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A Few Days in Rossland, BC - A Must-Stop on the Powder Highway

If this town of less than 4,000 friendly folks doesn’t charm your socks off, the terrain at RED Mountain Resort sure will.

By: Kyle Frost + Save to a List

RED Mountain, located in Rossland, BC,  might not be the best spot for a “ski” vacation that consists mostly of riding groomers, sitting in the hot tub and après that starts at brunch. However, if you’re looking for a SKI vacation, and a mountain with steep, challenging terrain, deep pow, short lift lines, and tired legs -- all paired with a charming ski town, you’re at the right place. This is a mountain built by skiers, for skiers.

Cat Skiing - Big Red Cats

We started our time in Rossland with a trip with Big Red Cats, a local cat-skiing operation that accesses over 19,300 acres  acres of the local mountains. Grab breakfast at Cat-puccino at the base of the ski hill (and next door to the Big Red Cats office), and then shuttle to the staging area where your group will get 8-10 runs of hopefully blower Kootenay powder. You won’t find the most gnarly steep lines at this operation, but with such a huge quantity of terrain, you’re pretty much guaranteed to have fresh tracks any day of the week. They split groups in to intermediate, advanced, and expert. It's a dialed operation, and the runs are sure to leave you grinning all day.

Ski - RED Mountain Resort

There’s something delightfully old-school about RED Mountain. Show up, park anywhere and get going.  The base area is simple...some lockers, ticket sales, Rafters (for après), and the lifts. Don’t stop until your legs do. Highlights for us included Powderfields, Ledges, Slides, and Beer Belly — as well as "Poochies" off the Red Mountain chair. It’s easy to see why the locals here can rip. Wherever you are on the mountain, you’ll find cliff bands and kickers, and someone sending it HARD. With tons of pow every year, the days here can be the ultimate steep and deep skiing.

One unique aspect about RED is all the small cabins located across the mountain. There are nine cabins within the bounds of the resort, a remembrance of days past and the history of skiing in Rossland. If you can find it, stop by the "Yodel Inn", built in 1944. It's the place where Wake Williams lives over 200 days a year -- often times skinning up the mountain after the lifts close. If the prayer flags are out, Wake is in, and he'd love if you stopped by for a chat and maybe a glass of wine.

At 4200 acres, RED is surprisingly one of the largest resorts in North America (at #8, it's bigger than Squaw, Mammoth and everything in Colorado besides Vail). Expansions have added cat-skiing access to Kirkup Mountain from the top of the resort  ($10 a pop), and access to Gray Peak in 2013. And, it's about to get bigger, with the addition of the Topping Chair for the 19/20 season, adding 300 new acres.

RED seems like a prime target for acquisition by one of the big players in the industry. However, a few years ago the resort decided to offer skiers and boarders the opportunity to invest directly in the future of RED (a la the Green Bay Packers).  Their goal was to preserve the authenticity of the resort, and keep the community involved. Word on the street is that RED has no plans to join one of the mega ski passes -- but no worries, a lift ticket is still under $100 CAD (around $75 USD).

Stay - The Josie Hotel

 The Josie Hotel is a new addition to the RED base area. This hotel opened in the fall, with a hip, modern vibe — hoping to bring more travelers to Rossland, and offer more upscale accommodations than the humble Rossland has been typically known for. After a stay here, I’d have to say it delivers. Between the mountain modern decor, the slope side location (you’re literally 30 seconds from the lift) and the mountain views from most rooms, you’d be hard pressed to want anything more.

Also new to Rossland is the Nowhere Special Hostel, located at the base area just a minutes walk from the Josie. With multiple room options from dorms to privates, it's an excellent option for more budget-focused travelers who still want to be a 2-minute walk from the lift.

Eat - The Velvet Restaurant and Lounge

With the Josie comes the Velvet Restaurant, where Executive Chef Marc-Andre Choquette serves up delicious menu of fresh, seasonal, and sustainably sourced dishes. Since opening, the Velvet has become a hot spot not only for hotel guests, but locals as well. And no need to worry, every dish is sufficiently instagrammable, if you're into that sort of thing :)

After a long day of skiing when your legs turn to jello, stop by Rafters for après. This bar at the base area is THE place to be. Don't even think about going anywhere else. If you’re looking for a true local haunt in town, be sure to swing by the Rossland Beer Company, and then grab dinner at The Flying Steamshovel (or just "The Shovel" as locals call it). Don't miss playing the local version of "stump", which is locally known as "Neglin". Beers, hammers, nails, what could go wrong?

Getting there

Most people will opt to fly into Spokane and rent a car (an easy 2.5hr drive) -- the drive is flat (no passes) and scenic. Cranbrook is another option (about a 3hr drive). Apparently it's also possible to fly into Castlegar, but the locals call it "Cancelgar", so keep that in mind.

Rossland is also very accessible by car from the west coast. It's only a 6.5 hour drive from Seattle and 7 from Vancouver.

Where to next?

Looking to extend your Powder Highway tour after RED? Nelson and the resort of Whitewater is only an hour away.

We want to acknowledge and thank the past, present, and future generations of all Native Nations and Indigenous Peoples whose ancestral lands we travel, explore, and play on. Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures and follow local regulations. Please explore responsibly!

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