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B.C.’s menacing Revelstoke Mountain Resort earns its tough reputation

Skiing

Revelstoke, hear me roar

The slopes of Revelstoke Mountain Resort

The slopes of Revelstoke Mountain Resort

Ian Houghton/Revelstoke Mountain Resort

I came here to debunk the recently developed resort's fearsome reputation. Not as easy as I thought

Holy Moses, the stereotypes are true. I've arrived at Revelstoke Mountain Resort in British Columbia revved up to debunk its reputation as a muscular, testosterone-fuelled ski area – one of Canada's toughest. I am Mountain Woman, I tell myself. Revelstoke, hear me roar. But as the flanks of Revelstoke's 2,466-metre-high Mount Mackenzie rise up aggressively before me, and the snow falling ceaselessly from a low-slung silver cloud is about as easy to see through as a hotel shower curtain, I realize a good debunking may be delayed.

I'm standing on the slick cement surface of a third-floor balcony of the Sutton Place Hotel, a clean-lined slopeside ski property – and Revelstoke's only ski-in/ski-out lodge. I'm looking over a thickening line of mostly male skiers with GoPros glued to their ski helmets, waiting in the early morning for the Revelation Gondola to roll. It's been snowing since – um, locals are vague on when it started snowing in "Revy" this week. Still, these minions in the queue are getting antsy. Revelstoke powder is as addictive as potent painkillers and these diehards need their fix.

I'm feeling the urgency, too. Urgency and fear and even a little disgust with myself that I'm not standing in that lift line alongside the YouTubers and these pumped-up blokes. What's the matter with me? Don't I love to ski powder? When the gondola's bullwheel finally spins into action there's a guttural roar – like pro football fans at kickoff – and the crowd surges forward as if they're the special team moving in for the tackle. I slip back through my balcony door into a condominium warmed by a crackling fire and do my best to get it together, woman!

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Time to go skiing. Revelstoke's not gonna scare me.

Revelstoke Mountain Resort is one of the last major ski areas to be developed in North America.

Revelstoke Mountain Resort is one of the last major ski areas to be developed in North America.

Ian Houghton/Revelstoke Mountain Resort

Revelstoke Mountain Resort (RMR) is one of the last major ski areas to be developed in North America. Situated in the Kootenay Rockies of British Columbia, it opened with fanfare in 2007 with the most vertical on the continent (1,713 metres), four high-alpine bowls, 13 gladed (treed) areas and a brag-worthy 14 metres of average annual snowfall. In the decade that's passed since opening to the public, RMR has become a place frequented by many types of skiers, to be sure. Yet it remains a favourite among groups of ski pals searching for deep powder, steep terrain and incredible vert. Ski season 2017 will be the first RMR is on the Mountain Collective ticket – the ultimate road-tripping, multiarea ski pass that includes major domos Aspen, Banff, Snowbird, Whistler and Jackson Hole.

I am visiting Revelstoke for the first time, with my family in tow – husband and two Ontario ski-racing kids, aged 9 and 12, who can handle tough terrain, I know, yet whom I hover over like a hen in thermal underwear. Unlike me, they're awesomely unintimidated and unconcerned and pretty much oblivious to anything beyond their iPads on this powder morning. So I swallow my nerves and nag them out the door and over to the Revelstoke Outdoors Centre.

2017 will be the first season RMR is on the Mountain Collective ticket – the ultimate road-tripping, multiarea ski pass that includes major domos Aspen, Banff, Snowbird, Whistler and Jackson Hole.

2017 will be the first season RMR is on the Mountain Collective ticket – the ultimate road-tripping, multiarea ski pass that includes major domos Aspen, Banff, Snowbird, Whistler and Jackson Hole.

Ian Houghton/Revelstoke Mountain Resort

We walk headlong into the glare of shining white teeth, those of our female guide, whose genuine smile goes a long way to ease the edge off my ski nerves, which today are uncharacteristically sharp. Our introductions are swamped by the slapping sound of blades on the chopper that's just swooped in to pick up a band of heli-skiers. A big part of Revelstoke's draw is its offering of heli-skiing at its front door, our guide hollers to me. We board the gondola and watch the snow froth.

Butterflies flutter up through my tummy as we head down a series of evenly pitched slopes, through tall stands of trees, fluffy snow brushing at the tops of our boots. At one point, my son skis onto the roof of a hut at the side of a trail – that's how deep the snow has piled up. At another point – in North Bowl, where runs are named Mania and Discipline, and the powder today is thigh-deep – we take turns falling and laughing and struggling to get up. We're scattered like sheep across this vast white bowl, sweating and hooting hellos to one another, exhausted yet exhilarated by this endless piste. By lunchtime at the spectacularly situated Revelation Lodge, we're so done-in we're staring blankly at our barbecued burgers. "C'mon!" I cajole my children. "Giddy up!"

I grow more comfortable with Revelstoke's loosely knit trees and deep snow and thigh-burning runs as the day passes. I'm impressed by the newly expanded terrain park, although I'm thinking: The entire mountain is a terrain park! And I take time to note there are a few freshly groomed slopes for intermediate and beginner skiers, including the Turtle Creek learning area. (New for 2017: a novice run off the Stoke Chair.)

Revelstoke features plenty of tough back-country terrain for advanced skiers.

Revelstoke features plenty of tough back-country terrain for advanced skiers.

Blake Jorgenson/Revelstoke Mountain Resort

In the evening I'm enchanted by the town of Revelstoke (a 10-minute drive from the ski resort), with its recent proliferation of pubs, bistros and backcountry ski operations offering everything from snowmobiling to cross-country skiing, something called "bungee bouncing", and snowshoe Frisbee golf.

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Exploring any of that will have to wait, however, as after the ski day I've just had, I'm as worn as leather in a vintage ski boot and my vacation is just at the start! I give up on my plan to debunk rumours this ski area is untamable. This rough-cut diamond in the Selkirks may have some smooth sections, but what they say is true, folks: Revelstoke is snow-rich, raw, irresistible and tough.

The Sutton Place Hotel provided complimentary accommodations to the writer. It did not review or approve this article.

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A quad chairlift at Revelstoke Mountain Resort.

A quad chairlift at Revelstoke Mountain Resort.

Royce Sihilis/Revelstoke Mountain Resort

If you go

Revelstoke Mountain Resort's closest international airports include Kelowna (199 kilometres), Calgary (413 km) and Vancouver (631 km). Most skiers access the mountain by rental car. The Stoke Shuttle departs four times a day from Kelowna to Revelstoke for about $99 an adult. New this season, Pacific Coastal Airlines is offering regularly scheduled flights between Vancouver and Revelstoke from January to March, 2017. pacificcoastal.com

Where to stay

Ski & Stay packages are offered throughout the season at the ski-in/ski-out Sutton Place Hotel and at the in-town Sandman Hotel Revelstoke. Rates for the Sutton Place start from about $190 a person a night when booked 30 days in advance; $165 a night when booked 60 days in advance. Sandman Hotel rates are about $119 a night a room, no skiing included.

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Luxury accommodations have newly opened at Bison Lodge Revelstoke – chalet-style lodging with private chef and heli pad. Rates are $6,000 a night. revelstokebisonlodge.com

What to do

Single-day lift passes purchased at the mountain start at $95; save up to 40 per cent by prepurchasing lift passes online. Revelstoke Mountain Resort's lifts include a gondola and two high-speed chairlifts. The mountain includes 1,263 hectares of terrain, including 69 runs. revelstokemountainresort.com

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