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Wednesday, January 18, 2012
Updated: January 19, 12:51 PM ET
Exploring the Powder Highway


Todd Ligare filming with TGR in BC last week.

Sometime around my (unborn) son and/or daughter's eighth birthday, I'll hand them a "to do" list of ski related feats. Accomplishments will vary from the trivial (first chair of the year) to life-altering (skiing off the Aiguille du Midi in Chamonix). It's from this list, and not traditional measures of success like degrees, net worth, and humanitarian efforts, that I'll gauge their life progress. Taking a couple of weeks and skiing the Powder Highway in British Columbia has just made the list.

The Powder Highway is more of an ideological space than an actual highway. Located in the southeast corner of British Columbia, the Powder Highway is a concentration of ski areas, backcountry zones, cat skiing areas, and heli skiing lodges. While the powder providers are in the same geographic area, they're by no means close together, as far as driving goes at least.

With variable conditions existing across much of the U.S., a pod of Teton Gravity Research athletes and cinematographers made the trek north early last week. Fernie, the eastern start of the Powder Highway, was an obvious first destination. Conveniently coinciding with Fernie's opening of their new Polar Peak Chairlift, we were greeted by blue skies, brand new terrain, and, most importantly, powder. Besides providing us with a much needed powder fix, the new lift also established Fernie as having the most vertical and runs in the Canadian Rockies.

The new Polar Peak chairlift at Fernie, BC.

"This lift celebrates 50 years of skiing at Fernie and it's a fitting salute to our powder pioneers," says Matt Mosteller, vice president of marketing for Resorts of the Canadian Rockies. Beyond new terrain and bragging rights, the lift also helps the overall efficiency in snow control efforts at the resort. "(The lift) plays a vital role in getting our ski patrol team to the top of the Lizard Headwall and Currie Headwall for snow control efforts- thereby helping them open terrain up quickly and safely."

Soon the road beckoned and once again we headed north, toward Kicking Horse. Just outside of Golden, BC, Kicking Horse boasts top-quality in-bounds terrain with just a modest lift infrastructure. As many great resorts have proven, one well-placed lift is sometimes all that is needed. Such is the case at Kicking Horse. The various chutes, glades, and steeps are all accessible (with some short hikes) from the main gondola.

"We've heard there's all this great stuff up here at Kicking Horse but without getting your eyes on it you never really know," says TGR athlete Todd Ligare. "Between the terrain and the snow, there's no doubt it was the best powder day of the season so far."