Friday, February 14, 2020

Family Ski Guide to Revelstoke Mountain Resort, British Columbia

We try to take a road trip to a new ski destination every winter and this year's choice was Revelstoke Mountain Resort in beautiful snowy British Columbia.

We love visiting resorts for the first time where we can discover fresh lines, glades, and powder bowls that are new to us. It's also fun checking out the vibe in a new ski town and we always try to stay slopeside when possible so we can get the full mountain village experience.

Revelstoke Mountain Resort in Southeastern BC is a winter wonderland

We had big hopes for Revelstoke and it did not disappoint. We got the "big mountain experience" we'd heard about and my boys said Revelstoke had the best glades they'd ever skied (a rave review coming from my husband who loves backcountry skiing.)

I spent my two days trying to see how much vertical I could ski, stoked to find out that I had easily skied down 7000+ metres each day! To put that in perspective, if I were in the Himalayas, I would have skied from the top of Mount Everest down to Base Camp twice each day!

Where it all Begins: Planning a Road Trip to Revelstoke 

Revelstoke is located in Southeastern British Columbia, and is a 4.5 to 5 hour drive from Calgary. We found the drive doable for a long weekend by leaving Calgary early afternoon on a Friday. We arrived early enough to have dinner in downtown Revelstoke before driving up to the resort.

We spent three nights in Revelstoke so that we could drive home in the daylight rather than leaving after a long ski day. We drove home Monday morning and stopped in Golden for lunch (1.5 hours from Revelstoke,) stopped again at Lake Louise to skate on the lake and to go for a short cross-country ski, and then stopped in Canmore for an early dinner.

Plan a ski trip to Revelstoke and this could be one of your kids ripping down the mountain

If you want to break your drive up, Golden is only 3 hours from Calgary and you could always add a day of skiing at Kicking Horse Mountain Resort.

To create a longer road trip, continue on to Vernon where you can ski at Silver Star Resort (which is just over 2 hours away from Revelstoke.)

Possibilities are endless for creating an epic road trip to Revelstoke. (You could even add on a ski day at Lake Louise on your way to or from Revelstoke.)

Read more on the Tourism Revelstoke website and start planning out your next road trip.

Revelstoke Mountain Resort needs to be one of the stops on your BC winter road trip 

Navigating Revelstoke Mountain Resort / Introduction to the Terrain

Revelstoke Mountain Resort feels like a huge resort when you're visiting for the first time.

Quick stats:
"Revelstoke Mountain Resort boasts North America's greatest vertical at 1,713 metres (5,620 ft) along with an average snowfall of 10.5 metres (34.4 ft).The resort also offers 3,121 acres of fall line skiing, high alpine bowls, renowned gladed terrain and endless groomers."
Ski this run for a top to bottom vertical loss of 1700 metres!

Top 5 (what you need to know:)

  1. There are green beginner-friendly runs off every single chair lift including the gondola at this resort.

  2. All abilities of skiers can make it top to bottom on the "Last Spike" run off the Stoke Chair, skiing all the way down to the village in a descent of 1713 metres!

  3. There are only 3 chairlifts at this resort along with the gondola (which has two stations to get off at)

  4. There are two beginner learning areas with magic carpets and they aren't both at the bottom of the hill! There is one that's right beside the bottom of the gondola in the village, but there's a second learning area located at the mid station on the gondola right beside Revelation Lodge. Use this as your base camp if skiing with little children or beginner skiers.

  5. The gondola starts loading at 8:30am! (and the mountain runs on Pacific time so you'll set your watches back an hour from Alberta time.) 

My husband also wanted to point out that the chairlifts are marked on signs with a gray background color. This does not mean it's a black run! Advanced runs are marked as black, but chairlifts are gray. 

Find a map of the ski resort here to help as you read the rest of this guide. 

Every sign shows directions to the nearest chairlift or gondola station (always shown as a gray color)

Skiing the Lower Mountain from the Gondola Mid Station:

The reality is that most people don't ski the lower mountain unless they are a beginner skier doing laps from Revelation Lodge or you've started at the top of Stoke and you're trying to ski all the way down to the very bottom (at the end of the day.)

Most people carry a backpack and stay up on the mountain throughout the whole day or use Revelation Lodge at the mid station of the gondola as their base camp, storing lunch and gear there. 

This is good news if you want a quiet place to eat lunch though because you'll find peace in abundance if you do ski all the way back to the base (where you'll find a coffee shop, a restaurant, a food truck, and a tavern.) Note there is no cafeteria or day lodge at the base though - this is all found in Revelation Lodge which you'll access via a short gondola ride to the mid station.

Looking down over the valley from the lower mountain 

The appeal of skiing the lower mountain - Families can base themselves out of Revelation Lodge for the day at the gondola mid station where there's a magic carpet and a small beginner learning area. From here, you can do laps of the lower mountain's green and blue runs (all short and quite easy) and ride back up the gondola (great on a cold day.) This means you'll also never have to ride a chairlift, which could be a giant appeal for families with little children.

Easty skiing on the lower mountain at Revelstoke Mountain Resort

Skiing off the top of the Revelation Gondola:

You'll exit the gondola at the mid station, and then get on the upper gondola in order to reach Mackenzie Outpost where you'll find a restaurant with warming hut. This is also where you can veer off for the Stellar or Ripper Chairs to your left, or for the Stoke Chair to your right. 

If your goal is just to ski between the upper station and the mid station, head towards the Stoke Chair on the "Last Spike," a gentle green traverse that winds its way down the entire mountain, and follow that until you come to other runs that you want to try. There is an assortment of blue or black runs that come off the green traverse. Unfortunately if you want a green beginner run, you're stuck with the traverse until you get to "Sunshine" which is another easy traverse.

If you want to have lunch at the Mackenzie Outpost plan to arrive there around 11 am or wait until later in the afternoon. Seating is limited in the small restaurant. The food however is amazing and I had the best chicken burger of my entire life!!!

Alternately, there is a warming hut beside the Outpost if you have your own lunch with you in a backpack. There's also a patio outside the Outpost if it's a sunny warm day. 

The appeal of skiing the mid mountain terrain - I personally loved the grooming on the runs between the upper and lower gondola stations and found the runs to be quite gentle and pleasant to ski. It's also a great place to ski with young children who might not want to ride a chairlift. (And a good option on cold blustery days!)

Mackenzie Outpost at the top of the gondola 

Skiing off the Stellar Chair:

The Stellar Chair is brand new for the 2020 ski season and it's a great addition to the resort. It's a short little chair and everything off it is either green or blue. Beginners will love that they can find easy terrain to ski off the top of the gondola and families will appreciate knowing that they can successfully send the kids down everything off this lift (without worrying about somebody accidentally taking off down a double black.)

To reach the Stellar Chair just head left off the top of the gondola on the bottom of the easy "Big Bend' run. Once you tire of this chair, you can easily head over to the Ripper Chair from the top of Stellar on "Over Easy," another easy green run which connects you to the bottom of "Sally Alley."

The appeal of skiing off Stellar - You'll find short beginner runs with a couple options for blue intermediate practice runs before you move on to the Ripper Chair. 

And lest you think there's nothing for advanced skiers off this chair, there's a fun little run underneath the chairlift that has plenty of opportunities for jumping off small cliffs. My son could have spent all day on this run.

The Stellar Chair is also a Godsend first thing in the morning if you want to head straight to the Ripper Chair without having to ski down from the top of Stoke. There are some great glades off Ripper which would be popular on a powder day. 

There's a super fun run underneath the Stellar chair with lots of opportunities for playing and jumping 

Skiing off the Ripper Chair:

Take the Stellar Chair to access the Ripper Chair or alternately you can ski down from the top of the Stoke Chair. Runs off this chair are shorter than the ones higher up on the mountain and there are some lovely groomed green and blue options here for beginner to intermediate skiers.

Advanced skiers will love skiing the glades off this chair and my boys could have spent hours in the "Powder Monkey Glades." Once you've successfully skied these glades, move on to the "Glades of Glory" on the other side of the chairlift. 

The appeal of skiing off Ripper - Conditions can be blustery at the top of the mountain but are usually much more mild off Ripper. This is a great place to ski when it's snowing heavily, it's windy, or there's flat light on the mountain. We spent a lot of time on Ripper when conditions got stormy off Stoke.

Ripper is also the best option for families who are skiing together, but not all skiing the same runs. You can ride up the chair together and then split up to ski groomed terrain or head down through the glades, always easily meeting up at the bottom of the chair again. If you were to try this off Stoke, it's very easy to overshoot the correct traverse to end up at the bottom of Stoke again (and before you know it, you're too low and heading for the upper gondola station. - ask me how I know this!)

There is skiing for all abilities off the Ripper Chair 

Skiing off the Stoke Chair:

On a bluebird day this is where you'll spend 90% of your time if you're an intermediate to advanced skier. The Separate Reality Bowl was magical with gorgeous frosty trees everywhere. My boys also loved the Tasty Glades which spit you out at the top of the Gnome Zone, a fun pint-sized terrain park.

I spent most of my time bombing down the steep groomed black runs off the top and my highlight for the weekend was skiing "Pitch Black" all the way from the top of Stoke down to the mid station of the gondola. "Snow Rodeo" and "Hot Sauce" were other groomed black runs I loved.

I skied down 7000+ metres each day at Revelstoke Mountain Resort 

The appeal of skiing off Stoke: The views from the top of Stoke are the best on the mountain and you'll find a warming hut here where you can eat your lunch if you have a backpack with you. There's also terrain suitable for all abilities. 

Beginners don't have too many options from the top of Stoke, but there's always the "Last Spike" which gently winds its way down the mountain. Intermediate skiers will enjoy "Critical Path," usually groomed, and then can move up to the groomed black runs. (Check the grooming report each morning to see what's available.) 

Advanced skiers will be in heaven up here with glades and bowls in abundance! You can also drop off the top into the North Bowl, ending up at the top of Ripper. ("Meet the Neighbors" was on my boys' list to try,  but we ran out of time.)

Find the Gnome Zone as you ski down from the Stoke chair

Finally, there are two terrain parks located mid-way down underneath the Stoke chair. If you take the "Last Spike" and "Greenhorn" traverses you'll end up at the top of the big terrain park (orange on the map.) Just beyond is the smaller one for children (purple on the map.)

Note if skiing in a group: it can be really challenging to stay together as a group if you aren't all skiing the same runs. My boys headed off into the Separate Reality Bowl and I was supposed to be taking a groomed run down to meet them at the bottom of the chair. I ended up missing the correct traverse though and before I knew it, I was heading for the gondola mid station. I had to text my husband to let him know that I'd meet up with them again later for lunch. Oops. 

Skiing above the clouds off the top of Stoke 

How to Make the Most of your Time at the Resort

I highly recommend you read the "First Timers Guide" on the Revelstoke Mountain Resort website. It was very helpful for us.

You'll also benefit from reading the "Mountain Guide by Ability" section on the resort site which breaks the mountain down by beginner, intermediate, or advanced to help you choose the perfect runs to focus on for your ski day. This guide was extremely helpful for me planning for our trip.

Finally, check out this useful guide: 9 Tips to Nail Your First Day at Revelstoke Mountain Resort, also located on the resort website.

The early bird gets the fresh powder at Revelstoke (starting at 8:30am!)

Personal suggestions and tips:

  • Mornings at Revelstoke Mountain Resort start early! The gondola starts running at 8:30am (Pacific time) and then each chairlift opens shortly after that (8:45am for Stoke and Stellar, 9:00am for Ripper.)

  • Show up early to get in line for the gondola (by 8:15 at the latest,) or else wait until the initial crowd has headed up the mountain and enjoy a final cup of coffee. This would be the relaxed no line up way to start your day.

Show up early and get first tracks on a powder day 

  • Plan to eat lunch up on the mountain. We loved the Mackenzie Outpost at the top of the gondola and as I mentioned earlier, their burgers are amazing (particularly the chicken burgers!) Alternately there is a cafeteria inside Revelation Lodge at mid station.

  • Take advantage of the warming huts on the mountain. There are warming huts at the top of the gondola, at the top of the Stoke chair, and at the top of the Ripper Chair. Bring a backpack with you and you'll be able to eat snacks or even your lunch inside any of the huts.
The Stoke warming hut is a great spot to have lunch on a chilly day 

  • Know where the bathrooms are. You'll find them at the base (next to La Baguette), inside Revelation Lodge mid mountain, beside the Mackenzie Outpost at the top of the gondola, and at the bottom of the Ripper chair.

  • Check the webcams on the mountain to find out what conditions are like at the top. It can be raining and completely fog-covered at the bottom, but sunny above the clouds at the top.

    "Conditions can change a lot over 5,620 vertical feet and it pays to take a quick look at the webcams, snow report and forecast before loading the gondola. It’s a long way down if you need a warmer layer or chose the wrong lens for your goggles. " - resort website

Gnorm the Gnome! Check the webcam daily to see how much it's snowed overnight 

  • Choose your ski terrain for the conditions and visibility. We spent most of our weekend skiing up high above the clouds because there was zero visibility below the upper gondola station. Meanwhile at the top, it was glorious with great visibility. Other times you'll want to head over to Ripper or ski the lower mountain if it's stormy up top.

    Check out the webcams here. And, you'll be able to follow Gnorm the Gnome as well. He is cleared off every afternoon at 3pm, so check in the morning to see how snow covered he is.

    Want to see Gnorm on the hill? He's located at the top of the Ripper Chair. Go straight as you get off the chair and he's behind the ski patrol hut. 

It was sunny with great visibility off the Stoke chair when we were at the resort

  • You can always download the gondola when the lower mountain is under a thick blanket of clouds or when legs tire out.

  • The après-scene is as stoked here as the skiing! The gondola stops running at 3:00 pm (3:30 by mid-January) and there's plenty of time left in the day for a pint on one of the patios. Read about the various options for village dining here. 

    My goal was to make it to the top of the Stoke chair by 3:00 pm so that I could ski the entire way down the mountain on the "Last Spike," stopping at Revelation Lodge for a drink on my way down. Sadly, I'm going to have to return because I never did make it there. We did stop in at the Rockford Wok, Bar and Grill one afternoon though where they had an après ski poutine special. (Which pairs very well with beer.)

The Mac Food Truck in the Village outside the Mackenzie Common Tavern 

The Village Experience and Slopeside Accommodations

We stayed slopeside at the Sutton Place Hotel, Revelstoke Mountain Resort's only ski in, ski out hotel. 

"The Sutton Place Hotel  is a true ski-in, ski-out luxury condominium style hotel, consisting of 3 buildings connected by an underground heated parking facility, and serviced by a beautifully appointed central lobby. This smoke-free property features 205 condominium hotel units, premium amenities and three on-site dining experiences; Rockford Wok | Bar | Grill, The Mackenzie Common Tavern and La Baguette, located in the village next to the Revelation Gondola, minutes from downtown Revelstoke."

We felt like royalty staying here for three nights and our son is now begging us for an upgrade to his tiny bed at home after spending the weekend sleeping in a king-sized bed! We ate out most of the time we were away for the weekend, but usually we enjoy cooking our own meals on ski weekends to save money (which would be very easy to do in these comfortable condo suites.)

Nothing but comfort in our suite at the Sutton Place Hotel 

We had two separate bedrooms, a comfortable living room with a pull out sofa, and a fully equipped kitchen with a large dining table. Best of all though was the convenience of being right on the ski hill so that we could be in the gondola line by 8:15 each morning without any effort at all.

We loved having several restaurants in the village and enjoyed both a dinner and a breakfast at the  Rockford Wok | Bar | Grill. We also loved the outdoor swimming pool and hot tubs, and spent time there at the end of each ski day. It's always a dream ski vacation for my son when there's an outdoor swimming pool in the hotel.

Outdoor swimming pool and hot tubs at the Sutton Place Hotel at Revelstoke Mountain Resort 

Finally, I loved that there was a comfortable common area/lounge in the lobby where guests got to enjoy complimentary wine and cheese Friday nights, and where there was always fresh coffee and water. 

Expect posh living accommodations when you stay at the Sutton Place Hotel 
Giant bed for a very happy child 

Leaving the Resort: Touring Downtown Revelstoke 

We ate dinner in downtown Revelstoke twice while we were at the resort, visiting both Chubby Funsters and the Taco Club. 

I highly recommend both and would return to each one in a heartbeat. I had the most delicious homemade perogies at Chubby Funsters and I'd return to Revelstoke just to have another margarita at the Taco Club. Both restaurants had children's menus as well which is always appreciated. 

Another restaurant I personally recommend is Nico's Pizzeria which we visited last summer. Their pizza is simply divine!

Find a complete list of dining options here on the Tourism Revelstoke website. 

Gotta try out the local restaurants when visiting a new place!

Exploring Revelstoke away from the Resort 

If you're spending several days in Revelstoke or only plan to ski at the resort for one of your days in town, check out some of these other fun winter options in the area.

Revelstoke is magical in winter 

Additional Resources 

Visit for the skiing and return for the mountain biking! Read my guides to Summer in Revelstoke here:

Disclaimer: Our trip to Revelstoke Mountain Resort was hosted by the resort in partnership with Tourism Revelstoke. As always, all opinions are my own and I wasn't paid beyond the costs associated with the trip. 

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