golden enjoys the natural beauty of the region without having to operate under the national park restrictions itself.
I spent three days exploring everything the city has to offer, including a full day snowboarding at Kicking Horse Mountain.
How to Get There
By bus – I took the Greyhound from Kamloops to Golden. There are plenty of affordable bus routes that arrive to and depart from Golden throughout the day.
By air – Although Golden does have an airport, it is mostly reserved for private flights and sky diving. For families, a good option is to fly into Calgary International Airport, rent a vehicle and drive to Golden. Exploring the area on four wheels is much more freeing.
By car – Golden is located approximately 700 kilometers from Vancouver and nearly 300 kilometers from Calgary. The road trip through the region is stunning, with plenty of unbeatable photo ops.
Where to Stay
There are plenty of hotels along the highway, limited options in town (including budget accommodation such as Dreamcatcher Hostel) and hotel rooms and ski-in, ski-out condo rentals right on the mountain. I stayed at Prestige Inn, which is equipped with a swimming pool and hot tub to relax in after a long day on the hill.
Where to Eat
Lunch – Bacchus Books & Café fuses new and used literature with delicious breakfast and lunch options. Their daily specials are incredible—come early; they sell out fast!
Dinner – The Turning Point Restaurant is a family-run, independently-owned restaurant in the city center. The chef draws from his Greek roots for inspiration in their home-baked pizzas, BBQ bison ribs and sweet and juicy salmon.
On the mountain – Eagle’s Eye Restaurant, perched on the top of the Golden Eagle Eye Express Gondola, is the highest restaurant in Canada, sitting on the summit at 2,300 metres (7,700 ft). Try the Elk Burger with Truffle Fries or warm up with a creamy cappuccino.
Where to Play
Kicking Horse Resort
Kicking Horse is renowned as a high-intensity playground for daring skiers and adventurous snowboarders. While the terrain is indeed insane, it is also varied, making it suitable for those aiming to progress.
Kids and beginners can stick to the magic carpet and lower chair lift until they feel comfortable taking the Golden Eagle Express Gondola, which travels 1,260 metres (4,133 ft) to the very top of the mountain. Those who don’t want to ski can purchase a gondola sight-seeing ticket to soak in the alpine views and dine at Eagle’s Eye Restaurant.
Even from the top, green runs stretch straight to the bottom, clearly marked with bright orange “Easiest Way Down” signs. There are blue, black, and double black diamond turn-offs all the way down.
As a beginner myself, I wasn’t about to rush over to the vertical chutes or hike to one of three glittering peaks for my first run. Instead, I carved down the green run “It’s a Ten.”
My legs weren’t prepared for the 10 kilometer groomed run. By the time I reached the end, I felt as though I had boarded down two mountains. My calves were burning and my skin was sweaty. At the bottom of the gondola, I handed my board off to the group of Australian attendants, who loaded up my gear VIP-style. I jumped in the cable car and mentally prepared myself for round two.
On the next run, I carved past the Grizzly Bear Refuge, where the rescued bear “Boo” snoozes away the winter in his man-made den. In summer, hour-long Interpretive Tours guarantee sightings of Boo.
For those looking for a little more adventure, there are over 85 chutes to bomb down. Squiggly lines crisscross through the powder alongside on the north face of Terminator One. Terminator Two is a bit mellower, but the scenic views across the mountain ranges makes the trek worth it.
An actual metal stairway—aptly named “Stairway to Heaven”—leads to White Wall, a big, steep face with no trees. The Alaskan-esc terrain is signature of Kicking Horse Mountain.
Plenty of activities and events spice up Kicking Horse Resort throughout the season, from the Dummy Downhill Race to the Spring Slush Cup in April. Helly Hansen's "Wrangle the Chute" is a four-star Freeride World Qualifier that takes place at the end of March. This aggressive competition is a chance for pro-riders to show off their skills and conquer the hill.
Kicking Horse village is quaint and small, which makes the mountain seem even larger. All of the necessary amenities are available on the hill, but for everything else, the city of Golden is only a 15 minute drive away.