Passing Through: Red Mountain

With new expansion and old character, Red keeps it real

PHOTO: Dave Heath

Seven and a half hours east of Vancouver and a snowball’s throw from the Canada-U.S. border rests one of the most fabled ski towns in the Great White North: Rossland, BC. The town, which originated as a hustling and bustling mining utopia during the gold rush, boasts about as much character as you could ask for in a mountain setting, with an eclectic mix of friendly locals, historic 1800’s-style buildings, and gingerbread ski chalets resting comfortably on steep slopes. Now that the gold is gone from them hills though, the crown jewel of the area is nearby Red Mountain Resort, which overlooks Rossland like a pillar of the past, although its future is extremely bright.

There’s a lot of talk about Red in the ski world these days, and for good reason. With roughly 3,000 acres of diverse skiable terrain (complemented by a 360 degree fall line) thanks to their gargantuan expansion to include Grey Mountain a few years prior (the biggest ski area expansion in 30 years), affordable lodging and lift tickets, and the absence of the glitz, glam and noses in the air, Red and nearby Rossland offer a refreshing small-town ski experience, and it’s more than worth the jaunt to get there.

Powder hounds should shoot first and ask questions later in the aptly named Powderfields. Bump bashers should pound their way down Gambler and The Slides. Cruisers of speeds slow and fast should rock the roller coaster that is Main Run, and those looking to get gnar will find as much as they can handle and more off the backsides of Granite and Grey, along with the showboating Link’s Line. But of all the things that Red is known for, its steep, deep and needle-tight trees are the most unparalleled. So for the knee-knocking and smile-inducing rides of your life, feed your frenzy on classics like Pale Face, Sara’s Chute, Cambodia, Golden Chariot Wing, the Coolers and a host of others. And just like The Big Apple, don’t be afraid to ask the locals.

Thanks to the aforementioned expansion, which has helped spread skiers all over the resort, long lines are a rarity at Red, and the new terrain on Grey Mountain is a seemingly empty and endless playground. With wide open groomers, high alpine bowls, pillow-soft meadows and snaggletooth terrain that would make Jackson Hole stalwarts proud, one can spend a week camped out on this lift and barely scratch the surface. And don’t miss out on the Red Mountain chair, where you can take a straight shot at Rossland on Sally’s Alley, which is the place to be when the sun is shining and the snow is soft.

Once hailed by POWDER as the #1 Ski Town Bar in North America, Rafters Lounge on the top floor of the day lodge simply can’t be beat after an unforgettable day beating your friends down the hill. With a variety of beers to belch, mouth-watering nachos, and ski museum-like decor, a trip to Red is incomplete without some quality time spent at this classic bar. And while its well known for its après antics and adventures, it comes just as alive at night, with live music, wild dancing, bar-wide sing-a-longs and general carousing at its finest.

At the base of the mountain, hit up Gabriella’s for savory pasta and The Rock Cut for oversized chicken wings, but be sure to make the five-minute pilgrimage to nearby Rossland to take in the local fare, with highlights including The Garage, Misty Mountain Pizza, and The Flying Steamshovel (the premier watering hole in town, and home of Punk Rock Bingo and a big-ass Neglin log). And if you’re feeling spry, and Italian, take the 10-minute trek down the hill to Trail and gorge on the best spaghetti you’ll ever eat at The Colander. Seriously.

Plush accommodations at the base of the mountain are getting more plentiful by the year, so be sure to contact the resort for a host of options, ranging from four-star hotel rooms to wooden ski-filled condos. If you’re looking to stay down the road in Rossland, the Prestige lives up to its name, while those on a budget can keep it cozy at the Casa Alpina Motel.