What I did over 6 weeks at snowboard bootcamp with Snow Rehab. Snow Rehab is a UK company offering ski/snowboard improvement, backcountry and instructor courses in Canada (choice of 4, 6 or 12 weeks – see their website for full details). Here are my personal thoughts on the 6 weeks that I spent with them at Revelstoke, Canada.
About Revelstoke Mountain Resort:
Snow Rehab offers a choice of two resorts, Big White or Revelstoke Mountain Resort (RMR), both in British Columbia, Canada. For the 2017 season, all 30+ participants were at RMR (even those that originally opted for Big White were moved to RMR at the last minute, for reasons unknown).
RMR advertises itself as offering the most vertical in North America/Canada, with “easy” access to backcountry. It only has one gondola and two chairlifts (say wuutttt??), and I would say at least 60% of the available terrain can only be accessed via some sort of traverse (snowboarders take note!) or a “short” hike. Plenty of tree runs off the pistes, with a good range of pitches and difficulty. There is no real option for beginners (only a very narrow cat track) or people who like cruisers. You definitely need to put in some effort at RMR, so I would not recommend it for “comfort-minded” skiers and riders.
Hike to sub-peak/North Bowl
RMR has only one ski-in-ski-out hotel at the base of the mountain, the luxurious 205-unit Sutton Place Hotel, which has underground parking, a heated pool, shared hot tubs, spa, a small gym. There are 3 dining options at the hotel/base of the mountain, and two mid-mountain cafes. You will need to go to Revelstoke town (about 6km away) for all other amenities such as groceries, shops, restaurants, cinema, post office, etc. If you do not have your own wheels, the only way to get to town is via the Revelstoke ski shuttle (daytime, CAD3/way or free with bus pass provided by your hotel), or the Sutton Place Hotel shuttle (6pm-11pm, free).
[My opinion: RMR is icy AF. Being VERY spoilt by Japow, I can only say that I am underwhelmed. I experienced only 5 pow days in the 6+ weeks that I was here (self-defined as when snow covers my ankles on piste) on 9 Jan, 18 Jan, 5 Feb, 6 Feb, 9 Feb. The RMR website boasts an annual snowfall of 9-14 metres, but if you look at the historical snowfall, the average for the past 9 seasons (2007/2008 to 2015/2106) is only 10m and the max. was 12.3m, so in reality it is closer to the lower end of the advertised “range” and nowhere near 14m. You might argue that there is powder in the bowls / sidecountry accessible via a “short” hike, but seriously why would anyone hike if they can easily find powder on piste in Japan? Also, my usual comment re. snowfall measuring altitude- North American/Canadian resorts usually measure snowfall at peak, while Japanese resorts usually measure at the base. So yea come here if you like it icy and steep. ]
Location/Getting to RMR from Singapore:
The closest international airport to RMR is Kelowna (connections from Vancouver, Calgary, Toronto, Edmonton, Seattle, etc), which is a 190km (2-3 hour) drive or shuttle (CAD99/way, runs 4x/day) from RMR. From 2017 season there is also Revelstoke airport, with connections from Vancouver only (2x/week via Revelstoke Air). If you are coming from Singapore, the best connection would probably be SIN/NRT via Singapore airlines followed by NRT/YVR/YLW via Air Canada, or SIN/HKG/YVR via Cathay Pacific followed by YVR/YLW via Westjet or Air Canada.
Why I chose Snow Rehab
Because I live in tropical Singapore, my snow experience is usually limited to 1-2 weeks per season in Japan. Obviously this puts me on a very slow progression curve, as by the time I get my snow legs it is usually time to return home. I felt that I needed to do a longer trip to improve my riding, and thus planned my career break to coincide with the winter season.
TBH I didn’t really do much research on the company, but Snow Rehab is one of the few that offers a multi-week structured programme with a focus on rider improvement, as opposed to just a pure instructor course that only takes 1-2 weeks to complete. Having seen the amazing progress that a friend made last season at Snow Rehab, I decided to sign up for their 6-week snowboard improvement course.
Into the North bowl with Nick our instructor
If you are a self-motivated person, you can of course just ski or ride by yourself for a whole season and also see improvement, but I am a really lazy person and would probably end up just cruising around on easy runs and skipping lots of days. Being on a structured (and expensive!) training programme forces me to crawl out of bed every morning, and also try things out of my comfort zone.
[My opinion: Okay, I have belatedly realised that I do NOT like to be outside my comfort zone. I will never again doubt my beloved Japan, where it actually does snow, and the runs are mellow, short and almost always lead to some cafe or vending machine.]
What is the programme like?
So basically every weekday, you will be riding or skiing in a group with other Snow Rehabbers, led by an instructor trainer (Note that Snow Rehab merely facilitates the programme, the actual instructors are from the resort). The trainers are higher level instructors (minimum Level 3) who are qualified to train instructors-to-be. The day usually consists of 5 hours of riding/skiing, starting at 9am, with a 1 hour break for lunch around noon.
Snowboarders and skiers are separated, but within each discipline, the groups are not always split by ability (e.g. in Weeks 1-2). So even if you signed up for the improvement course (like me), you may be riding with people who signed up for the instructor course (VERY stressful). Click on the links below for weekly recaps of my personal experience.
Week 3 Recap: Learning to teach.
Weekends are free for you to ride on your own, socialise with your mates or just rest your tired muscles.
Base vs. Summit Package
I took the Base package (GBP4,635 for 6-week improvement course in 2017) which includes a season lift pass, quad share accommodation, weekday dinners (for 6 weeks) and weekday training (for 5 weeks). The Base package usually costs GBP5,135 as it includes flights from London to Kelowna (LHR/YYC/KLW), but since I was flying in from Asia and paying for my own flights, GBP500 was deducted off the original price.
Snow Rehab also offers a more premium package called the Summit package which is about GBP1,000 more than the Base package (see their website for details).
[My opinion: I do not think the Summit package is worth the top up, because the main thing worth having is the cat ski day which only costs CAD500 and can be booked direct with RMR when you get there, OR added a-la-carte to your Base package for GBP285 if you want to pre-book your slot in the cat with Snow Rehabbers on the Summit package (more fun since you know everyone). The Summit breakfasts are just oats and milk (which you can easily buy a months’ worth of for only CAD5 at the supermarket), and the avalanche safety clinic can also be booked direct with RMR for CAD238.]
Black or blue?
The quad share accommodation that is part of your package is at Mountain View condo (at 1211 Victoria Road), at the edge of Revelstoke town. 4 persons share a 2-bedroom, 1 bathroom condo unit with full kitchen facilities. You can also top up for a single room. The units are quite spacious, but may vary in terms of completeness (I heard that some do not even have mugs or TV). Wifi is free but a bit slow, and there are no basics provided (e.g. toiletries, salt/pepper/cooking oil, dishwashing liquid, laundry detergent). Laundry costs CAD3 and the dryer is an additional CAD3 (CAD1 coins only). One set of linen is provided and there is no cleaning service / linen change.
The condo is 750m walk to the nearest supermarket (Save-On-Foods) and 1.2km walk into the centre of town. The pool and hot tub facilities advertised on the Snow Rehab website are actually located off-site at the Aquatic Center (about 1.4km walk from the condo).
As mentioned under the Location section above, the mountain is 6km from town so the only way to get to/from the condo to the mountain is via the ski shuttle (since most participants will not be renting a car). The ski shuttle stop nearest the condo is c.150m walk, and the shuttle runs half hourly at peak hours and hourly at non-peak hours (see schedule here). However, the shuttle may be full on powder days and at peak hours, which sucks because you will then be late for your 9am lesson and may end up missing the morning session.
Mountain View condo(unit #102)
Mountain View condo(unit #102)
Mountain View condo(unit #102)
Mountain View condo(unit #102)
Mountain View condo (unit #102)
I really lucked out with the accommodation as I got assigned to stay on-mountain at the luxurious ski-in-ski-out Sutton Place Hotel, with three others. Not sure why (three out of the four of us were on Base package) but it was probably because the town condo was full and we were all 6-weekers. The Sutton is also 4 persons to a condo unit, but there are 2 bathrooms (ensuite), which makes a HUGE difference in the morning rush to get ready. It is is also wayyyyy more luxurious than the town condo, with daily room cleaning, linen change, and free laundry (in-room). Wifi is fast and stable but unsecured.
[My opinion: Snow Rehab website uses pictures of the Sutton Place for its 6 week programme, which is misleading, as some 6-weekers were put in the town condo. If you have a choice, I would strongly recommend staying at the Sutton to avoid the daily shuttle commute to the mountain, which can get dicey in the morning peak hour (8-9am). It is a tad inconvenient to have to take the evening shuttle into Revelstoke town for dinner and groceries, and your social life will suffer from not being with the main group, but you would be a fool to trade the Sutton for the town condo.]
Sutton Place – evening shuttle schedule
Sutton Place – Living area
Sutton Place – Dining area
Sutton Place – Bedroom 1
Sutton Place – Bathroom 1
Sutton Place – Bedroom 2
Sutton Place – Bathroom 2
Sutton Place – View of gondola from our balcony
Weekday dinners are included in your package. Upon arrival, you will receive a pack of meal vouchers worth CAD20 each, which can be used at 3 restaurants in Revelstoke town (Village Idiot, Chubby Funsters and Big Eddy Pub). The vouchers can also be used to pay for takeaway or delivery (only Village Idiot delivers). You will have to buy groceries in town for all your other meals.
Fending for myself at breakfast
CAD20 is enough for things like burgers, salads or pastas (all CAD12-15++), but you can also top up for a beer/drink, or if you want a proper main like a steak or ribs (CAD20-35++). I consider myself a fussy eater but I found the food pretty good, with sufficient variety. In fact I often had leftovers to take away because of the big Canadian portions.
[My opinion: My favorites were the blue cheese burger with poutine at Village Idiot, and the prawn tacos with couscous salad at Chubby Funsters. And…. the nutella banana panzerotti at Village Idiot is to die for.]
The participants will mostly be from the UK as Snow Rehab is a UK company. In my season (2017) most were in their early 20s, but there was quite a large age range (18 to 45), with people on gap years, career breaks, or aiming for a career change to become an instructor. If your first language is not English you may feel out of place.
[My opinion: I was pretty much out of the social scene, but I knew of some personality clashes, mainly due to the shared accommodation. I was lucky to have three tidy and generous housemates, so no conflicts there, but some people had really bizarre housemates. It’s pretty much a lucky draw even if you upgrade to a single room (cos you will still have 1-2 housemates).]
Revy is definitely not the one for me. Neither are ice, steeps, traversing, hiking, or self-improvement. I’ve paid a fortune to finally convince myself that I’m not a rugged mountain person (okay, okay, I should have known that already). From now on I’ll stick to thigh-deep Japow on mellow runs, which can be easily accessed off warm hooded lifts. kthxbye.
Date of activity: 8 January 2017 – 19 February 2017
Location: Revelstoke Mountain Resort, BC, Canada
Operator: Snow Rehab
Rate I paid: GBP4,635 for 6-week snowboard improvement course (incl. 6 weeks’ accommodation, season lift pass, weekday lessons and evening meals)
Booking: Direct via Snow Rehab website
Hotel we stayed: The Sutton Place Hotel (quad share condo unit on mountain)