By Keili Bartlett
The weather was so clear that the cold air shimmered in the sunlight. Tree branches were weighed down with snow. I couldn’t remember a time I’d been so deep in the woods during winter, and without our guide Léa, I would not have been able to follow the trail. The only sign of civilization were the footprints of our snowshoes.
A month before, my friend Brendon asked our group if we wanted to go to Revelstoke for his birthday. Since I was recovering from knee surgery, I needed to find something else to do while everyone else skied. Luckily, Revelstoke offers an abundance of activities for all skill levels.
Opened in 2007, Revelstoke Mountain Resort is one of the newest resorts in the Canadian Rockies and, unlike Banff where I live, it’s not close to a city like Calgary. Although the ski area is relatively small compared to my home hills of Sunshine Village and Lake Louise, Revelstoke’s variety of terrain is untouched by big crowds that can quickly carve up slopes. Other activities Revelstoke offers include heli and cat skiing, snowmobiling and paragliding.
After browsing options, I asked my friend Katie if she wanted to go snowshoeing. Neither of us had tried it, and considering our lack of familiarity with the area or avalanche training, I booked a tour with Revelstoke Snowshoe Company. Their website said, “if you can walk, you can snowshoe,” which was exactly what I wanted to hear.
While the rest of our group rushed to the hill for the first chair, Katie and I lingered over a lazy (and delicious!) brunch at Main Street Café before meeting our guide. Léa introduced herself and told us that we were the only ones who booked an excursion that day. Tours are normally tailored for the group, so we were able to personalize ours specifically to our ability.
We took the gondola over the steep runs for which Revelstoke Mountain Resort’s Mount Mackenzie is known. We rose over the clouds, and had a clear view of the surrounding mountains — a perfect day for snowshoeing. The snowshoes we strapped on were surprisingly light, but it took a few minutes to get used to their size. It felt like my feet had grown three times larger.
Originally from Montreal, Léa lived in Canmore and Whistler before moving to Revelstoke. Like us, she is well acquainted with mountain life. Picking her brain about life in Revelstoke and the history of the hill gave us plenty to talk about as she guided us on a trail through the forest. Except for our own voices, the only sound we heard was the occasional thump of snow falling off branches.
Along the way, Léa pointed out views and plants traditionally used for medicine, and gave us snowshoeing tips. We only saw one other person during our 2.5 hour trek through untouched powder. I was impressed by the traction of our snowshoes as we went up and down hills.
Halfway through the tour we reached a clearing covered with pristine snow. Looking out at the City of Revelstoke and Five Fingers peaks, we took a break for the hot chocolate and tea that Léa had packed. Sipping on a steaming drink warmed my fingers and toes, the only parts of me that were cold during our journey. Despite the chilly weather, the constant movement of snowshoeing kept us warm.
Emerging from the winter wonderland, we returned to the gondola upper terminal. Tired yet content, we had found a fun way to explore Mount Mackenzie without skis. It wouldn’t be long before our snowshoe footprints would disappear under a fresh layer of snow, but as I climbed into the gondola cabin I was already looking forward to making more.