Why Revelstoke: This classic ski town has long lacked one key component: a ski resort. That's set to change in late 2007 with the eagerly anticipated opening of brawny Revelstoke Mountain Resort, which launches with 1,500 skiable acres and 4,700 vertical feet - enough to rank among the top three verts in North America. The town of Revelstoke - a current epicenter of heli- and catskiing - is like a Canadian Jackson, Wyo., with a funky and historic downtown, big mountains, abundant snow and a friendly population of happily obsessive skiers. RMR is thinking big as it looks to the future. At its $1.3 billion build-out - some 20 years hence - this king of the Selkirk Mountains proposes to deliver 6,000 vertical feet and as much as 10,000 skiable acres. (Both would be tops for the continent.) Every new ski development loudly touts itself as the next big thing. This dynamic duo of town and resort just might have a legit claim.
The Skiing: For now, the mountain works best for strong intermediates and up. The resort's 8,029-foot-tall Mt. Mackenzie is a tree-studded giant capped by high alpine bowls and caked with more than 480 annual inches of fluffy, dry snow. The resort will open with only two lifts (a gondola and high-speed quad), but next season a third lift will access an additional 900 acres in the expert north bowl, and a gondola extension will reach farther downhill to the first building of a planned base village. The resort intends to satisfy all tastes and budgets by providing skiing's holy trinity: lift-, snowcat- and heliskiing directly from the base.
The Vibe: Picture downtown Aspen with snowmobile suits instead of Bogner one-pieces. Historic Victorian, Art Moderne, Queen Anne and Dutch Revival buildings mingle with West Coast vernacular on streets backed by Monashee and Selkirk mountain views. The Columbia and Illecillewat rivers flow past town. There are hip coffee shops, community festivals like Timber Days and junior hockey games at the 1,000-seat Revelstoke Forum. The 8,300 locals are a mix of timber, railway and construction workers, mountain guides, urban refugees, and civil servants. Revelstoke is the kind of small town where packs of kids crowd the sidewalks on their way to school.
The Life: Revelstoke has a 100-year heritage of logging, mining, railway work and skiing (world ski jumping records were set here in the 1920s), mixed with giant periodic projects like construction of the Trans-Canada Highway (which skirts town) and massive hydroelectric dams. "Revelstoke has a long history of boom and bust cycles, says Mayor Mark McKee. Booms brought amenities like a hospital, library, senior and children's centers, and a junior college. The busts have brought community support for the development of the ski resort, which is already changing the economic dynamic of the town—and the price of real estate. "Five years ago people were selling lots near the ski hill for $25,000 and couldn't get rid of them, says Alan Mason, the city's economic development officer. "Now they're selling them for $250,000, and people are lining up.
The Visit: Revelstoke is located midway between Vancouver, B.C., and Calgary, Alberta, so accessibility is the community's biggest challenge. Fly to Calgary then rent a 4WD to travel 257 miles west on the Trans-Canada Highway. Or fly into regional Kelowna Airport for an easier two-and-a-half-hour drive. Until RMR's first condo-hotel opens this year, stay at the Coast Hillcrest or the Regent. Hit the Regent's 112 Restaurant for roast lamb and Mt. Begbie beer amidst artifacts from rail travel's golden era. Hillcrest's Mountain Guide's Lounge is the place for après-ski with the European heli crowd.
Information: Revelstoke Mountain Resort: seerevelstoke.com; 800-487-1493