Having a movie, town, or ski hill recommended and then forgetting its name is a frustrating and all too common occurrence, but one which is unlikely to be an issue with the superbly - and aptly - named "Powder King." Sitting right on the Pine Pass, one of the few paved roads that cross the mighty Canadian Rockies, Powder King ski resort enjoys an average of 3.5 powder days per week. In other words, every second day at "PK" is a powder day, making it the envy of just about every other ski hill in the world and a resort that truly earns its name.
With snow falling that regularly (and in such large quantities that PK gets an average of 12 meters of cold smoke per year), you'd think that the hill would be jammed with powder hounds from November to April, but its wild, remote location means that only dedicated skiers make the journey there. This has two obvious benefits: there aren't many people to share the white gold with, and everyone who does make it to the hill is just as psyched on skiing as you are. When I visited, on a typically snowy and cold January day, there wasn't a Moncler jacket or fur hood in sight - this isn't a resort for posers; it's a hill for skiers. The social media influencers who want to be seen should probably stay away from PK, because - given that it's invariably puking with snow - nobody would see them anyway.
The second you pull off the Pine Pass Highway and into PK's parking lot, it is immediately apparent that you're somewhere special. There's a ticket booth, the (newly refurbished and improved) day lodge, a hostel for those staying overnight, a smattering of small chalets, and one chairlift, its line disappearing up into the clouds. Forget ice rinks, overpriced restaurants, and all the other "attractions" that litter most ski hills - one look at PK confirms that this is a place where nobody is interested in anything other than getting up that lift as soon as possible and as many times as possible in a day.
As I drove up the Pine Pass for my first taste of the PK experience, it was dumping with snow, and my brain - programmed by hundreds of days waiting in lines at more famous resorts - simply could not accept that PK could be quiet on what was clearly going to be a classic day. Quiet it was, though, and once I'd taken a quick look around the warm, welcoming, and suitably unfussy new day lodge, I headed up the chairlift with my friend Jay and our guide for the morning, Tori Bailey (who also runs the resort's ski school and rental shop). Boarding an empty chairlift at the start of a blower day was a surreal experience, but things only got stranger as we rode up higher and saw mile after beautiful mile of untracked powder, which was not only waiting to be skied but was being added to by the minute.
A quick slide from the top of the chairlift saw us onto the second of PK's two main lifts, the T-Bar, a ride up that revealed yet more world-class terrain blanketed in perfect snow. "The Whisper of the North" was living up to its reputation, and our first run, down the powder-covered blue run "Northern Lights," confirmed that we were in a unique place. Tori told me that the run we'd just skied had actually been groomed the day before, but it snows so hard and so often at PK that runs generally don't stay groomed for long and are swiftly returned to their original (and, in my opinion, better) state by the pounding snowfall.
After a rip down "Anytime At All," we carried on working our way through PK's array of exceptional runs. Having remembered the names of the first few runs, we were soon working through lines so quickly that I stopped noting what they were called, but the recurring theme of PK runs being named after songs by The Beatles means that I (and you) could probably guess them! As well as sharing some cultural history, the PK runs also share the fact that they'd be hammered half an hour into a powder day on most ski hills but are virtually untouched at 11 am on Pine Pass.
In between runs, I asked Tori what kept her and a band of repeat seasonaires coming back, and her response was brief and succinct; "the snow and the atmosphere." I was enjoying sampling the former, and the latter became more apparent as the day wore on. I spoke to ski patrollers, lift operators, and every skier I shared a T-Bar with, and whilst everyone raved about the snow and terrain, the PK ambiance was a recurring theme in the conversations. One powder-covered, grin-wearing guy (who must remain nameless because he admitted that he was pulling a sick day from work!) had driven down from Fort St John, which, although 3 hours away, is one of the closest towns to PK (I told you it was remote), and when I asked him what he loved about skiing the hill, he just gestured silently at the powdered covered mountain.
"Look at it," he told me, but added, "And the people are so cool." It's a theme that cropped up again and again - PK is so remote and so quiet that there's a feeling of kinship amongst those who make the trek out there. Most people, like me, have heard the tales of bottomless, untracked powder, but the great irony of PK is that it's not the famous snow that draws you back - it's the folks you share it with. Ripping around some of the best tree skiing on the planet is a lot of fun, but doing it on your own only keeps you interested for so long. That high five with your ski partner, the knowing grin you exchange with the lifty who's just been for her lunch break ski, the first sip of an aprés-ski beer at The King's Tavern (PK's own pub) - those are the things that make you a lifer.
Snow, fun vibes, a cold one waiting for you at the end of the day, and not a social media influencer in sight - Powder King is skiing done right.