With the Stumböck Club to Banff, Kicking Horse and Revelstoke
On this tour to Alberta and British Columbia in Canada with the Stumböck Club, one highlight follows the next. With Banff, Kicking Horse and Revelstoke, three absolute dream destinations for winter sports enthusiasts are on the program. In addition, you will explore the magnificent slopes of the Monashees while cat skiing with K3. The dreamlike finale is two days of heliskiing at Selkirk Tangiers. During the whole trip, the Stumböck guides take care of a smooth course and make sure that you can enjoy the paradisiacal mountain world to the fullest.
On a Ski Safari with heli and cat
I am a bit impressed by the man with the striking orange jacket, whom I have been following for quite a while. Not only is he an excellent skier, he also seems to know the area like the back of his hand. Here he finds a way through a few closely spaced groups of trees, there completely untracked powder off-piste. When he takes a break, I come to a stop next to him. An ibex and the lettering „Stumböck Club“ adorn his jacket.
Company founder Peter Stumböck was one of the pioneers of Canadian ski tourism. He was one of the first to consistently rely on guided groups accompanied by his own guides. As a result, the term Stumböck Guide has become a household name in the Canadian ski scene and the Stumböck Club has been a leader in group ski trips and ski safaris to Canada for decades.
„Are we going on?“ my Stumböck Guide asks me and when I nod, he starts moving with a big grin. Of course we’re going on – it’s the first day of my heli-catski safari, which the Stumböck Club offers from 4,158 euros, and I want to experience as much as possible. So I follow David, my Stumböck guide with the glowing orange jacket, to the very best runs.
SKI SAFARI WITH THE STUMBÖCK CLUB: VIA CALGARY TO BANFF
The day before, I landed in Calgary after an eight-hour flight with Air Canada from Frankfurt. From the airplane, the oil metropolis presents an impressive picture. In its center, modern skyscrapers and the Calgary Tower, popular with tourists for its 360-degree observation deck, rise up, while the surrounding residential areas stretch far into the brown prairie, all against the backdrop of the majestic Rocky Mountains. Somewhere hidden among these snowy peaks must be my next stop. I’ve been told that Banff is one of Canada’s top addresses for winter sports enthusiasts. Three ski mountains – Mount Norquay, Sunshine Village and Lake Louise – can be reached from the town in no time at all.
In a good mood, Stumböck guide David receives our ten-person tour group at the airport. In Frankfurt, I had already recognized some of my fellow travelers by their Stumböck backpacks, which the ski travel specialist had already sent us as a welcome gift with the booking documents in Germany. After a warm welcome, David stows our luggage in his white van, then we are already on our way towards the Rockies. The houses on the roadside give way after a few kilometers to sprawling pastures where cattle graze contentedly in huge herds. An hour later we are already in the middle of the Rockies. Practically without warning, the steep rock faces rise directly from the flat plain.
The Trans Canada Highway leads us right through the wonderful mountain world with deep snow covered forests and the Bow River glistening in the sun. When we reach Banff, we head for the cozy Banff Park Lodge with its rustic stone facade. The green sign outside the door advertises the indoor swimming pool and the Steam Room. Instead of the hot steam, however, we first walk through the fresh mountain air to the ski store
TOP EQUIPPED FOR LAKE LOUISE
Hardly anyone has their own equipment with them. Why should they? Although Air Canada would have transported our equipment free of charge, less luggage means more comfortable travel and in the store you can rent top equipment. It’s a good thing that David, like all Stumböck guides, speaks perfect German and can quickly mediate even the most complicated issues. While we tell him what we want, ski films flicker on the flat screen on the wall. As if my anticipation wasn’t already great enough! And it gets even more heated: On the way back, I forgo the van and stroll back to the lodge on foot. The street noises penetrate only muffled to me over, because a fine layer of new snow has laid itself over the place. Perfect conditions for the start of the ski safari!
At dinner in the Terrace Dining Room of the Banff Park Lodge, I treat myself to a juicy steak – Alberta beef is a true delicacy – accompanied by a local beer. Then it’s off to the room and quite quickly under the cozy blanket of the king-size bed. After the flight, I urgently need to recharge my batteries. The next morning, after all, we explore Alberta’s largest ski resort.
After a breakfast omelet freshly prepared by the chef and some delicacies from the buffet, we are sitting in the van just on time. David has already loaded our rental equipment, now he chauffeurs us to Lake Louise. Since our Stumböck guide has already taken care of the tickets, we can start directly on site. Great service! As we ride the chairlift to the top, the distinctive log cabin of the valley station, which I know from the TV broadcasts of the World Cup in Lake Louise, disappears in our back. Meanwhile, some daredevils are performing breakneck feats in the park to our right and we have box seats in the lift at lofty heights.
ALBERTA’S MOST BEAUTIFUL PANORAMA
At the top, we pause for a moment. At our feet stretches a dense forest crisscrossed with canyons, from which the jagged rock formations of the Rockies tower high, and the impressive Victoria Glacier sparkles under a blue sky.
But Lake Louise inspires us not only because of the fantastic view. On the first, wide pleasure descents we still take it easy, but little by little we increase the degree of difficulty. Below the Ptarmigan chairlift, for example, we curve around the widely spaced trees. „This is a good introduction to tree skiing,“ explains David. We will experience quite a bit of this natural slalom between the snow-covered trunks, which is so popular in Canada, in the coming days.
Stumböck guide David has saved another preparation measure for the upcoming freeride adventures for the afternoon. He steers our group into the powder bowls on the backside of Mount Whitehorn. Obviously, some powder addicts have already had a good time on the easily accessible slopes, as numerous tracks reveal, but there are enough places in the extensive area where we can get a taste of heli-skiing and cat-skiing without being disturbed. On the way back to the van, we race down the World Cup run. We won’t miss this chance!
CHALLENGING RUNS IN KICKING HORSE
The next morning we leave Banff and after a good hour and a half drive we reach Kicking Horse. Here we come quite close to the dream of heliskiing, after all, today’s resort above Golden was once a heliskiing area. This is evident in the challenging runs: many of them really make us sweat and after David leads us up a few small climbs, magnificent steep slopes drop away before our eyes.
We have a midday snack at the Eagle’s Eye hut. Whereby „snack“ only inadequately describes our meal – the hut at an altitude of 2,350 meters is rightly considered a culinary hotspot in Kicking Horse, where first-class dishes are served. I am surprised not only by the quality, but also by the more than fair prices between nine and 16 euros for a main course.
Fortunately, my stomach doesn’t have to work too hard after the light pasta. This task comes right back to my thighs, because from up here lead away predominantly as black or double black diamond marked descents, so the most difficult category. A ten-kilometer run takes you directly to the resort.
FREERIDE MECCA REVELSTOKE
We continue on to the freeride nest of Revelstoke, where the next great accommodation awaits us. The Coast Hillcrest Hotel was built back then by Peter Stumböck and is still part of the company today. Nestled in the Selkirk and Monashee Mountains, it is also the base for Selkirk Tangiers heliskiing and yet not far from the center.
When we arrive, several other guests have already gathered in the lounge next to the lobby with a drink in front of the open fireplace to swap stories of heli and cat skiing. Not long now, we can also contribute our anecdotes! But first I retire to the room. The hotel has recently been extensively renovated, I was told, and it shows. From the modern shower to the high-quality granite and marble elements to the coordinated natural colors, the entire interior contributes to the feel-good atmosphere.
I realize pretty quickly why Revelstoke enjoys such an excellent reputation among winter sports enthusiasts. The resort simply has everything for freeriders: in addition to outdoor stores and casual bars, there are heliskiing and catskiing companies here, as well as an excellent ski area. To my delight, Stumböck guide David also knows his way around here. Determined, he heads with us to the „Village Idiot,“ where the bar stools made from old skis leave no doubt about the passion of the guests.
„Revelstoke Mountain Resort has the greatest vertical drop of any resort in North America,“ David says, „from the highest point to the station at the bottom it’s 1713 meters. On the longest run, you’re up more than 15 kilometers.“ Impressive numbers, admittedly, but I’m not here for the records. And David knows that, too. He guides us unerringly to the resort’s North Bowl, where there are enough variations to satisfy even the most ambitious freeriders. After the rapid runs, we always get back to the groomed runs through the wonderfully loose powder between the trees. „Now you’re definitely ready for catskiing,“ says David after the day in the deep snow.
DEEP SNOW SKIS FOR CATSKIING AT K 3 IN REVELSTOKE
But that’s only almost true, one important detail is still missing. For unadulterated powder fun, we still need the right skis. „With these, you’ll practically float through the snow,“ David assures me, while the equipment is being fine-tuned for me by a K3 Catskiing employee.
The next morning, a K3 Catskiing vehicle picks us up right at the hotel. After about 40 minutes, we reach the provider’s area in the Monashee Mountains. Before we climb into the converted Pistenbully, the safety training is still to come. Each of the participants must be familiar with the use of an avalanche transceiver and probe and know what commands the guide will give later. I borrow a backpack with an avalanche airbag. Although we only ski slopes that are classified as safe by the K3 guides, there is still a certain residual risk and for us at SKI KANADA, the motto is always: „Safety first!“
COMFORT IN THE PISTE BULLY
Then the tracked vehicle called „Cat“ in North America starts moving. The cabin is surprisingly spacious and we sit quite comfortably while the 400 hp powerhouse works its way up on specially designed tracks. As we exit, I can hardly believe my luck. A perfect blanket of snow spreads out before us, broken here and there by a few trees that are barely visible under their heavy white load.
A few more instructions, then our guide dives into the slope and is the first to leave a few clearly visible tracks in the deep powder. With enough distance to the person in front, one after the other follows him. When it’s my turn, I realize that David didn’t promise me too much: The deep powder skis have a wonderful lift and I can fully concentrate on enjoying the carefree feeling on the descent.
At the bottom, the Cat is already waiting for us. As she sets course for another corner of the area, we have ample opportunity to rest. So we string run after run together for two days. Even those of us who are still a bit shaky in the unfamiliar terrain at the beginning gain confidence in our abilities with every turn. There’s no better way to get ready for the ultimate skiing and snowboarding experience.
HELISKIING IN CANADA IS THE NONPLUSULTRA
Because if catskiing was already great, heliskiing is simply unmatched. „The conditions aren’t that dramatically different,“ explains Stumböck guide David, „but the heli operators‘ areas are bigger, the runs are usually a little longer, and the options for hitting the best spots depending on the weather and the ability of the group are simply unbeatable.“
Before our first flight with Selkirk Tangiers Heliskiing, another conscientious safety briefing is in order. Afterwards we take a seat in the heli directly behind the hotel, a bit more cramped than in the Cat – and also a lot more excited. A gentle jerk and the helicopter is already in the air. It takes only a few minutes until he drops us on a pristine plateau, on which only a staff with a clearly visible flag is visible as a marker. As the helicopter disappears from our field of vision in a wide arc, a complete silence settles over the summit. Reverently we look at the wild nature in front of our eyes. No sign of civilization, just us and some of the most exciting descents you can wish for as a freerider.
The next two days literally fly by. Sometimes we’re surfing relaxed down one of the flatter slopes, sometimes we pick up speed on a steeper section, sometimes we’re tree skiing our way around the trees. The variety is practically inexhaustible.
On the last evening we sit around the fireplace with our heliski guides. The logs crackle and crackle and a cozy warmth spreads through the room as we look out through the huge windows of the Coast Hillcrest Hotel into the mountains. That’s where we were driving earlier!
At a late hour, I toast the past week with David. With his local knowledge, his helpfulness and his friendly manner, he has become an indispensable companion for all of us. If I had had to take care of the transfer, the equipment and the tickets myself, I probably would have spent only half as much time on skis. David laughingly shrugs off my thanks. „If you liked it, I’m happy.“
Really a pity that I have to take off again tomorrow. This time, however, not in the helicopter on the way to the next summit, but in the Air Canada plane back to Frankfurt. But I have so much to tell at home. Even at the fireplace, we didn’t run out of things to talk about – even though most of the listeners were there themselves! How enthusiastic will my friends be?