Red Rocks

Where they once mined for minerals, winter enthusiasts mine for pow at Red Mountain

Aaron Theisen

The story of skiing at Red Mountain Resort in the Kootenays of southeast British Columbia, is written in stone.

In 1890, miners discovered deposits of gold-copper ore on the south side of Red Mountain. In 1897, well before Red Mountain was, well, Red Mountain, Norwegian mining engineer Olaus Jeldness, known as the Father of Competitive Skiing in Canada, organized (and won) a ski race from the peak to downtown Rossland—Canada’s first recorded ski competition.

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As Red has gone from luring hardrock miners to hardcore skiers, that blue-collar ethic still dominates.

No high-speed chairlifts or heated sidewalks here. It’s the skiing that matters most, and, acre-for-acre, nearby Red Mountain boasts perhaps the best, most expansive ski terrain in the region.

A trio of chiseled peaks—Red, Granite and Grey—comprise the terrain at Red Mountain. Experts will enjoy the steep rock chutes and a dizzying network of runs; beginners and intermediate riders, the mellow glades of Paradise or Grey Mountain. At approximately 4200 acres, Red is the size of Jackson Hole—at about half the cost, and with none of the locals-only airs.

The locals share secrets

Red Mountain Resort
Photo: Aaron Theisen

In fact, Red Mountain Resort welcomes powder pilgrims from the States (and elsewhere) with open arms.

Here, locals willingly share their stashes. On my most recent visit, a pair of chairlift buddies, local snowboarders both, give me the lift-ride-length insider’s guide to the resort. (Their vote for the resort’s best-kept secret? The open glades of Grey Mountain, which the resort added to its tenure a few seasons ago.)

Then, later in the day, Ryan LaChapelle, Events Coordinator for the resort, gives me a tour of the choose-your-own-adventure terrain of Granite Mountain, which boasts 360 degrees of skiing and nearly 3000 feet of vertical. We scoot over to the Slides trio of fall-line drops. But we could have just as easily dropped the double-black chutes of Coolers or the open trees of Powder Fields.

The sharing continues after last chair, at Rafters Lounge: attracted by a plate of pulled-pork nachos (a must-order item), a steady stream of locals stop at our corner spot at the bar-top. Ryan knows everyone. But everyone knows everyone, it seems. For those looking to blend in with the locals—or at least catch a great meal and a reliable slate of live music—Rafters is a good place to start.

Unspoiled resort is still independent

Red Mountain Resort
Photo: Ryan Flett

Perhaps the most striking example of the community and its blue-collar, skiing-first spirit is the success of Red Mountain Resort’s “Own the Mountain” crowdfunding campaign. Like the first miners of a century ago, donors from around the globe have staked their claim in the future of Red Mountain, having raised nearly $2,000,000 to keep the mountain independent. Whether sharing a bar table or a black diamond run, it’s clear: skiers and snowboarders here want to keep the mountain in good hands—theirs.

Having checked in at the Prestige Mountain Resort in downtown Rossland, I wander the steeply angled streets toward dinner at the Flying Steamshovel. It’s quiet downtown, as it is on all my visits to Rossland; the town is decidedly less rowdy than during its gold-crazy heyday. But a powder day is forecast for the next morning, and skiers and snowboarders here have only one thing in mind: mining some turns on their local mountain.

If you go

For more information about Red Mountain and to start planning your own powder mining expedition, head to the official website.

Contact Red Mountain at: 1-800-663-0105 or, 1-250-362-7384

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