Paragliding, Cat- and Heli-Skiing at Revelstoke, British Columbia

Part of the highly regarded Mountain Collective, this resort offers all kinds of winter adventure

Revelstoke Mountain Resort in British Columbia has the longest vertical descent in North America—set atop Mt MacKenzie in the Selkirk Range. With views overlooking the stunning Monashee Mountains and the Columbia River Valley, Revelstoke is part of the highly regarded Mountain Collective—a group of independent resorts in North America (with some European affiliates) that join together to offer two-day passes for each location. Most of these resorts are ski and snowboard favorites like Alta, Jackson Hole, Squaw and Lake Louise. Having just joined the roster this past season, Revelstoke is unsurprisingly now attracting even more visitors, making the mountain more crowded on weekends. While some might see that as a deterrent, it shouldn’t be, as along with its whopping 1,713 meter vertical, it boasts 500,000 acres of exclusive terrain across which there are countless activities.

This picturesque place offers lift, cat, heli and backcountry skiing—and is the only resort in the world to boast all these from one village base. Although Revelstoke offers high-end on-mountain amenities, it still holds the quintessential flavor of the forestry town.

There are many mechanized skiing options close by the resort, but the two that leave from the resort are Selkirk Tangiers Heli-Skiing and Revelstoke’s own cat-skiing. Selkirk Tangiers operates out of the Sutton Place hotel (at the base of the resort) and provides day trips, multi-days and private tours. Of course, the helicopters can’t always fly during heavy storms and heavy fog (which can oftentimes occur in the area, due the proximity of the Columbia River), so Revelstoke Snowcats are the best storm option for deep powder and unlimited vertical. The cats only run during storm cycles, taking skiers and boarders for runs in the South Bowl, Montana Bowl and Kokanee Bowl.

Another unique and exciting way to ski or snowboard the mountain is with Revelstoke Paragliding. “It’s got the biggest vertical for a tandem paragliding flight in North America,” owner Dave Underwood tells us. “An average flight, with no lift from thermals or from ridge soaring from wind, lasts 15 to 18 minutes. In the winter we land near the Revelation Lodge, part way up the ski hill so the amount of vertical is about 5,200.” Underwood continues, “The view, it is stunning to be up near the top of the mountain peaks, sharing thermal updrafts with the eagles.”

While Revelstoke Paragliding can can take either skiers or snowboarders, it’s easier for skiers. The pilot and passenger wear harnesses that are strapped together. “It’s just more awkward to start going down the hill with two people connected together and the one in the front on a snowboard with the pilot in the back straddling the passenger on skis.” Underwood says. “So a skier can be a beginner, but we like snowboarders to be closer to intermediate level.”

Sadly, because of a storm, we weren’t able to fly, but we had yet another option at Revelstoke, a guided ski/splitboard tour with Revelstoke Backcountry Guides, which was founded by AMGA/IFMGA guide Mike Bromberg. Providing various tailored programs from one to seven days, as well as tours in and around the adored Roger’s Pass, the backcountry options are numerous and all well-organized. We opted for a one-day program leaving from the resort. When signing up with Revelstoke Backcountry Guides, you’re guaranteed first chair access which is a huge bonus for any snowboarding or skiing enthusiast.

After a companion rescue refresher and action, we skied out of bounds with our guide Lydia Marmont, and headed through the storm to South Bowl. Even though the Revelstoke snowcat was doing runs beside us, Marmont seamlessly guided us through the trees finding us the most optimal snow. Despite the difficult weather (or perhaps because of it), our backcountry tour was a genuine adventure.

While it’s a little twee to say we fell in love with the resort, it’s evidently not an uncommon occurrence, as Revelstoke has a tradition of offering free marriages on the mountain on Valentine’s Day. With a wedding officiant on-hand and chairs set up for wedding parties, couples can say their vows at the top of the gondola—and then shred the 1,713m drop. Whether or not you’re interested in getting hitched on a mountain, this resort offers plenty to be smitten with.

Paragliding images courtesy of Revelstoke Paragliding, all others by Kate Erwin