Situated in the Rocky Mountain Trench, a large valley in southeast British Columbia, Golden is flanked by the Columbia Mountains to the west and the Canadian Rockies to the east. This gritty, unpretentious town is located a three-hour drive west of Calgary. It also sits in close proximity to six national parks (Yoho, Glacier, Kootenay, Banff, Jasper and Mount Revelstoke) and is where the Columbia and Kicking Horse rivers meet. Not surprisingly, Golden and its surroundings offer a mammoth lineup of outdoor pursuits that, in the winter, include alpine, backcountry and cross-country skiing, snowshoeing and snowmobiling.
Greet the day at Bluebird Cafe with a frothy, organic café mocha and an egg-and-bacon Brekkie Sandwich. Order a lemon bar to go and take the 15-minute drive up Kicking Horse Trail to the ski hill. A whopping 1,133 hectares and averaging seven-and-a-half metres of snow annually, Kicking Horse Mountain Resort is famed for its light and smooth “champagne” powder. Primarily geared to advanced skiers, it features 39 black runs and 60 double blacks, but there are also plenty of easy green and moderate blue runs for beginner and intermediate skiers.
After a morning of skiing, ride the resort’s gondola up to Eagle Eye Restaurant. At 2,347 m above sea level, it’s Canada’s highest restaurant. Warm up with a crisp icewine martini and enjoy an Eagle’s Eye Philly steak sandwich on a sourdough baguette with an upgrade to truffle fries. After lunch, wander outside to the patio for a spectacular view of five of the six surrounding national parks. Advanced skiers, look east to plan your ski down from White Wall, the highest point on the hill.
Dine at The Island restaurant in downtown Golden. This rustic log cabin is decorated with vintage skis, skates and snowshoes. In the spring, the swollen Kicking Horse River turns the restaurant’s location into an island. Start your meal with ginger chicken spring rolls followed by red snapper crusted in Tasmanian ginseng spice drizzled with miso citrus sauce. Accompany with a sparkling rosé by Elephant Island Orchard Wines.
Try the Big Boy Benny with chorizo sausage or the veggie frittata at Big Bend Cafe. Move on to cross-country skiing at the Dawn Mountain Nordic Centre. Pick up your ski or snowshoe rentals at the centre’s log chalet to explore the more than 33 kilometres of trails.
Just west of Golden, join wolf siblings Scrappy Dave and Flora for a leisurely stroll with Northern Lights Wildlife Wolf Centre co-founders Shelley and Casey Black. Return to the wolf centre to meet the rest of the pack.
Downtown, the upscale, yet casual Whitetooth Mountain Bistro features dark-red walls and butcher block tables. Opt for the Ocean Wise mussels and garlic toast with a side of golden fries and a Winter Spiced Old Fashioned. Finish with a rich and creamy slice of cheesecake.
Downtown’s Bacchus Books and Cafe is filled with good reads, funny mugs, games and cards. Climb the creaky, wooden stairs at the back of the store to the café for a latte and a Lox Stock ‘n Bagel topped with smoked salmon, red onion and capers. After breakfast, take a 10-minute walk south to the Golden Museum to learn about the people who shaped the town, notably the Swiss mountain guides employed by the Canadian Pacific Railway.
Stop in at Jita’s Cafe to sample a mug of its famous chai tea and tuck into a turkey avocado wrap before heading off to Golden Snowmobile Rentals to gear up for a guided snowmobile trail ride into the backcountry. Ride the scenic, groomed trails of Quartz Creek; the trail head is located about a 30-minute drive outside of the town. Eat your packed lunch and warm up in the trail’s cozy cabin. Closer to Golden, hit the West Bench Trail, an 80-km, beginner-friendly loop that offers experts access to Gorman Lake Trail’s steep and deep terrain.
Make a reservation for supper at Eleven22, where chef-owner Konan Mar draws on his Swiss-Chinese heritage to offer a fusion of Malaysian, Thai, Canadian and Swiss cuisines. Feast on comfort foods like sausage wurst, chili ginger noodle bowls and P.E.I. mussels steamed in a smoky roasted tomato sauce and served with fluffy, thick-sliced white bread. Finally, head to the newly opened microbrewery Whitetooth Brewing Company to toast the end of your trip with a cold craft beer.
Getting there: WestJet flies to Calgary 110 times a day from 24 Canadian, 12 U.S. and 12 international cities.
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