Even though it’s a premier destination on B.C.’s Powder Highway, Golden has never pandered to tourists the way you’d expect a resort town to (although it welcomes visitors with open arms), which gives it a local atmosphere absent the hype you might find in other well-known North American ski towns. Golden still feels like the logging and railroad town of its roots. In fact, those are the first things visitors tend to notice when they pull in: the tracks bisecting town, the steam from the sawmill billowing up. And, of course, the mountains bounding the valley, that define the heritage of this place just as much as those first two.
The people here, much like the town vibe, are low-key. Even though much of Kicking Horse Mountain Resort’s terrain is anything but relaxed, the local skiers aren’t ones to boast about their descents or massive vertical days. And while Golden is a home base for such celebrated mountaineering as Rogers Pass, the Bugaboos, and Lake Louise, visitors aren’t likely to hear self-promotional tales from the resident climbers in the bar. People here are just down to earth.
To learn more about the history of this town—including how the Canadian Pacific Railroad instigated the advent of adventure tourism by bringing over Swiss mountain guides to guide their guests at their famed lodges in Banff, Lake Louise and on Rogers Pass, and built the Swiss Village of Edelweiss that still stands in Golden to house them; about the 1926 fire that burned, along with the sawmill’s entire timber holding, most of the historic buildings in town; and the corralling of the Kicking Horse River from its unpredictable braids to the single channel that now divides the town in two—be sure to make time to visit the Golden Museum during your stay.
Kicking Horse Mountain Resort
While Kicking Horse has enough beginner and intermediate terrain amidst its 4,133 feet of vertical to keep families happy, it’s unapologetic about the fact that its strength is its steep, technical ridge skiing. The resort is a wonderland of alpine bowls cradling what feels like an infinity of chutes and choose-your-own adventure lines—which is why it hosts the only North American stop on the Freeride World Tour. Some of the bowls call for a hike to access, after the gondola and lifts have bumped skiers as far as possible, but the advantage of the alpine is that you can see how to get to most things you’d want to ski—always a plus when exploring new resort. If conditions are good, keen skiers should climb the Stairway to Heaven, a literal wrought-iron stairway at the end of the Stairway to Heaven Chair that leads to the Whitewall face and Feuz Bowl.
Where to Eat and Drink
Even non-skiing travelers in your party who want to get the high, remote feel of the Purcells can experience that by riding the Kicking Horse gondola up to the summit at 7,700 feet to dine at the Eagle’s Eye restaurant, which offers a 360-degree view of the resort’s bowls, cliffs and ridges. From here, looking out over the jagged peaks unfolding from the horizon, it’s easy to imagine what those first mountaineers at the turn of the twentieth century must have felt in gazing across such wildness.
In town, the Wolf’s Den, a historic log building tucked off the main drag, makes the best gourmet burgers in town. In the small downtown, visitors can dine on the banks of the Kicking Horse River at the Rockwater Grill, which serves pub food, or next door at Reposados, a new boutique tacos & tequila Mexican café. For nightlife, the Rockwater and neighboring The Golden Taps Pub downtown often host live music.
And beer enthusiasts should make a point to stop at Whitetooth, the local brewery named after the first historic ski resort in Golden, which makes a long list of beers on a rotating basis in addition to its mainstays.
Where to Stay
Golden hosts an array of accommodations from hotels and motels to lodges and cabins. On the resort, try Lush Mountain Accommodations, a ski-in-ski-out set of mountain chalets each with a private deck looking up the slopes of Kicking Horse or out at the sweeping Columbia River; or the Vagabond Lodge, a boutique inn just steps away from the gondola and reminiscent of western Canada’s historic lodges.
Across the valley, Mount 7 Lodges offers two- three- and four-bedroom log lodges, each with private deck and hot tub. In town, the Kicking Horse River Lodge, sits at the confluence of the Kicking Horse and Columbia Rivers. It’s walking distance from town, with private, family and dorm style rooming options.