Travel: Golden Rules – Golden, British Columbia
By N. Dionne
As the story goes, in 1884 Golden, B.C. was looking for a worthy moniker that rivalled the neighbouring town to the east, which was a lumber camp located along the Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR) called Silver City. At the time there was nothing more coveted than gold, and this base camp (Golden) was larger and more-settled. Today, Silver City no longer exists.
Still a bustling CPR junction and milling town, with approximately 3,700 residents, Golden prides itself on its enviable positioning amidst five of the most-visited National Parks in Canada. Scanning 360 degrees from Eagle’s Eye restaurant atop Kicking Horse Resort, you have a bird’s eye view of Jasper, Banff, Yoho, Kootenay and Glacier national parks (Revelstoke is just out of sight). The restaurant at Kicking Horse Resort is the highest in Canada at 7,700 feet above sea level. At this height you may feel like you’re levitating above the clouds, but on a clear day breathtaking views of mountain ranges and river valleys stretch in all directions.
Photography, courtesy of N. Dionne and Tourism Golden
MORE THAN A REST STOP
Known as an easily accessible gas stop along the Trans-Canada Highway, visitors didn’t generally venture into Golden’s downtown core. This small town may initially appear quaint and quiet, but as you meander through the streets, it’s hard to resist the positive energy that bubbles up around you. No matter where you stop, you’ll engage in conversation with a local resident – most likely transplanted from another part of the world – simply because they became enraptured with the area.
With this cultural diversity, visitors also benefit from culinary multifariousness. The Bluebird Cafe is a great pit stop for a quick bite or a take-away lunch before setting out for the day. At Whitetooth Brewing Company, request a fl ight of their craft-made batches, and make sure that their Session Ale is one of the four. For finer fare, Eleven22 (named for its street address in one of the oldest houses in the township) serves up a range of refined, and wholesome, dishes.
WISHING FOR WINTER
Considered to be the ‘Champagne Powder Capital’ of Canada, Kicking Horse Resort might not get as much snow as other resorts, but because of the colder temperatures, the quality of the snow is consistently better – rivalling other ski-in and ski-out experiences like Sunshine and Lake Louise. At Kicking Horse, the concentration of advanced terrain is the primary draw for those of an intermediate level, but for those who are looking for tamer courses, Crystal Bowl has a series of blue runs, as well as the best snow on the mountain.
The ideal skiing conditions is often the reason that many choose to settle in Golden. As a result, there’s an unwritten rule – if more than 20 centimetres of snow has fallen, it’s perfectly acceptable to put a sign in the window that says; Gone Skiin’.
For other arctic adventures, nordic trails are well-maintained for crosscountry skiing and snowshoeing, and remote terrain can be explored by dog sleds or snowmobiles.
Take in the incredible sunsets après ski while enjoying a comforting libation before the gondola download. And there’s nothing like luxuriating in a sauna or hot tub at the end of a fine winter’s day in Golden.
NEVER OUT OF SEASON
As the days grow longer, Golden’s fascination does not pale. If anything, the richness of the area is accentuated. Book a Via Ferrata (with a Swiss guide) along a fixed climbing route, or make an independent trek.
Cross-country and in-town biking paths offer a myriad of possibilities, including 50 kilometres of well maintained trails on Kicking Horse Mountain. During a leisurely horseback riding excursion in the Blaeberry Valley along the banks of the river where the Kokanee salmon run, you may spot a golden or bald eagle circling overhead. Kayaking and rafting are also popular activities.
Turquoise, glacier-fed pools rush over intricately patterned rock at the base of Thompson Falls. A short drive away, and a two-kilometre hike in, you can take in the marvel of Wapta Falls in Yoho National Park. In the spring, the torrents of water are strong, but come autumn, you’ll feel a gentle mist while walking along its base. A visit to Golden would not be complete without crossing the longest, freestanding, timber-framed, pedestrian bridge in Canada.
Accessed by chairlift, the Grizzly Bear Refuge is located approximately halfway up Kicking Horse Mountain. The resident bear, Boo, prefers mid-morning and late afternoon appearances. During the fall months, caretakers provide him supplemental meals as he continues to forage his protected, 20-acre habitat in preparation for hibernation.
At Northern Lights Wildlife Centre, passionate staff members deliver educational presentations about the wolf population every 30 minutes. And before the sun sets, take a drive up Mount Seven to take in the expanse of the Rocky Mountain trench. If you’re lucky, you’ll catch sight of other local inhabitants as they set off from their perch – the intrepid parasailers.