Unassuming little Golden is the closest town to Kicking Horse Mountain Resort, in southeastern B.C. It’s a ski town with a down-home feel, a place where real life ticks by at quaint coffee shops, second-hand bookstores, local art galleries, and a handful of cafes and restaurants. Don’t come here for the glitz—you won’t find it in town nor at the ski resort, eight winding miles up the road. Golden is nothing if not authentic and genuine, maybe even a little gritty. But welcoming, too, and full of character if you know where to look. Here are our best finds if you’re planning to ski Kicking Horse (which you definitely should).
Bluebird Café: Tucked into a corner in Golden’s industrial strip, the Bluebird is a sunny, friendly nook serving delicious coffee drinks, a great selection of loose leaf teas, from-scratch pastries, and breakfast and lunch sandwiches. You can also pick up a bagged lunch to go, great for backcountry adventures and spring picnics. bluebirdcafegolden.com
Wapta Falls: Yoho National Park is a Canadian gem just minutes from downtown Golden, and one of its best hikes is passable in winter with good boots or a pair of snowshoes. The winter version of the Wapta Fall hike is slightly longer, as the parking lot is closed, so expect about a five-mile round trip. Snowshoes are a good idea if it’s snowed recently. As for the waterfall itself, it usually freezes nearly down to the base, and looks as though it’s frozen in time. A Insta-worthy moment, for sure.
Eleven22: Set in a renovated turn-of-the-century house along Golden’s main thoroughfare, Eleven22 serves up modern comfort food in a welcoming, cozy setting. Chef Konan Mar’s menu exudes a clear global influence with small plates such as pork and kimchee potstickers and entrees including a chipotle quinoa chili bowl and duck taco boa buns. All four rooms of the restaurant are hung with art made by local artists, lending a living room/dinner party vibe to the dining experience. eleven22.ca
Art Gallery of Golden: Occupying a storefront right downtown, the gallery is part local art exhibits and part craftsy gift shop. The gallery displays the work of over 80 regional art-makers, from painters and photographers to knitters and folk artisans. When we visited, the mixed-media photography of Golden shooter Claire Dibble was on display, an Arctic-inspired collection of black-and-white image transfers on raw canvas using maritime debris Dibble found while sailing the Arctic archipelago of Svalbard. Also look for Rossland, B.C., landscape painter Stephanie Gauvin’s serene interpretations of the natural world around her. If you’re wanting to pick up a gift, you’ll find countless locally made options here, from woolens to jewelry.
Rocky Mountain Riders: Get into the backcountry outside of Golden and Kicking Horse on a snow machine and take in the dramatic Purcell range from a different perspective. Both full-day and half-day tours leave from the resort base area and wind into the Columbia Valley along scenic trails, by rushing creeks, and over picturesque bridges. All tours include cocoa and cookies along the trail; the full-day tour also treats riders to a lakeside BBQ lunch. rockymountainriders.ca
Bacchus Books: This little gem of a secondhand bookstore will keep literary types busy for hours with its 10,000-plus selection of used books in dozens of categories. It also specializes in tracking down out-of-print books. The upstairs café serves made-from-scratch soups, fresh salads, and creative sandwiches surrounded by, yes, books. bacchusbooks.ca
Purcell Coffee: Right on Golden's main drag, Purcell is a favorite local gathering place for great joe and good conversation. Snag a spot on the communal bench in the center of the shop, order your favorite coffee drink (or tea, steamer, or fresh-baked pastry), and enjoy the local banter. Purcell also sells B.C.-made Rogers Chocolates, a nice take-home gift for your sad, ski-deprived friends back home. purcellcoffee.ca
Whitetooth Mountain Bistro: Not be confused with the brewery, below (or the Whitetooth Grill, located at the mountain), the bistro occupies prime real estate right downtown and serves up an elegant yet accessible menu that works for casual family dining after a day on the slopes or a special night out. The excellent Grazing Plate for Two is quite generous and filled with the cheese and meat selections of the day. The ricotta gnocchi appetizer is a must-try for the table, and the Daily Catch entrée features fresh fish sustainably sourced through the Oceanwise program. Comfort food options include a savory mac and cheese bowl with smoked bacon, aged cheddar, and truffle oil, and a Vietnamese noodle bowl that sings on cold Canadian evenings. whitetoothbistro.com
Whitetooth Brewing: This family-owned brewery embodies the adventure-minded zeitgeist that abounds in Golden and its surrounds. Opened in December 2016, the brewery, located on the edge of downtown, produces 17 brews with something for every taste. The flagship beer is the Whitetooth Session Ale, a blond ale named for the original local ski hill, Whitetooth Mountain. In fact, each beer is named for a location or attraction in Golden; a few of our favorites are Thread the Needle Witbier, so named for the famed whitewater kayaking on the Kicking Horse River, and the Speed Metal Stout, after the region’s legit mountain biking trails. The tasting room is open daily and is a must-visit for beer-lovers. whitetoothbrewing.com
Lush Mountain Accommodations: For those wanting to stay closer to Kicking Horse, book a slopeside house through Lush Mountain. The company manages over two dozen condos and private homes near the resort, some ski-in/ski-out. Properties range from cozy one-bedrooms to grand, multi-bedroom timber castles with hot tubs, media rooms, chef’s kitchens, and more. Lush can also arrange for airport transfers, massages, grocery delivery, and even babysitting. See the inventory at lushmountain.com.
Home Lodge: Though it’s about a 20-minute drive from the resort, the Home Lodge is a treasure, and is ideal for folks looking for a unique, local lodging experience. Proprietor Lynn Moffat moved to Golden from Scotland in 2005, and the B&B is filled with touches from her homeland—from Scottish dialect dictionary placemats to a small herd of long-haired Scottish Highland cattle roaming out back. Lynn provides a generous breakfast spread every morning, with fresh fruit, breads, jams, and pastries, plus a hot dish such as eggs with smoked salmon or a breakfast casserole. The Home Lodge has five king or twin rooms, each with ensuite bathroom, plus a hot tub and a ski storage room. For more info, check out homelodgegolden.com.