FRESH TRACKS – December 22, 2023

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Hitch a ride up Kirkup.
Photo: Red Mountain Resorts

Welcome winter! And with it comes news of a sleeping giant going semi-private while Quebec resorts carry speed into a new season. Over in B.C., Red Mountain’s Kirkup cat slinks back into service and Sun Peaks lets you go multi-sport for a uni-price. Flying above it all, a B.C. heli-op goes carbon neutral. How? Read on.

The Trip Wagon is ready to prowl.
The Trip Wagon is ready to prowl.


The cat is back at Red Mountain Resort. Ending a pandemic pause, Red is firing up its snowcat service from Grey Mountain to neighbouring Mount Kirkup. Rides are offered on weekends and chug 12 skiers up to Kirkup for slackcountry runs of more than 650 vertical metres, with no guide or avalanche gear required. The cat, nicknamed Trip Wagon, has a groovy new paint job this year. Buy $15/ride multi-packs online ahead of time or, in a glorious throwback to simpler times, hand the cat driver a $20 bill and climb aboard. 


Despite starting last season with the warmest December in a century, Quebec ski resorts rode a strong spring season to register their highest number of visits in 16 years. According to the Quebec Ski Areas Association (ASSQ), resorts hosted more than 6.6 million skier visits last season, with 21 percent of those visits being by out-of-province skiers. That represents a five percent increase over the 10-year average. Despite there being a total of 75 resorts across the province, two thirds of the business volume of $429 million was generated at just seven resorts, located in the Laurentians, Eastern Townships and Charlevoix regions. 


Utah’s Powder Mountain has enjoyed mythical status as a giant resort with no crowds. Its 3,425ha of skiable terrain registers as 120ha larger than Whistler-Blackcomb. And with just nine lifts servicing the terrain, it’s decidedly uncluttered. That’s a lot of terrain to manage with not a lot of paying customers. When Netflix co-founder Reed Hastings invested US$100 million in September to become a majority owner, loyalists were wondering what was up. Now they know. In a recent announcement, Hastings sketched out a plan that calls for real estate sales attached to what will become private ski terrain as the future for PowMow.

The 2024-2025 season will see part of the ski area hived off for the exclusive use of buyers of multi-million dollar homes to be built on the mountain. 

“In order to pay our bills, we need to sell more real estate, and to do that we are introducing private homeowner-only skiing a year from now,” Hasting said in the press release. Hastings identified intermediate terrain under the Village and Mary’s chairlifts as being destined for private access only, along with the expert terrain on Raintree, which will be serviced with a new lift. 


To access the 37km of Nordic ski trails at Sun Peaks you have two options. Step outside your slopeside hotel door and hit the nearby trails, or board the Morrisey Express chair to get an elevation boost to the top of the network. Either way, alpine skiers won’t have to worry about paying to play. New this year: Nordic access is included in the price of a lift ticket. 


Heli-skiing is heavy on carbon emissions. With alternative fuels a long way off, B.C.’s Northern Escapes Heli-Skiing has partnered with a carbon management agency to reduce an equivalent amount of carbon emissions where alternatives are easier to come by. Northern Escapes will finance offsets in both the nearby Great Bear Rainforest and at a ceramics plant in Brazil to become one of this warming planet’s only carbon-neutral heli-ski ops. While the rotor spins above them, skiers will know that they will be funding a third-party-verified switch from firewood to biomass in Brazil, reducing Lara Ceramic’s yearly emissions by 10,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide.

Ski Canada Staff
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