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Plan Your Trip > Regional Guides > Ultimate Guide to Canada's Powder Highway

Avant Ski's Ultimate Guide to the Powder Highway, Canada

Do you dream that each day is an opportunity for fresh tracks, steep lines, and a chance to explore some of the best powder skiing in the world? If so, the Powder Highway Canada may be for you. The Powder Highway is a world renowned road trip through the heart of the best skiing in British Columbia and Alberta.

 

The full Powder Highway is a ~700 mile (1,127 km) loop and hits some of the best, if not-underrated, ski resorts in the Canadian Rockies. From the champagne powder capital aka Kicking Horse, to the breathtaking scenery of Panorama Mountain Resort, the Powder Highway is a journey that encompasses not only great skiing, but also an opportunity to visit some of the most authentic ski towns in North America. While the trip can be completed many ways, we recommend about two weeks to travel the Powder Highway. Our ideal itinerary involves stops at 6 of Canada’s best resorts, including Revelstoke, Kicking Horse, Panorama, Fernie, Red Mountain, and Whitewater. Given the Powder Highway’s proximity to the spectacular area of Banff, we also recommend visiting the resorts of Ski Big 3 — Banff, Lake Louise, and Mt. Norquay

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Image Courtesy of Northstar Resort

The Powder Highway gets its name from the impressive snow quality that encompasses this small corner of British Columbia and Alberta. Even more alluring, many of the resorts and towns here tend to offer better value than their larger and more well known peers throughout North America. The sheer concentration of incredible ski resorts, helicopter and cat skiing operators, hot springs, ski towns, and more, all lead many to revere a few weeks spent traveling along the Powder Highway as the trip of a lifetime. 

 

Use our guide to familiarize yourself with the powder highway map and get a sense of tremendous potential for skiing and riding in this region. When you are ready to book the adventure of a lifetime, click here to start planning or send us an email hello@theavantski. We partner with the best hotels and tour operators in the region.

Getting to and Around the Powder Highway

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There are several options for traveling by plane to the Powder Highway, though all will require renting a car once you arrive. Keep in mind, the Powder Highway takes you through the heart of the Canadian Rockies in winter, and a stout vehicle with 4WD and snow tires is a must. 

 

Though there are a number of ways to travel the journey, we’ve built this itinerary around what we feel is the most accessible way to experience the Powder Highway. The airport in Calgary AB is the easiest for most as it's fairly large, services a number of domestic and international flights, and sits ~170 miles (3.5 hours) from your first stop in Golden BC, Kicking Horse Mountain Resort.

 

Alternative airports include Spokane WA or Kelowna BC. Those who choose to fly into Spokane find themselves ~120 miles (2.5 hours) away from Rossland BC and RED Mountain Resort. While Spokane is a great option, servicing a number of US domestic flights, one caveat is that renting a car in the US would require that the car also be returned on the US side of the border. 

 

The Powder Highway takes you through some of the most breathtaking scenery anywhere in the world and can include numerous pit stops in towns like Banff (only 80 miles and 1.5 hours from Calgary) or at various hot springs or cat-skiing operations. Take some time to plan your route and even plan on rest days to explore all the hidden treasures that British Columbia and Alberta have to offer!

POWDER HIGHWAY RESORTS BY REGION

Best for Steep Tree-skiing & Lake Views

Travel Time: ~3.5 hours drive from San Francisco

Alberta
Banff Sunshine (Steep Terrain)

Lake Louise (Incredible Lake Views)
Mt. Norquay (Family Resort)

Kicking Horse, Golden, BC

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Best for Extreme Skiing

Stop #1: ~3.5 hours drive from Calgary

OR Start with Banff, Lake Louise, Norquay, ~2 hours drive from Calgary

Hailed as one of the best mountains for expert skiers and riders in the world, Kicking Horse is a rarity in the North American ski culture. As you ascend the Golden Eagle Gondola (one of only two lift-accessible ways to reach the upper mountain), you’ll look out in awe and find yourself asking “is that really open?”. Like most things at Kicking Horse, yes it's open, yes you can ski it, and yes it's really really good. 

 

While a large portion of the mountain is rated double black, there is actually a lot of intermediate to low advanced skiing on the lower mountain. With over 4000’ vertical feet of terrain, you can imagine why this place is known as the ‘Champagne Powder Capital.'

Make sure to say hi to Boo, the mountains resident grizzly bear who lives in the Grizzly Bear Refuge.

​​The Town of Golden: The town of Golden is not to be missed with a number of affordable accommodations, lively local watering holes, and a small but authentic downtown setting. The locals are welcoming, the town has an adventurous vibe, and there’s plenty of local flair to the dining and après options. 

Where to Stay: Base Camp for cozy rooms in town, located along the Kicking Horse River in a timber-framed building. For ski-in-ski-out, Kicking House Mountain Resort.  

QUICK STATS

Passes: Epic Pass and RCR Rockies Card

Terrain: 120+ named trails

Terrain Mix: 30% Novice, 55% Intermediate, 15% Advanced

Average Annual Snowfall: 400+ inches

Vertical Drop: 4,314 ft

Lifts: 8 total - 2 quads, 3 triples, 1 doubles, 2 surface lifts

Grizzly Bear Rescue Enclosures: 1

Kicking Horse

Revelstoke Mountain, Revelstoke, BC

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Best for Long Vertical and Massive Glades

Stop #2: ~2 hours drive from Kicking Horse

Revelstoke is arguably the most well known resort on the Powder Highway, likely due to its jaw-dropping 5,620 vertical feet of skiing. Revelstoke claims to have the longest run in all of North America! While Revelstoke does sit a bit lower in elevation than many of the other stops on this list, the resort lies between the Selkirk and Monashee Mountains and averages close to 34 feet of snow per season, some of the deepest in Canada! 

 

Revelstoke is revered for its legendary terrain. From super long groomers, to seemingly endless glades, this mountain does offer something for every type of skier and rider. The upper mountain alpine bowls are highly sought after and are known for being some of the best in the region. 

Getting To: From Kicking Horse, take the Trans-Canada Highway West for two hours. Also accessible from the Kelowna International Airport (YNW).

The Town of Revelstoke: Revelstoke has one of the most lively après and downtown atmospheres on the Powder Highway. With a number of great bars, restaurants, and shops, we’d recommend including a rest day in Revelstoke to take in all the town has to offer.

 

Cat & Heli-Skiing: Revelstoke is a great and convenient location to book your cat or heli-skiing experience too. In fact, Revelstoke was originally a heli and cat skiing zone, so its operators are some of the most experienced in the business.

Where to Stay: Sutton Place for a luxury, ski in ski out condominium style hotel at the base of the mountain. Sutton Place is just steps from the Revelation Gondola. Guests have access to outdoor covered hot tubs, fitness facilities and several bars and restaurants. 

QUICK STATS

Passes: Ikon Pass & Mountain Collective, plus Revelstoke Season Pass

Terrain: 75 named trails, 3 bowls

Terrain Mix: 18% Novice, 46% Intermediate, 36% Advanced

Average Annual Snowfall: 300 - 350 inches

Vertical Drop: 5,620 ft

Lifts: 7 total - 2 high-speed quads, 2 quads, 3 doubles, 1 surface lift

Revelstoke

Whitewater Ski Resort, Nelson, BC

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Best for Untouched Lines and Deep Snow

Stop #3: ~3.5 hours drive from Revelstoke

Sitting 3.5 hours from Revelstoke, the no-frills Whitewater Ski Resort promises uncrowded slopes, consistent snow quality, and fresh powder stashes that last for days. Though not the largest resort on the list, Whitewater offers some of the most impressive snow totals in BC - averaging 480 inches/season. The town of Nelson BC sits right up the road and is an fan favorite for its authentic ski town vibe.

 

For the true powder seekers, Whitewater’s terrain might actually make this one of your favorite stops on the trip. The lack of crowds and consistent soft snow lead many to regard its slopes as having a sort of backcountry feel to them. Just beware, the average temperature here is 18 degrees F. If you're interested in accessing the backcountry, we recommend booking a day at one of Nelson’s cat-skiing operations, like Baldface.

Getting To: From Revelstoke, take BC Route 23 and BC Route 6 South for ~3.5 hours. Also accessible from the Kelowna International Airport (YNW).

The Town of Nelson: For fans of the apres, though the resort itself might lack a vibrant after hours scene, the town of Nelson has no shortage of great ski-bars and unique restaurants to enjoy after a day of endless face-shots. We recommend visiting Baker Street, where there's an ample supply of great eateries and live music!

QUICK STATS

Passes: Day Tickets and 5 Day Passes

Terrain: 82 named trails, 1,184 lift accessible acres & 2,367 total skiable acres

Terrain Mix: 18% Novice, 46% Intermediate, 36% Advanced

Average Annual Snowfall: 480 inches

Vertical Drop: 2,044 ft

Lifts: 5 total – 2 quads, 1 triple, 1 double, 1 handle tow

Whitewater

RED Mountain Resort, Rossland, BC

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Best for Authentic, Low Key Resort Vibe

Stop #4: ~1 hour drive from Nelson

RED Mountain is a bit of an untouched gem in the world of Canadian Skiing. As one of the oldest resorts in Western Canada, RED has maintained its independence since inception. Rossland locals take great pride in calling this area home and cherish the local ski culture. With incredible in-bounds expert terrain, an exceptionally convenient lift system, and a number of peaks offer 360 degrees of skiable terrain, RED Mountain does a great job of spreading the crowds. Their claim to be the “#1 acres per skier” resort is well appreciated by those craving lots of vertical feet per day. 


Another unique feature of RED Mountain is the opportunity to experience in-bounds cat skiing on Mt. Kirkup. Unique to RED, you can ski to the base of Mt. Kirkup, accessed from the Grey Mountain chairlift, pay $10 (cash only) and take a cat to the top of Mt. Kirkup. From here, get ready for a run of epic gladed skiing. You won’t find this anywhere else (in-bounds)! This is a great way to sample cat-skiing, without the need for avalanche gear or backcountry training.

Getting To: From Nelson, take BC-3A and BC-22 South for 1 hour. Also accessible from the Kelowna or Spokane International Airports.


The Town of Rossland: This small ski town is adored by those in the know for its laid back, yet super fun vibe. Just about 1 hours drive from Nelson, we recommend having a rest day here to fully sample Rossland’s incredible ski town culture. 

Where to Stay: RED has made many improvements to their onsite accommodations including a number of ski-in, ski-out lodging options.

QUICK STATS

Passes: Ikon Pass

Terrain: 119 Trails, 3,850 skiable acres; 5 peaks

Terrain Mix: 17% Novice , 34% Intermediate , 23% Advanced , 26% Expert

Average Annual Snowfall: 300 inches

Vertical Drop: 2,919 ft

Lifts: 8 Total – 2 quads, 3 triples, 1 double, 1 t-bar, 1 surface

Red Mounain Resort

Fernie Alpine Resort, Fernie BC

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Best For Unique Ski Town

Stop #5: ~4 hour drive from Rossland

Though Fernie has slowly gained some popularity in recent years, its out of the way location and large amount of skiable acres have made this resort one of the best for small lift lines and epic ski days. It’s also known as being one of the most unique towns on the Powder Highway. 

 

Fernie's 5 alpine bowls are one of the resorts finest features. Each bowl has distinct character. Take your pick amongst alpine steeps, vast glades, or long groomers. The bowls are so unique that we recommend at least two days to adequately explore all of the terrain. Fernie is one of the most easterly resorts on the Powder Highway, well situated in the continental snowpack. Here the snow is known for staying soft, and fresh tracks can be found days after a storm. And the scenery! Fernie’s slopes are surrounded by sheer alpine rock walls.

Getting To: From Rossland, take BC-3 East for ~4 hours. 

Town of Fernie: After a day of skiing you’ll want to save some energy to explore the city center. With a large number of small but delicious eateries and historic bars (see the Northern Bar and Stage), Fernie might just top your list of favorite ski towns!

QUICK STATS

Passes: Epic Pass and RCR Rockies Card

Terrain: 142 trails, 5 Bowls, 2,500+ skiable acres

Terrain Mix: 13% Novice, 30% Intermediate, 32% Advanced, 21% Expert, 4% Extreme

Average Annual Snowfall: 350 inches

Vertical Drop: 3,550 ft

Lifts10 Total – 2 high speed quads, 2 quads, 3 triples, 3 surface lifts

Panorama Mountain

Panorma Mountain, Panorma, BC

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Best for Long Groomers and Bowl Skiing

Stop #6: ~2.5 hours drive from Fernie

Panorama ski resort is a fairly underrated resort that gives you lots of bang for your buck. With more than 2,700 acres of skiable and patrolled terrain, Panorama offers many options from steep bowls to vast glades, long descents, and famously sparse crowds. 

 

The resort is aptly named as the views from the summit are simply incredible. With breathtaking vistas of the Canadian Rockies, this is definitely the resort where you’ll take lots of pictures.

 

Formerly a heli-skiing zone, the Taynton Bowl now offers a backcountry feel inbounds, complete with avalanche control so no backcountry gear is required. Understandably, some might have sore and tired legs at this point in their trip. If steeps and glades are off the itinerary for the day, Panorama is also famous for impeccable grooming and long cruising descents.

Getting To: From Fernie, take BC-3 West and BC-93 North for ~2.5 hours.

​​

The Town of Invermere: 

Where to Stay: 
One major draw for staying at Panorama Mountain Resort are the famous slopeside pools and hot tubs! If you're up for a small drive, there's also a number of popular hot springs in the area, our favorite is Radium Hot Springs!

 

QUICK STATS

Passes: Day Passes

Terrain: 137 trails, 3,500+ skiable acres

Terrain Mix: 20% Novice, 55% Intermediate, 25% Advanced/Expert

Average Annual Snowfall: 360 inches

Vertical Drop: 3,514 ft

Lifts12 Total – 1 gondola, 1 high speed heated bubble quads, 6 high speed quads, 2 quads, 2 surface lifts

Return to Calgary

Visit Banff National Park and/or Return to Calgary

 

Though Calgary is just 3.5 hours from Invermere, we recommend booking a day to drive through Banff National Park, and to stay in the town of Banff.  We also highly recommend exploring the resorts of Ski Big 3 including Banff Sunshine Village, Lake Lousie, and Mt. Norquay. Though these resorts are not technically “Official Powder Highway” resorts, they're all world renowned and worthy of any powder seekers time. Banff National Park is a quick 1.5 hour drive from Calgary.

Banff Sunshine Village, Alberta

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Best for Terrain Variety & National Park Access

Stop #6: ~2 hours drive from Invermere

Located just 25 minute drive from the town of Banff, Banff Sunshine Village is a must-visit. Located inside the national park, this resort is treasured for its incredible scenery and having terrain suitable for all ability levels.

 

From the base area, a 20 min gondola ride whisks you high up into the alpine and to the Centennial Lodge. This centrally located hub is ideally located at the base of almost 360 degrees of skiing. From the steeps of Goats Eye Mountain to the vast alpine bowls of Lookout Mountain, a day of skiing Sunshine Village will check all the boxes on terrain variety and will surely leave you with sore legs if you try to ski everything in just one day.

 

In fact, for expert skiers and riders, it may be a toss up on who has the best extreme terrain, Banff Sunshine Village or Kicking Horse Mountain Resort. Special to Banff Sunshine Village are its expert only freeride zones, Delirium Dive and The Wild West. It should be noted that access to these areas are limited to those packing the standard avalanche gear (beacon, shovel, probe) and who are skiing with an equally equipped partner. Those meeting the requirements, however, are in for some of the best lift accessible and most coveted expert terrain in Canada.

Getting To: From Invermere, take BC-93 North for ~2 hours. From Calgary, XX

​​

The Town of Banff: Undoubtedly, most have heard of the town of Banff, whether it be the world famous ski town vibe or the breathtaking scenery that lies in Banff National Park. Once you visit you’ll have no doubt why some refer to the area as one of the most beautiful places in the world. Given that it's a popular destination, accommodations and restaurants are plentiful within town. In fact, given the rich history of the area it wouldn't be a bad idea to plan a rest day here when visiting.

Where to Stay: Fairmont

 

Banff Sunshine

Lake Louise, Alberta

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Best for Terrain Variety & National Park Access

Stop #6: ~2 hours drive from Invermere

Located just 25 minute drive from the town of Banff, Banff Sunshine Village is a must-visit. Located inside the national park, this resort is treasured for its incredible scenery and having terrain suitable for all ability levels.

 

From the base area, a 20 min gondola ride whisks you high up into the alpine and to the Centennial Lodge. This centrally located hub is ideally located at the base of almost 360 degrees of skiing. From the steeps of Goats Eye Mountain to the vast alpine bowls of Lookout Mountain, a day of skiing Sunshine Village will check all the boxes on terrain variety and will surely leave you with sore legs if you try to ski everything in just one day.

 

In fact, for expert skiers and riders, it may be a toss up on who has the best extreme terrain, Banff Sunshine Village or Kicking Horse Mountain Resort. Special to Banff Sunshine Village are its expert only freeride zones, Delirium Dive and The Wild West. It should be noted that access to these areas are limited to those packing the standard avalanche gear (beacon, shovel, probe) and who are skiing with an equally equipped partner. Those meeting the requirements, however, are in for some of the best lift accessible and most coveted expert terrain in Canada.

Getting To: From Invermere, take BC-93 North for ~2 hours.

​​

The Town of Banff: Undoubtedly, most have heard of the town of Banff, whether it be the world famous ski town vibe or the breathtaking scenery that lies in Banff National Park. Once you visit you’ll have no doubt why some refer to the area as one of the most beautiful places in the world. Given that it's a popular destination, accommodations and restaurants are plentiful within town. In fact, given the rich history of the area it wouldn't be a bad idea to plan a rest day here when visiting.

Where to Stay: 

 

Mt. Norquay, Alberta

Norquay Logo.png

Best for Terrain Variety & National Park Access

Stop #6: ~2 hours drive from Invermere

Located just 25 minute drive from the town of Banff, Banff Sunshine Village is a must-visit. Located inside the national park, this resort is treasured for its incredible scenery and having terrain suitable for all ability levels.

 

From the base area, a 20 min gondola ride whisks you high up into the alpine and to the Centennial Lodge. This centrally located hub is ideally located at the base of almost 360 degrees of skiing. From the steeps of Goats Eye Mountain to the vast alpine bowls of Lookout Mountain, a day of skiing Sunshine Village will check all the boxes on terrain variety and will surely leave you with sore legs if you try to ski everything in just one day.

 

In fact, for expert skiers and riders, it may be a toss up on who has the best extreme terrain, Banff Sunshine Village or Kicking Horse Mountain Resort. Special to Banff Sunshine Village are its expert only freeride zones, Delirium Dive and The Wild West. It should be noted that access to these areas are limited to those packing the standard avalanche gear (beacon, shovel, probe) and who are skiing with an equally equipped partner. Those meeting the requirements, however, are in for some of the best lift accessible and most coveted expert terrain in Canada.

Getting To: From Invermere, take BC-93 North for ~2 hours.

​​

The Town of Banff: Undoubtedly, most have heard of the town of Banff, whether it be the world famous ski town vibe or the breathtaking scenery that lies in Banff National Park. Once you visit you’ll have no doubt why some refer to the area as one of the most beautiful places in the world. Given that it's a popular destination, accommodations and restaurants are plentiful within town. In fact, given the rich history of the area it wouldn't be a bad idea to plan a rest day here when visiting.

Where to Stay: 

 

QUICK STATS

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