The Snow Gauge

Running the rule over the ski & snowboard industry since 1995

Can BC’s Powder Highway take on Vail?

Posted by on Mar 30, 2017 in Canada | 3 comments

Powder Highway

Capturing some late season pow this week with Big Red Cats in Rossland. Pic: Jess Bonde.

To me it seems logical.

A pass that encapsulates the best of British Columbia’s interior, all on the one ticket.

The Powder Highway: the sweep of terrain that loops around the Kootenay Rockies like a roughly-hewn lasso and includes eight ski resorts, 14 snowcat operations and another 11 heli-ski outfits in British Columbia.

But can they take on the Vail behemoth with an all-areas pass?

It’s a question that’s on my mind as I make why through the heartland of BC and I’ve already got an interesting answer or two …

This place is a magnet for snow and even as March knocks on the door of April there’s still more three metres in many of the key centres.

It essentially boasts the highest concentration of alpine resort, backcountry, cat, heli and nordic skiing/riding of anywhere in the world, spread over more than three million acres of terrain.

The resorts spread from Red Mountain and Fernie in the south, Revelstoke and Kicking Horse in the north and also encapsulate, Kimberley, Whitewater, Panorama and Fairmont Springs as well as the exceptional range of cat/heli options and another 23 backcountry lodges.

Powder Highway

Three million acres of ski and snowboard goodness

While the term ‘Powder Highway’ is thrown about and there’s a map and a little bit of marketing to plug the region, I reckon a single pass that takes in all the resorts would be an amazing thing – particularly for an international market. Perhaps even offer some discounts for users who are no doubt salivating at the prospect of using places like Big Red Cats or Selkirk Tangiers Heliskiing.

Vail Resorts are putting a serious dent in the market with their Epic Pass – so why not offer a BC alternative? Maybe even one that has an add-in with say a Thredbo, Mt Buller or Falls Creek/Hotham in Australia?

Well, it has certainly been thought about. And even discussed at high levels. But, and when you are dealing with different resort owners there’s always a big but, it hasn’t come to fruition – yet.

If you weren’t aware there is the M.A.X pass. That includes five days unrestricted riding at 44 resorts across North America for $US629. It has the Resorts of the Canadian Rockies (RCR) hills Fernie and Kicking Horse on its books as well as the likes of Steamboat in Colorado and Big Sky in Montana.

But a Powder Highway pass remains a work in progress.

Red Mountain president and general manager Don Thompson told The Snow Gauge the pass had been raised with other resorts in the region and the Rossland hill was keen to pursue it.

Powder Highway

Red Mountain’s Jamie Rizzuto – loving the late late show at Rossland’s finest. Pic: Glenn Cullen

Fernie general manager Andy Cohen was a little more cagey but said it was worth considering.

“It’s an intriguing question,” he said of when asked whether we’d see a ‘Powder Highway’ pass.

“And it is worth discussing. But people are using the concept of the Powder Highway whether we have a pass or not.”

Interestingly enough he had only positive things to say about Vail Resorts, who are pushing so aggressively into the market with the Epic Pass. He said chatter about the ski industry, in which he’s been involved in around the world for 43 years, hadn’t been so pronounced in a decade.

“When you have every lawyer in San Francisco and New York talking about this, it’s only a good thing,” Cohen said.

And there’s the rub. Say what you will about Vail but if it brings on some more competition and a Powder Highway pass, for most skiers and snowboarders it will be a good thing.

Over to you, resorts of the Kootenays.



  1. Looks like you’re having the best time! Good read 🙂

  2. A five day pass for $629 seems tokenistic – you would think you could better that price comfortably by shopping early and smartly. Love to hear more about the cat skiing options. Good read as always, Glenn.

    • Thanks Tony. You’re doing some great winter stuff there at Fox too I see. Hope to see you at the Games?

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