Revelstoke Revisited: Stoked Stu, Bluebird Powder and the Freeride World Tour

“Do you guys know your way around here?”

It was an innocent question, I thought, to ask to three snowboarders arriving at the edge of Revelstoke Mountain Resort’s [RMR] boundary atop the sub-peak of Mt Mackenzie. They looked at each other and remained quiet for a second. “Not really, man,” one of them replied.

I explained that I was trying to figure out how to access the judging area for the first stop of the Freeride World Tour [FWT]—Mac Face in the RMR backcountry—without having to post-hole past the venue. It was nearing noon and the sub-peak afforded 360-degree views of the north Kootenays. A heli buzzed the true peak, shuttling riders and media types around the venue. It had snowed a couple feet that week and this was the first bluebird day. The north side of RMR, hanging above a sea of clouds, looked good. Too good.

After chatting with the riders for a few minutes, they figured out I wasn’t a total kook—apparently it’s pretty common to find clueless vacationers beating their way down from Mt Mackenzie’s alpine. And as it turned out, one of the guys was none other than a cat driver named Stu who I had met five years prior on my first visit to RMR–who my esteemed colleague Dan Kostrzewski had dubbed “Stoked Stu” in print.

“You should write a story about riding powder with three cat drivers instead,” Stu suggested. It was a strong argument. After all, the web stream of the FWT would be available that evening, and the best lines could be tracked by the time I made it out of the south-side contest venue.

We dropped into a rider’s right ridge and sent a few small airs before disappearing into the fog. The snow was deep and light—temperatures were stable around 0 degrees Fahrenheit and would hold through the weekend. It was the same line that had served as my introduction to RMR five years prior: North Bowl to Gracias Ridge via few airs and a wide-open chute, then a quick hike and into some more short chutes and cliffs. With the addition of the Ripper Chair a few years back, it’s now possible to ride an assortment of gullies down, but we chose to traverse out to the Stoke and a few long hit laps, which the cat drivers knew quite well. And, when my exhausted companions departed—they had been up since starting their 11pm shifts the night before—I made the 10-minute-hike for another lap and a friendly ski patrol sweeper allowed me to score last tracks off the top.

Five thousand vertical feet later, I found myself at the bottom of RMR, taking in a replay of the action from the FWT event as the hill shut down for the day. Turns out Ralph Backstrom had dominated the competition with a run that featured a three-stage cliff drop and high-speed turns in the trees—nicely done, Ralph. I still had two more days to explore RMR, pushing a little deeper to Greely Bowl, searching the trees near the gondola line for powder turns held intact by persistent cold temperatures. Despite an influx of seasonal Aussies and a new chair of the north side, it felt like little had changed at RMR—there was still a lack of lift lines and an abundance of fresh lines to ride with a little leg-work, which made for a fine weekend of powder riding under clear skies.

A huge thanks goes out to Sarah Windsor of RMR and stoked Stu and his cat-driving buddies for helping me make the right decision: riding powder instead of watching others do so. After all, the online footage probably gave me a better idea of what went down on the other side of the mountain than sitting on a far-away ridgeline ever could. See you next year, RMR—let’s hope for blower and bluebird once again.

Photo: Bruno Long/Freeride World Tour.


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