Some time between midnight and dawn, thick, black nimbostratus clouds gathered round the tops of these Purcell mountains and dumped down a full foot (30 centimetres) of fresh, dry powder snow. I know this for two reasons. One, I slept up high on these mountains last night, entirely alone (save for my butler) at 2400 metres above sea level. At midnight I was finishing my bottle of complimentary bubbles as the full moon rose right above the tallest peak, and the lights of the snow groomer tidying the slopes on a run called Stairway to Heaven shone its headlights right up at it.
Though mostly I know this because, two, I'm right now the first person on this mountain to ski down this fresh dumped snow. It's the privilege I've earned for staying at the highest elevated suite in Canada. When the diners at Eagle's Eye Restaurant rode the last gondola down, I had these mountains to myself.
And darned if I didn't sit out in the cold and watch a billion stars in the night sky before the light of that moon rendered them near-on-invisible; while the frigid air made my breath as steamy as smoke. Then while I slept, those nimbostratus' rolled in from the south and gave me the treat they couldn't guarantee on the brochure: the sweetest breakfast present any skier or snowboarder could ever wish for.
It's not so cheap to "bags" your own Canadian mountain top for a night – but you won't have to share it with a single human (unless your butler comes outside and spoils all that serenity). Most people don't even know this suite exists. It's almost forgotten while the mountain-top restaurant (the highest restaurant in Canada) beside it hogs the limelight. And so I feel like a secret stowaway on this mountain-top – in two decades of snow searching, I've never had a mountain entirely to myself like this.
Don't let this talk of private chefs and butlers put you off, either. Kicking Horse Mountain Resort – and the town it's built beside, Golden – is a working-class destination. There's nothing fancy round here. Fancy's what people go to Banff for, two hours east of here. Most evenings in Golden I like to gather outside the town's favourite watering hole, Riverhouse, with the local mill workers in their work clothes still covered in saw dust, standing close to century-old wood heaters to ease the chill. My suite reflects all of this – it's only its rare exclusivity that sets the price high. I'd arrived here in the evening, as the sun set against triangular peaks, their sheer edges black-rock where the pitch won't allow snow to settle. This is one serious ski mountain – up here there are footbridges across chasms for backcountry enthusiasts, and chutes just beside the resort's three chairlifts and one gondola with names like Truth, Dare and Consequence. I sit at the big, open bar at Eagle's Eye Restaurant looking out over it all. Behind me, someone built chandeliers out of old wagon wheels, it's the only glitz up here ... but who would look at fancy art on the walls with that 360 degree view out those windows.
My suite is built with the same blue-collar restraint – it looks just like an old log cabin, with its wood panelling and its cosy leather couch and a four poster bed that looks straight out through a window to the top of a mountain so imposing locals call it Terminator Peak (T1). After three days of steady snowfall, the view up here's framed by soft, fluffy white. The snow stopped this morning and the sun's been out all day, so the world looks as Golden as the town next door suggests it might do.
And in the morning, after a breakfast served in my room, I stand still on a tall ridgeline before I take my first tracks ride down. It's deathly quiet, there's not a single skier across the four huge ski bowls that make up this resort. I could stand like this for hours, sucking up the solitude, but as any true skier or snowboarder will tell you, untracked powder snow waits for no-one … even those with an entire mountain to themselves.
Air Canada fly daily to Vancouver from Sydney and Brisbane, from December 3 to February 4, 2018; direct flights from Melbourne are available four times per week; www.aircanada.com.au
A suite stay (December to April) includes a two-course dinner for two, breakfast, welcome bottle of champagne or wine, butler and chef, and sightseeing lift tickets for $C899. See www.kickinghorseresort.com
Craig Tansley was a guest of Destination British Columbia