"My wife is on the city council nowadays. That means that I can't leave here anymore." Our Snow Host Mike says it with a smile that goes from ear to ear. We get it. Mike is a skier. Seventeen years ago he retired early and every year he skies for about 60-80 days in Red Mountain. He devotes a part of those days to guiding visitors (us in this case) around "his" mountain. "I have been skiing here for at least 1500 days, so I dare to say that I know how to get around a little by now. And he was right.
Red Mountain is the ski resort near the authentic and vibrant town of Rossland. We stay in Red Mountain Resort however, close to the lift in the Nowhere Special Hostel. This hostel fits perfectly with the area, back to basics with a good vibe. Red's history goes way back. According to many, it is even the birthplace of skiing in western Canada. The Red Mountain ski club has produced many Olympians and in 1947 Canada's first-ever chairlift was opened here. That was not a coincidence, but more about that later.
Mike guides us around the area. Like many ski resorts in North America, it is true that you "should never judge the book by the cover". If you do that then you may not be impressed. However, the eight lifts open up a terrain that will keep you busy you for weeks or even months. You actually only use five of those eight lifts, because the lift to Red Mountain (1590 meters) itself, which has been there since 1973 as a replacement for that first chairlift from 1947, mainly opens up a number of mogul fields and offers the least variation.
The area actually consists of two mountains (the 2075 meter high Granite Mountain and the 2048 meter high Gray Mountain) that you can both descend from all directions. Or at least, that is especially true for Granite. You can not descend Grey 360 degrees according to Mike, but 340 degrees. If you decide to descend the remaining 20 degrees, you will get 'all your vertical at once' and you will arrive at the 'Canadian Winter Camping, where reservations are not required, but a stay for a night mandatory', Mike says with a wink . Fortunately, we don't even have a tendency to go under the rope (and the rope behind it), because the rest of the mountain looks more than attractive.
Red Mountain is all about combining tree skiing with open fields. Many of the slopes are perfect for riding among the trees. A good angle in combination with trees that stand perfectly apart and very wide flanks that you can continue to lap. An average descent in Red is around 700-900 meters of vertical, of which at least 500-700 are real skiing or boarding. No endless paths back to the lift, but just the vertical that you come for. We ride down on slopes that listen to names such as Powder Fields, the Chutes and Booty's Run.
There are hardly any crowds on the mountain and at the lifts. Yes, the locals are at the lift on a real powder day. The approximately 3000 inhabitants of Rossland are also the most loyal customers of the ski area. On an average day, about 600 people are riding the terrain in Red Mountain. They spread over the countless runs (and undeclared runs), so you often have the feeling that you are alone. Compare that with an average day in a somewhat larger Austrian area where about 13,000 people are skiing and snowboarding per day! Then you immediately understand that fast chairlifts and snow cannons are not needed here. No, here it is back to basics. Back to what it's really about: skiing and snowboarding.
When the base in Red Mountain is approximately 1.75-2 meters thick, the cat skiing begins. From Mount Gray a snowcat goes to Mount Kirkup six times a day. Here too, treeruns, open fields and other nice terrain. Not too difficult, but exclusive, because up to 72 people a day go up. Costs? A pittance, because you can go up for CAD $ 10 per person.
How is it possible that it is not busier in Red Mountain? Simple, that is because of the location. It is so far away from the big cities with their airports (Vancouver and Calgary) that hardly anyone thinks it is possible to visit Red Mountain for a weekend. It is simply too far to drive. People who ski and board here really choose consciously. Just like the people who live in Rossland have consciously chosen to live here. It creates a unique atmosphere in the town, where, according to Mike, "nobody cares what you do in daily life, what matters are your passions, what really drives you, age does not play any role here, neither what your title or function is."
Back to that first Canadian chairlift. At the beginning of the 20th century, gold and copper were found in Red Mountain. Nowadays, they're not looking for gold and copper in Red Mountain anymore. They find the white gold, but it has played a role in the creation of the lift. The company's employees (the smelter from that time is still operating in nearby Trail and employing 1500 people from the region) simply sought after-work relaxation and as the region was rich in engineers and other technicians it is no coincidence that a chairlift was built here.
The conditions during our day at Red Mountain were very good. Nice soft snow, within the boundary, without having to hike a meter. We end the day with a beer in the cozy daylodge and we have a burger in the Flying Steam Shovel, the place to be in Rossland, in the evening. The conclusion is simple: go off the beaten track, choose to visit Red and Rossland and you will be rewarded by one of the purest ski resorts in Canada.