A two week booking, in a ski lodge, in the back country near Revelstoke. This was an offer I could not refuse. It took me all of 2 seconds to decide, I opened my mouth, said yes and did not give this proposal a second thought. Are you kidding me, this was too good to be true. Legendary powder and pristine snow in the wilderness of British Columbia, Canada, which has an average snowfall of 50 feet each winter, all these were first’s for me.
My culinary career as a private chef has taken me all over the world, mostly on private yachts and villas, in the Caribbean and Mediterranean. So I was accustomed to cooking for discerning palates and distinguished guests. However this opportunity to work for an established cat skiing company was going to be another experience, and some back country skiing was a perk.
Cat skiing is a form of guided skiing, skiers are taken up the mountain in a snow cat (an enclosed- cab fully tracked vehicle) where they have access to untouched backcountry snow. It is a form of heli skiing without the price tag or pressure. Each cat can take up to 12 guests, with a crew consisting of a driver, a head guide and one or two tail guides for each group of boarders or skiers. Ski terrain is varied and the types of runs on the day are all weather dependant. The usual factors of snow conditions, avalanche risk and visibility will determine the programme of the day. As a guideline a run of 2000 ft vertical and will take about 20 minutes to ascend in the cat and around the same time to descend on ski’s. The cat drives down, picks up the freeriders and the process is repeated.
The K3 lodge, a new wooden lodge on the K3 tenure between Sicamous and Revelstoke. The lodge has 8 ensuite bedrooms on the top floor, cozy, minimalistic, and contemporary. Downstairs has a spacious lounge with an inviting fireplace and an adjoining boot room with lockers and boot and glove dryers. My kitchen was open plan and huge with a large window and an uninterrupted view of the terrain. However the oven was gas and so was the 6 burner stove. This was going to be a challenge, as cooking at an altitude of 5000 feet was going to require some adjustments to recipes. The lodge was fuelled by propane so juggling the use of appliances and equipment was also going to be an important part in the preparation of meals.
A typical day at the lodge consists of an early start. Breakfast is at 7.30am generally consisting of freshly baked muffins, oatmeal, seasonal fruit, pancakes, bacon and eggs, healthy and hearty (any dietary requirements or allergies are catered for). This is followed by a safety briefing and avalanche training at 8.00am for any new arriving guests. At 8.45 the cat is loaded up with skis and the day begins. The first descent is usually around 9am, a warm up to get those legs working. After that you will keep going all day. Lunch is served between runs in the snowcat. Sandwiches, wraps, cookies and a selection of cold drinks all at your disposal. The last run is at 3pm so expect to get back to the lodge between 3.30 and 4pm.
More food will greet you at your arrival, a hot soup, sock eye salmon canapés, a local cheese and charcuterie platter. The welcoming sight of a wood burning fire and a cold artisan beer or a wine from the extensive collection will complete your apres ski. You will have time to relax and share your skiing stories and videos until dinner is served around 7pm. A menu suggestion could be an Italian inspired Caeser Salad with crisp prosciutto and garlic parmesan croutons followed by a Pan seared Beef Tenderloin with a Brandy and Mustard Sauce accompanied by rosti potatoes and steamed asparagus. To finish a Warm Chocolate Cake with a Raspberry Coulis and Vanilla Ice-cream. After dinner coffee can be enjoyed by the fireplace with more time to share the stories of the days skiing. This concludes a perfect ending to an epic day.
Revelstoke resort guide – a general overview
Revelstoke is one of Canada’s snowiest resorts. In the 1971-72 winter it received over 80 feet of snow. A more normal season still gives over 40 feet of snow (13+ metres). It’s no wonder that K3 Cat Skiing operates from here
Revelstoke was created as a rail town during the 1880’s and also at the ‘second crossing’ point of the Columbia River. When Lord Revelstoke of Baring Brothers bank found the necessary investment to complete the Canadian Pacific Railway the town was renamed from Farwell to Revelstoke in his honour. The area originally gained importance as a mining and logging area but began to grow as a tourist destination after the Trans-Canada highway reached the town in 1962.
Although there was a single short chairlift accessing the lower slopes of Mount MacKenzie from the 1960’s it was not until 2007 that the modern base ski resort at the foot of the mountain was opened and named: Revelstoke Mountain Resort. The two stage gondola accesses the mid mountain area and from there are two fast quad chairs that reach the upper slopes. The area is now one of the largest (over 3,000 acres) in Canada with a huge vertical drop of over 1,700 metres from top to bottom.
The ski area is best for expert skiers who are either happy in the trees (on bad weather days) or cruising the high altitude powder bowls best accessed by helicopter or snow-cat when the sun shines. There is nothing that an intermediate would be happy tackling. On skiers’ left there are very long groomed black runs (not overly steep) and on skiers’ right there are the ungroomed bowls like North Bowl. The access to the latter is through a cliff band which can be ‘tricky’ to ‘alarming’ depending on your entry point. Below the bowls are large areas of gladed tree skiing – perfect on a big snow day.
Video cortesy by K3 Cat Ski
Featured image from https://www.alpineanswers.co.uk/ski-resorts/canada/resort-guide-revelstoke