Go to Red Mountain for $10 cat skiing, a barrel-shaped sauna and zero crowds

February, 2021

 

I love the modesty of Red Mountain.

While every other ski resort I’ve visited––and I’ve been to at least 25 places, from Aspen to Wolf Creek––tells me why I should get my turns there, Red Mountain Resort does the opposite.

Passengers unload from the snowcat at the top of Mount Kirkup. Pam LeBlanc photo 

In 2010, this mountain resort in Rossland, British Colombia created a video titled “Red Sucks,” during which an obviously hungover guy in a business suit laments that the “crappy ski hill” he’s staying at, and complains about the long lifts (well, maybe a little, but who cares), the crowded slopes (far from it) and the “fake trees” (they are not). It went viral and it’s hilarious. You can watch it at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T7Z0MBLHF20.

Staghorn lichen grows on tree trunks on the mountain. Pam LeBlanc photo

Since then, they’ve opened a modern and affordable hostel at the base of the mountain that’s called the Nowhere Special Hostel (it is quite special). And I overheard last night that they’re considering a new marketing campaign dubbed “Nothing to See Here.”

It all fits the personality of the place. It’s huge, full of powder stashes, free from crowds, and the town of Rossland, a 5-minute drive from the mountain, started as an actual mining town, so it’s got real grit and character (plus an amazing chocolate shop and a wonderful little museum). And, yes, we know you can’t travel to Canada right now. But put it on your list for when the pandemic ends and the border reopens.

Drue Kerns and Cristi Sullivan relax in a wooden, barrel-shaped sauna at the Josie Hotel at Red Mountain. Pam LeBlanc photo

I caught one of the first chairs up the mountain one morning last March, right before the pandemic hit, and skied until after 3 p.m. and just grazed the surface. Glades, secret cabins in the woods, trees encrusted with snow and wearing furry green coats of lichen––it’s not like any place I’ve been before.

Cristi Sullivan skies the glades at Red Mountain. Pam LeBlanc photo

I’m not done with this mountain yet. I’ve got more terrain to explore, and more post-slopeside fun to find. On my list after I pop off my boots? A trip to the Rossland Beer Company in town, followed by dinner at the Flying Steamshovel, built at the site of the crash of an early version of a helicopter.

Without further ado, here are 10 things I love most about Red Mountain Resort in Rossland, British Columbia:

1. The “snow host” program. Local skiers and snowboarders have given free mountain tours to visitors daily for the last 40 years. Just head to the base area to meet one at 9 a.m. or 12:30 p.m. It might be a few folks in your group, or it might be just you. Seriously, do this. It’s fantastic.

2. Powder stashes. Red Mountain Resort is the first stop on what’s known as the Powder Highway, and it’s known for never ending pow.

3. No crowds. All that pow and so few people translate into what’s known locally as Powder Per Person, or PPP. “You get up there and it’s like you’re the only person on the mountain,” says Kylie Lakevold of Rossland Tourism, who grew up in this area and brought me to dinner (Canadian pickerel and champagne marinated mushrooms!) at Gabriella’s. “You can always find something that hasn’t been skied yet.”

4. Great terrain. The mountain spans 3,850 skiable acres with eight lifts. The breakdown? 17 percent beginner, 34 percent intermediate, 23 percent advanced and 26 percent expert. I peeked over the edge of some of the gnarliest couloirs I’ve ever seen – and then backed away carefully.

5. The wooden, barrel-shaped saunas located on the back steps of the fabulous Josie Hotel at the base. After a day of skiing, change into a swimsuit, wrap yourself in a robe (provided), and slip inside one of these cozy, steam-filled cocoons, where you can heat up your sore muscles and look out a round, bubble-shaped window at the mountain.

6. The glades! Red is known for its glade skiing, and in some areas the lower branches have been trimmed off the trees. That makes it easy to slice and dice your way through zippy little tree-packed swathes without getting hung up on twigs and berries.

7. The Nowhere Special Hostel. This modern, industrial-looking hostel opened two years ago and offers a super affordable option for staying right at the base. (Think lift ticket and bed for less than $150 per night.)

8. Stories about the Winter Carnival , the oldest winter carnival in Canada (and there are lots of them) held here each January. A highlight of that event is the bobsled race, in which locals make homemade bobsleds out of everything from canoes and cardboard boxes to old snowmobiles, then race them down the steepest street in town.

9. Summer in Rossland. Winter’s a bigger draw, but this area is known as the mountain biking capital of Canada. More than 200 kilometers of single track crisscrosses the mountains here. Explore Magazine named it the number one outdoor town in Canada.

10. The exchange rate. A Canadian dollar is worth about 75 cents to the American dollar. It’s like getting everything on sale!

 

If You Go

Getting there:

The Canadian border is currently closed due to COVID-19, but when it reopens, book a flight from Austin to Spokane, then rent a car or buy a seat on the Kootenay Gateway shuttle for the 2.5-hour drive to Rossland, British Columbia. Bring your passport.

Stay:

Book a room at The Josie Hotel, a plush boutique hotel steps from the chairlifts at Red Mountain Resort.

Do:

Ski and snowboard, then head into nearby Rossland for dining and shopping.
Eat and drink: Drop by the Flying Steamshovel Gastropub www.theflyingsteamshovel.com, one of the oldest pubs in British Columbia, for burgers, fish and chips, and that gooey Canadian specialty called poutine (fries, cheese and gravy).

Insider tip:

Pro tip: Don’t miss the Mountain Nugget Chocolate Co. for homemade chocolates.

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