06.01.2006 -5 °C
Greetings from Golden, British Columbia, my home for the next 3 months. A little speal about the town first then I'll fill you in on my exploits later.
Visitors to Golden could be forgiven for thinking that there is nothing here. Certainly some of the less thorough travel guides dismiss the town as merely a collection of petrol stations and seedy motels clustered around the Trans Canada Highway. My first impressions of the town matched this, laving me rather fearful that I have let myself in for a nightmare 3 months. I can testify that for those who simply pass thru this is very much the case, but little do you know of the delights that await in store for those who explore further!
Behind the Highway lies the home of all things great about the Great Outdoors in the Canadian Rockies. In summer you can be entertained to some of the best hiking, mountain biking, white water rafting etc in the world. In the winter you have access to possibly the most hardcore ski hills in the world - Kicking Horse (http://www.kickinghorseresort.com/winter/) - which is exactly why I'm here. With one of the highest snowfalls in the world and unbelievably consistent quality of snow '(champagne powder), coupled with some of the most extreme terrain I have ever seen, this place in Canada-speak kicks ass. The mountain slogan 'The Powder and the Glory' is truly warranted. Check out the piste map on the web site for the silly amount of double black runs and lack of 'safe' terrain, truly not for the faint hearted or family-oriented ski holiday. The place is really still in infancy and quite the rugged backcountry domain, a far cry from the more developed resorts of North America and Europe.
KH was recently acquired by a Dutch Realtor who non-suprisingly are focusing on building property - hotels, condo's, deluxe chalets and the like, to cater for the more affluent clientele, much contrast to the current ski bum (but ski hardcore) punter. No doubt the resort will evolve over the next twenty years to resemble something like the DisneyLand in the snow that places like Whistler have become. That said, the owners did build the high-speed (ahem) gondola which opened the mountain up and really placed KH on the map. Just wish they'd spend more cash on things like clearing the piste runs from logs, boulders etc that have caused many casualities already, and invested more in the town itself. Well, you can't have everything and capitalistic progress can't be stopped. That said, it's a great time to be in Golden as is set to explode in size - no doubt the rugged charm of the mountain is about to be lost in a hail of dollars so I am truly grateful to experience it in it's raw state.
How did Kicking Horse get it's name you ask? here's the beef:
In 1858, the Imperial Government sent John Palliser out to find a feasible route through the mountains for the railway. A geologist, named Sir James Hector, was among those on the expedition team.
Through a string of bad events, Hector ended up stumbling upon the Kicking Horse Pass. He was camped out at the Great Divide when one of the team’s packhorses got loose and crossed the river. Sir James jumped into the water and swam after it, eventually rounding the horse up. While trying to tie it to a tree near his own horse, the two animals became enraged and started fighting. During the ruckus, Sir James suffered a vicious kick from his own steed. The sheer force broke three of his ribs and knocked him out. In fact, he was unconscious for so long, his three Native guides were convinced he was dead and decided to bury him.
As they were carrying Sir James’ lifeless body to a grave some distance away, he suddenly came to. When he was well enough to move around, he explored the valley and discovered the pass that became the route through the mountains. In his honour, the pass and the river were given the Kicking Horse name.
There you have it. Probaly nonsense, but I get the feeling the spirit of the horse lives on as this mountain gives me a kick in the ribs everyday (and a tonne of pleasure I might add).
Besides the mountain, Golden is a small town with a neat collection of bars and shops that provide the essentials to survive the winter. No megaplexes, cinemas, boutiques, shiny office blocks etc but all these things are superfluous to enjoying what the area is all about - the great Rocky Mountain wilderness. Bliss!