Locals and visitors have always hiked up Red’s flanks since it opened in the late 1920s.
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RED MOUNTAIN, BC — When I first met Howard Katkov, president and CEO of Red Mountain Ventures in 2005, he and a few others had just bought Red Mountain Resort located deep in British Columbia’s Kootenay Mountains – only a short drive away from the Canadian-US border.
What I found so amazing at the time, was that he told me he had fallen in love with the town of Rossland, of which Red is part of its municipal boundaries, and had not even seen the mountain, where the skiing roots stretch back to the late 1920s.
"I had heard so much about this place and the terrific skiing that was available," said Katkov, "that I bought some residential property first. There is just something about the people and the town – I knew that I really wanted my boys to be a part of a community like this."
And then he flicked some snow off the railing of the day lodge and we both watched it lightly float to the ground below. "And this," he said as he flicked the snow, "was the clincher – the terrain and the quality and abundance of the snow."
At Red, it’s always about the terrain and the powder.
Katkov didn’t just buy the resort to own a resort. He had a vision of what a resort like Red could be without compromising the hill’s long history, nor change the unique atmosphere that permeates throughout the town.
"Red will never be a place where you see small, coiffed dogs peaking out from an overpriced, fur-trimmed ski suit. No this place will never be that. You won’t be able to do any shopping up here either; Rossland is a very important component to us and that’s where people can do their shopping.
"And as for backcountry – we don’t need it – it’s right in our backyard. You only have to take a chair up and hike over to Gray Mountain and you are skiing backcountry – in bounds."
This is the start of the fourth season for Katkov and his dedicated staff, and he has kept his word – replacing what needed replacing, improving the existing amenities and building up only just enough.
"We put a 15-year plan in place that is based on environmentally sound practices and will have a total of 4,200 acres of terrain for all levels," said Jim Greene, VP of Operations. "It also included a summer component, making Red an all-season resort destination."
If you’ve heard about Red before and were a little hesitant to visit because it might be above your skiing level, I am here to say, "Get over it, get your skis or your board and get here." This hill is for everyone – not just for ’skiers’ as was its unwarranted reputation for a long time. Plus there are so many off-slope activities to enjoy, it doesn’t matter if you ski or ride.
Behind the quaint exterior of Rossland’s downtown buildings are some excellent dining and nightlife spots.
My most recent trip to Red was a fantastic experience. It has always received an amazing amount of snow and it was here that I decided I would finally break down and learn to ski powder.
I spent my days with Coach Tara as she patiently broke me of leaning in and got me sitting back – all the while telling me to wait, that I would get that dynamic rhythm and then I would know just what skiing pow was all about, I would soon appreciate the addiction.
In the end, it wasn’t pretty but I was definitely pushing through the powder – however I didn’t really get to the Zen moment. Still I was happy and so was she.
In the evenings, it was down to Rossland for the annual winter carnival.
The festival is the oldest winter carnival in Canada. It began in 1897 as a ’tea party’ put on by a Norwegian minor and quickly went down hill from there – literally. I have a few Norwegian friends, and they don’t have to be minors to enjoy their "tea."
Olaus Jeldness would be proud of what his little party has turned into. I have never seen anything quite like it – a huge rail jam going on in the historical downtown, bobsled races down the side streets, a nightly outdoor beer gardens, complete with a bar made of ice, a live band freezing their fingers off and plenty of portable fire pits to keep everyone warm. The Blizzard Music Festival runs in conjunction with the carnival and all I can say is, what an excellent time.
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