Admittedly, there has been skiing in Revelstoke before, courtesy of a cat-skiing operation and a couple of locally-run lifts. But the resort today is of a totally different order. Mount Mackenzie is huge lump of rock, and the masterplan involves the building of 21 lifts, servicing 3240-odd hectares of skiable terrain. In other words, it will one day rival Whistler in size.
For now, the lifts provide access to 1713 metres of vertical drop, which is more than Whistler and Aspen – the longest vertical drop in North America. For the 2019-20 season a new quad, the Steller Chair, opens up beginner and intermediate ski terrain. Slotted in between the Revelation Gondola and Ripper Chair, the new lift accesses the Ripper Zone, bringing you up 130 vertical metres (426 vertical ft) to a top elevation of 1779m (5,837 ft). This creates six new runs for beginner, intermediate and family skiers.
Impressive skiing, shame about the resort access
It’s not just the quantity that impressed us, however. Revelstoke already provides steep fall-line skiing of the very highest quality – notably on the 5.5km Snow Rodeo trail. It starts as a black-diamond groomer (roughly equivalent to a black run in the Alps), and goes on and on and on till your legs feel like they’re going to explode. Lower down, it’s less steep – and becomes a blue-rated intermediate trail, but by then you’re so shagged from all those turns it still seems a challenge. It’s an instant classic.
Meanwhile, over the back of the mountain is the North Bowl, which is a natural snow hole and collects a lot of snow blown over the back of the mountain. Here the terrain is eerily reminiscent of Snowbird and Alta in Utah – super-snowy and full of interesting chutes and cliff drops.
Any drawbacks? Well yes – two. One is access. The nearest airport, at Kelowna, is a two-hour drive, and there are no direct flights from the UK – international services fly into Calgary.
The second is that most of the slopes face south and south-west. The top of the mountain is too cold for this to be an issue, but lower down snow quality could be a problem, as it is in Whistler. How quickly all the lifts are put in depends on how well the real-estate sells at the bottom of the mountain, too. The resort talks about the project taking 15 years. It could be longer, though.
All the same, Revelstoke seems like a big deal: made all the more alluring by the fact there’s both a cat-skiing operation here, and a top-notch heli-skiing outfit – Selkirk Tangiers. All right, so neither are cheap – but they are mind-blowing.
Currently a freeride, not a freestyle, destination
Revelstoke’s terrain parks are still on the drawing board, but if freeride is your fancy, then the resort should already feature on your hit list. This is only partly because of lift-serviced terrain on the mountain. What really matters is the cat-skiing and heli-skiing.