canada,  rockies

ultimate winter guide to road tripping the powder highway

RED, Panorama, Lake Louise, Revelstoke, Sun Peaks and roadside stops and detours

Get your coffee mug ready cause you’re in for some dense information on everything you’ll need to know to complete your own Ikon Pass Powder Highway trip! Sadly I am not sponsored by Ikon Pass but it was a major impetus for which resorts I skied at for this trip. Nor am I sponsored by any of the other places I’ve highlighted here. It’s purely my own opinion! This guide will be broken up in sections by locations but here’s just a simple highlight:

  • Started in Seattle, Washington
  • About 2 weeks of travel, plenty of options to work from home
  • Counter-clockwise loop (to try to hit optimal seasonal conditions)
  • Generally 3-4 days at each resort (5 max on Ikon)
  • Went to RED, Panorama, Lake Louise, Revelstoke, Sun Peaks
  • Skipped Banff Sunshine, Mt Norquay, and Cypress
  • One day ski touring Rogers Pass
  • Plenty of hot springs options and frozen canyons
  • No more than 8 hours of driving a day

Okay let’s dive in!


We did not have much issue with any of the roads with snow conditions. We drove in an AWD car with tires for snow travel. The highways are well plowed and I don’t remember any skidding potential except in some parking lots and small roads. But these are conditions that can change daily and seasonally. Overall, it did feel better than driving in Seattle when it’s snowy road conditions. Here are the drive times for everywhere we went:

  • Seattle to Rossland 6.5 hr
  • Rossland to Panorama 4.5 hr (plus 45 min detour to Lussier Hot Springs)
  • Panorama to Lake Louise (or Banff) 2 hr
  • Lake Louise to Revelstoke 2.5 hr
  • Revelstoke to Kamloops 2.5 hr (45 min detour each way to Sun Peaks)
  • Kamloops to Seattle 5 hr

There are plenty of gas stations everywhere. We stopped at Kettle Falls before Rossland. Creston and Cranbrook are larger towns before Panorama. There are no services between Radium Hot Springs and Lake Louise when you’re driving out from Panorama. And none in the mountainous section of Rodgers Pass until you reach Revelstoke. I think as long as you have 1-2 hours of driving amount of gas left in your tank, it is mostly fine. Otherwise, there’s little to worry about driving!


Trying to keep costs to a minimum, we preferred lodgings with kitchens so we could avoid eating out for every meal. My recommendation is to do your own research since availability can be different for everyone’s itinerary. I compared everything on Airbnb, VRBO, and Expedia. I found that VRBO options were generally more expensive and had limited options, or overlapping ones with Airbnb and Expedia. Some of my takeaways were to choose places that had enough space if you’re staying longer so that the people in your group can have some downtime. Be picky about your kitchens if you’re planning to cook. Some kitchenettes are quite terrible! Our favorite lodging ended up being at Panorama where it was completely ski-in/ski-out, was spacious and had a great kitchen. When picking a place to live, we generally stayed less than 10 minutes from the resort with the exception for Banff/Lake Louise. Banff Sunshine is 20 minutes from the town of Banff. If you had a choice, stay in Banff since it has more things to do and eat.

The rest

I’ll go into depth for each location for sights to see and foods to eat.


Red Mountain

Eastern Washington

I always love driving through the Cascade mountains, especially on Highway 2. It’s gorgeous and you get good views of the rivers adjacent the highway. Plus, you’ll likely drive through Leavenworth, a cute, though touristy germanic town. This is the longest drive day and these first 2 hours to Leavenworth will feel like a breeze. The Leavenworth-Cashmere-Wenatchee area is a great place to take a break. If you’re driving out from Seattle Fri-Sun, check out Anjou Bakery Cafe in Cashmere! Otherwise, get some delicious lunch at Yellow Rose BBQ to fill you up. I absolutely loved the cornbread!

While not the perfect halfway point, Dry Falls is a great little pit stop. You don’t have to drive all the way inside the park, which could easily add a couple hours to your drive time. The view point by the Dry Falls Visitor Center is gorgeous enough and possibly even cooler because you can see the whole landscape from above. It’s shaped by massive flooding and glacier movement. It is a coulee, just a smaller one than the Grand Coulee upstream. Time permitting, check out the Coulee Dam. But if not, keep heading east until you wind your way north through the second prettiest sections of the drive near the Colville National Forest. It will no longer look like a barren land, but a richly forested river perfect for a summer vacation. We had recommendations to visit Kettle Falls, but we ended up only getting gas there, which was still a good stopping point.

The border crossing was uneventful. The patrol read a list of about 10 screening questions and we were let through. Within a several minutes we were in Rossland!


It’s sort of a sleepy town. There’s not a whole lot going on but there are a few solid establishments. If you’re grocery shopping, the Ferraro Foods store is somehow quite cheap for certain ingredients but it does close at 7pm on weekdays and 6pm on weekends. For coffee in town, Seven Summits Coffee Company was our favorite. I particularly like the Alpine Grind Coffeehouse which is more of a cafe that offers baked goods and breakfast foods. Hooper’s Bakery was surprisingly good for dessert. It seems like the other restaurants are decent here. We only ventured to The Underbelly Bistro, which is run by one guy. He was kind enough to deliver food to the nearby brewery where we sat and waited for the food to be made. It’s to-go only!

Trail, the nearby larger town, is nice to visit during the day. But we didn’t really like the vibes of it as much since it is more industrial with a mining company looming over the whole town. They have a few more restaurants and I liked the vibe of the Trail Beer Refinery as a hangout spot. A surprise to me, the same Columbia River that runs through Washington also runs through here. It actually starts in the Kootenays as Columbia Lake near Panorama, then runs north around Glacier National Park/Rogers Pass and back down through Revelstoke which goes straight into Trail and Rossland. The joke was it’s not the Powder Highway but the Columbia River ski trip!

RED Mountain Resort

Okay, the good stuff! Well, the snow wasn’t that great while we were there just because it hadn’t snowed in a bit and the base was a little thin. But I was quite impressed by the groomers here! And while you don’t need me to tell you how to explore a resort, I do want to give some shoutouts to my favorite runs for each resort. Red Mountain is actually one of 3 at the resort and the smallest one. Granite is the center one with most of the runs and Grey is a newer expansion. There’s also Kirkup as a cat-skiing only peak. Due to conditions, a lot of the tree runs were not conducive to skiing while we were there but I can definitely see the appeal in powder.

All the lifts are fixed grip, so it’s quite slow. Grey Mountain Chair feels like it takes forever because it’s about 2k of vertical to get up. Both main blue runs off Red Mountain are worth doing at least once. The Main Run (black diamond) off Granite is a great groomed run to just go fast down some steep. But my favorite area on Granite is the backside. Basically all groomers at this resort is great. But Ruby Tuesday (black diamond) was particularly fun and Southern Belle (blue). And make sure you stop by the Paradise Lodge for a Bacon and Egger sandwich. It was literally the best thing I ate at a ski resort on this trip. Skip the lower mountain lodges for sure! It pales to the mid- and upper-mountain lodges. Other than the groomers on Granite, Grey Mountain remained a favorite for us overall. Plenty of blue and black diamond runs off the Corduroy run and the snow seemed a bit better when snow elsewhere was too packed. But my favorite run of all here was the Get Up, Stand Up blue run that was so cruiser the whole way. The top has some optional moguls you can take. Or more like, I never figured out how to bypass the moguls.


Columbia Mountains

It is a half day drive between Rossland and Panorama and stops are a must! Make sure you have enough time at Rossland to wear off the driving tiredness. We were able to ski a couple laps in the morning before heading out with the early sunset and getting as much daylight for driving as possible. Give yourself time to drive the Crowsnest highway. It has a major pass over 5000 ft high and multiple no-stopping zones for avalanche danger. Once passed the mountain, you’ll enter the large basin where the town of Creston resides. I believe the Golden Flour Bakery is a pretty good place for lunch.

Note that you’ll enter Mountain Time from Pacific Time while still in British Columbia.

Lussier Hot Springs

There’s another pass to cross before entering Cranbrook, the major town for Kimberley and Fernie ski resorts. But keep driving to reach Lussier Hot Springs! Make sure you have enough time for that before the sun sets. There are plenty of other blogs about this but yes, you can get there in the winter because it is an active logging road so they somewhat maintain the road. It was very bumpy for us and the last 2 miles or so was a bit harrowing. It’s narrow with steep drop offs, but plenty wide for 2 cars to pass. There’s a decent amount of parking at the hot springs and signs for it, so you can’t miss it! It’s a short 2 minute walk to the spring from the parking. Wear micro spikes because it does ice over. And if there’s a huge temperature differential between air and hot spring, make sure your towels are far enough from the pool that it won’t humidify and ice itself, but close enough you can run and grab it. There was only one pool that was hot enough to sit in for a while and the rest of the pools recieve trickle down water from the main pool. There’s definitely potential in doing some of those hot-cold cycles here though!

Once you’ve enjoyed your fill of a free hot spring soak, continue your drive north to Panorama. But if you’re still seeking more hot springs, there are two other free spots near the Fairmont Hot Springs that are basically runoffs, but none are as pretty as Lussier (in my opinion). One is uphill from the Fairmont. On google maps it’s called hot spring on a hill behind original building. The other is supposed to be by a bridge near the Fairmont and the RV parking. Have fun exploring!

The upper pool at Lussier Hot Springs

Panorama Mountain Resort

I have very little to say about Invermere since I didn’t spend time there. But it’s a huge summer vacation town where the population increases many folds over. There weren’t a lot of restaurants open while we visited and the Sobey’s grocery store felt rather expensive compared to Ferraro Foods in Rossland. But definitely get your groceries in Invermere because it’s a long-ish drive to Panorama and there are limited resources there. The drive through the valley is quite pretty if you can get there in daylight. Highly recommend getting an apartment higher up on the mountain. The lower ones seemed a bit more work to get up and down from the lifts.

We didn’t get a snow dump till half way through our stay here, but still ended up enjoying lots of fresh snow! Every day we’d take the Mile 1 Express up to Champagne Express. From here, there are a couple great options of blue runs to warm up the day with, especially if you’re waiting for the Summit Quad to open. It was a pleasant experience going from fixed-grip only lifts to these detachable high speed lifts. There are a couple recommended “tours” that you can take if you don’t want to think of where to go. We only went to Sun Bowl check it out but it was not as mind blowing as I’d envision. Plenty of tree skiing everywhere though!

But the highlight was getting up the Summit Quad (granted this for more advanced skiers). Due to wind loading most of the runs under the Summit Quad lift were choppy and hard to ski for the first couple of days. But drop over to the other side and it was glorious. It’s where we spent most of our time. If you can get it right, you can just loop back to the Summit Quad. If not, you might end up at Champagne Express, which isn’t bad either. If you end up in Taynton Bowl, you’ll have to take the long cat track out back to base. But despite the long way out, it is my absolute favorite out of this whole entire trip, not just Panorama. With my slow skiing, each lap took just under an hour. But it was worth it every single time. If you’re willing to hike a mile, try going all the way to the Goldie Plateau where normally you can pay to take the MonsterX. It’s a rolling ridge so you can make good progress by skiing the downhills. I heard from locals that it’s better to hike it when the MonsterX isn’t operating because those are days the runs are less likely to get tracked out. The exit out from The Monster run was much better than the Funnel where most of the other Taynton Bowl runs end up. It’s just too far to hike to multiple times a day. Another local tip is to ski the runs closer to the summit because most people will assume they should hike further or take the MonsterX and skip past the closer runs. So don’t overlook those! I can’t keep all the runs straight because it’s only a matter of different entrances and you can easily flow from one area to another. But I think B-1st and Ktunaxa were particularly nice. But we ended up by Donny B’s a lot.

And if you don’t want to hike at all, you can still reach the Taynton bowl and other backcountry style snow by going off View of 1000 Peaks and Heli High. The exit is called the Cauldron and it’s also better than the Funnel. If you take Heli Face though, it’ll drop you into Taynton Bowl and out the Funnel. And lastly while you’re up here at the summit, definitely check out the Summit Hut. It’s tiny but they make great sandwiches and cookies that are way better than the base lodge. We didn’t get to check it out but got highly rated reviews from locals to go to the Greywolf Lodge near the nordic ski center even if you’re not getting food there.

View of 1000 peaks (aka Kootenays)
Mount Goldie Backcountry
Looking back at the Summit Hut from Goldie Plateau

Banff – Lake Louise

Kootenay Pass

Since Banff isn’t so far away, you can choose to have a full day of skiing at Panorama or one of the SkiBig3 resorts. Either way, you might want to prioritize driving in daylight because there are 2 passes to cross over and also the views of the looming 10000 ft peaks are quite spectacular! If you’re so inclined to pay, there’s also Radium Hot Springs along the way. If not, keep going. There are a few places to stop for viewpoints here, make sure you pay attention to the road for them. My recommendations for places to stop are Numa Creek for the falls and Marble Canyon. We opted out of Marble Canyon because we didn’t have time to make our own trail through the fresh snow. But I can tell it is well worth if you have the time! This is also where you’ll cross the provincial border into Alberta! Which also means you’re in the clear for mountain passes.

Johnston Canyon

And while we’re at it, let’s talk about other road side stops! Johnston Canyon one is a fun hike that’s much more traveled than the Kootenay Pass ones. It can be helpful to wear micro spikes for extra traction here. It’s well labeled so you won’t get lost whether you’re going to just the lower falls or checking out the upper falls too. To do both falls, it’s about 3 miles with gentle elevation gain. It’s close to Castle Junction where you pop out of the highway from the Kootenays. In the summer it would be worth visiting the Ink Pots, but they’re likely covered in snow in the winter. If you can’t get enough falls, go over a short drive to Silverton Falls! For a scenic drive, stay on highway 1A, Bow Valley Parkway instead of the major road. It’s much less crowded!

Pools between falls at Johnston Canyon

Town of Banff

A touristy thing to do here is to ride the Banff Gondola right next to the Banff Upper Hot Springs and Sulphur Mountain. On the top is Sky Bistro which has some lovely food with great views. I personally didn’t go here but heard great things about it from friends! There’s even a boardwalk open in the winter to walk on.

I enjoyed going to Farm & Fire for a meal and Good Earth for breakfast and coffee. Brazen, Block Kitchen + Bar, Panini, LUPO all looked great too. I’d also check out Wild Flour Bakery and Whitebark Cafe.

I didn’t end up skiing at either Mt Norquay or Banff Sunshine. But if you have time, make sure to visit Banff Sunshine on a clear day! People who did ski both Lake Louise and Banff seemed to prefer Lake Louise for its terrain, but Banff Sunshine is known for its views into the Kootenays. Note that it is a 20 min drive between the resort and town and most lodging is in town.

Lake Louise

If you haven’t been, you’ve gotta check it out! Even if you’ve been in the summer the winter views are much different and more dramatic, in my opinion. Plus, when else are you going to walk or ski across the lake? The Fairmont Chateau is an old hotel that still holds probably the best view of any hotel. You can rent ice skates from them and other snow gear. A little section on the lake is cleared for you to enjoy ice skating. They don’t smooth the ice, so it’s definitely difficult for beginners. During colder months they’ll even have an ice bar! Otherwise, a fun activity is to simply hike or snowshoe across the lake. They groom the trails for xc skiing as well, but with all the tourists, it may be harder to stay in the tracks that are likely not well-defined. THere are some restaurants in town but none are worth mentioning compared to the Banff food scene.

While you’re in the little town, check out the Lake Louise Visitor Center and get a day pass or two for their national park so you can park for either Banff Sunshine or Lake Louise Ski Resorts. There are other places to obtain a pass if this is not on your way.

Lake Louise Ski Resort

For one reason or another we didn’t get to spend too much time here. It was some of their most crowded days while we were there and everything got tracked out quickly. But the views were so good! Generally, it’s best to take the high speed quads to the summit and skip the gondola which brings you to a different side of the mountain. The back side is relatively short compared to what Panorama had to offer but has fun moguls to ski! But beware the green track gets so flat you might have to scoot your way through. The Paradise Triple Chair was a favorite here! Quick laps to skip the green cat track. We also had lots of fun skiing under the Ptarmigan Quad Chair. I skipped over the chutes, but there’s some open skiing if you can trend skiers right enough and also some dense tree skiing with steep luge tracks if that’s your thing. But head over to Larch Express and you’ll have some mindless fun skiing along the Larch and Rock Garden runs. On the front side, there’s some lovely long groomers to rip through to the bottom if that’s your style!

Back bowls of Lake Louise Resort
Hotel and the resort
Lake Louise


Rogers Pass

It’s a 2.5 hour drive from Lake Louise to Revelstoke, so make the most of it! Right away you get to travel through a mountain pass. I’d recommend stopping by Emerald Lake, which has Lake Louise vibes but feels more intimate. Golden is also worth taking a stop for one of their cafes or restaurants. This is also home to Kicking Horse Resort! Otherwise keep driving along Highway 1 to Rogers Pass. Take a stop at the Rogers Pass Discovery Centre. If you budget time and left Lake Louise early, you could even do a short ski day here. But make sure you get the right passes at the Discovery Centre. The staff there are super helpful. I ended up doing one tour here on a different day than the drive day but we headed up towards Little Sifton.

Town of Revelstoke

I quite liked town. It felt pretty homey here. And this is where we meet the Columbia River again! The Centennial Park is great for a morning or evening stroll. Microspikes advised for the slippery trail! We went to La Baguette a couple times just because it opens early but my heart lies with Terra Firma’s Kitchen! La Baguette does make a great granola and yogurt cup, though pricey. Terra Firma is simply great for its farm-to-table food. Their sourdough is incredible, so make sure to pre-order some if you’re headed home soon or want some bread to snack on. There are quite a few other restaurants that are great to check out. Surprisingly the Indian-German fusion restaurant, Paramjit’s Kitchen, was super hearty and tasty. Be bold, try this fusion restaurant! Other restaurants I would’ve liked to check out are the Taco Club and Quartermaster Eatery.

Revelstoke Ski Resort

This was my second favorite resort of the trip. Oddly you have to take two gondolas up to get to any substantial skiing. Then you’ll probably want to stay in the upper lifts. I think it’s rare to ski the lower gondola, but there are a couple awesome groomed runs that go from the top of the Stoke lift to the bottom of the Upper Revelation gondola. One of my favorites is the Snow Rodeo (starts off black diamond and turns into blue run at bottom)! That is until we discovered the Tally-Ho glades that were still fun even without fresh snow. This one spits you out on Devil’s Club but I still preferred taking a short traverse over to Snow Rodeo.

It took a day to figure out how to exit the North Bowl without uphill travel but we managed. North Bowl was tracked out the whole time we were there but snow was always soft. It’s worth doing the walking traverse to enter from the Drop-In. But if you really don’t want to walk, you can ski traverse over, but then you end up skiing downhill a bit to enter either by Unlimited Assets or Meet the Neighbors, which gives you just a short taste of the North Bowls. But these two definitely put you back on a good cat track to get back to the Stoke or Ripper lifts. We hiked up once to Sub Peak which felt like more effort than was worth for a few more turns than the easier Drop-In hike. I think we ended up just doing Powder Assault once. The key for these North Bowl runs is to traverse left once you’ve skied the bowl and find a tree run to get to the Downtowner run. If you keep skiing till the bowl gets flat, you’ll end up on a very long up and down cat track. The blue runs by Ripper were decently fun every time. The glades there were interesting because there were a lot of drops to navigate for me but it was fun to follow old paths through the trees. You can pop out to the groomed run at any time too!

Views from Revelstoke
Sunset by the Columbia
Sunset along the Rogers Pass Highway

Thompson Valley


The drive from Revelstoke to Kamloops is short so we skied a few hours before driving over. There’s a lot of cheap housing options here! And a lot more incredible food. We went to Brownstone and it didn’t disappoint. Next time I’d try Maurya’s, Madras Masala, Jacob’s Noodle & Cutlet, Underbelly, or Cordo. The Riverside Park is pleasant for walking along the Thompson River. It’s a drastic contrast to the previous locations because it is low elevation, so there might not be snow nearby and the mountains are definitely not looming over you.

Sun Peaks Resort

It’s a non-trivial driving distance from Kamloops but we were determined to check out Sun Peaks. It’s a surprisingly big mountain. We only skied enough to get on all major lifts. None stood out but none were bad at the same time! We even got first racks on Munro Ridge from Sunburst Express, only to realize no one goes over to Burfield lift because it’s a slow fixed-grip, burly when it’s windy too. There are some back bowls you can explore too but I couldn’t see it on our low visibility day. My impression is that it’s an awesome local resort but not one you’d necessarily drive out of your way to see.

And with that, it concludes my guide to the powder highway (Ikon pass edition). Let me know if you have questions in the comments!

Sun Peaks
Kamloops and Thompson River


  • I used an Ikon Base Pass which easily paid for itself on this trip. Note that SkiBig3 encompasses Lake Louise, Banff Sunshine and Mt Norquay. So if you have the base pass, the 5 days are for all 3 resorts, not each.
  • Using Epic Pass, you could access Whister-Blackcomb, Nakiska, Fernie, Kicking Horse, Kimberley
  • Triple check you have your passport or travel card to get across the border!
  • We mostly used Airbnb for lodging with some hotels that were cheaper or for when we knew we wouldn’t cook.

Photos taken on Canon 5D Mark IV, iPhone 13 mini, iPhone 14

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *