What’s a skier to do when in search of world-class powder without the wearisome lines? I’ll let you in on a little secret: RED Mountain Resort—just a hop, skip, and a jump north of the border
As a former ski and snowboard event planner, I once organized trips to western Canada’s top ski resorts. Having visited every other stop on British Columbia’s famed Powder Highway, it was about time I discovered “the last great, unspoiled resort”—RED Mountain Resort in Rossland, B.C., the heart of the beautiful Kootenay Rockies.
Lines and commotion fill the departures level of San Jose International Airport when I ready myself to fly out for a weekend of hitting the slopes. Just a few hours later, I land at the Spokane International Airport in Washington, strikingly quiet and secluded. I step outside and take a deep breath, inhaling the crisp, cool air. Bliss. It’s sunny but 50 degrees, which means the winter jacket that’s been tucked away in my closet gets to make a rare appearance. I board the shuttle bus that will take me and my compatriots to Rossland, a little under three hours away. Our motley crew—would-be skiers and snowboarders from Colorado, New York, Rhode Island, and Vancouver—excitedly volley snow forecasts back and forth.
Snow-dusted mountaintops begin to emerge as we wind our way down the highway, nearing the U.S.-Canada border. Less than 10 minutes after a quick stop to stretch our legs (and to go through customs), we pull off the highway and begin making our way slowly past tall snowbanks. The Josie Hotel appears around a corner, glowing warmly amid milky surroundings. Outside, the last of the day’s skiers and snowboarders trickle across the grounds, carrying their equipment to the slopeside hotel’s ski concierge. Inside, cozy leather couches and two ruby red benches, repurposed from vintage chairlifts, dot the lobby. If you’re lucky, you’ll meet Russell, The Josie’s resident canine, an impossibly large and fluffy Bernese Mountain Dog.
“We’re getting seven inches of snow tonight,” the concierge confirms with excitement as she leads me to my room. The spacious corner suite offers a breathtaking view of RED Mountain Resort’s three mountains—Granite, Grey, and Red—plus the Silverlode Chairlift, just steps from The Josie’s doors. Away from the constant hustle and bustle of Silicon Valley, a comforting sense of calm falls over me, much like the snow that will blanket this small ski town by tomorrow morning.
With a population of fewer than 4,000 and not a single traffic light in town, the City of Rossland is the epitome of a community-oriented, yet-to-be-gentrified ski destination. In fact, while spending the day discovering RED’s extensive terrain with my “snow host” Tom (a complimentary service provided by the resort), it seems he’s almost reluctant for the secret of RED to slip out. Rossland-born, he moved to the nearby province of Alberta and returned to his hometown in the pursuit of powder following retirement. Now 70 years of age, he’s still enamored by its quaint charm.
“Have you seen the Kurt Russell movie Miracle? Rossland stood in for Lake Placid in it,” he says proudly. He shares Rossland’s rich heritage as a historic mining town founded 123 years ago during the gold rush. Its population exploded when prospectors from around the world flocked to Rossland, making it one of the largest cities in Western Canada at one time.
Tom remarks that a full day of skiing at the resort truly consists of just that—not time spent in endless lines. Rossland’s longtime mayor, Kathy Moore, shares the same sentiments. Over dinner at the Flying Steamshovel Gastropub—a local favorite for comfort food such as house-made elk burgers and mac and cheese with brown butter taleggio mornay sauce—she tells us that she first moved to the town in 1989, discovering that Rossland offered the best tree skiing you could access without a helicopter. Now, more than 30 years later, the expansive terrain continues to thrill and challenge skiers of higher levels. She recalls an impromptu jump off a cliff from the day before—what some skiers might refer to fondly as a “yard sale”—and recounts the amount of times she has broken her back (seven!). Luckily, there’s plenty of green runs at RED for beginners, too.
RED is ranked #1 for the most acres per skier, meaning those seeking fresh tracks won’t ever be disappointed. The resort has 119 runs spread across its three mountains, with eight chairlifts servicing access to 3,850 skiable acres over 2,919 feet of vertical terrain. From wide groomers to deep powder runs, there’s terrain for everyone: 17 percent beginner, 34 percent intermediate, 23 percent advanced, and 26 percent expert, to be exact. Despite this being one of the biggest snowfalls all season, I’m able to ski right up and ride the lifts the entire weekend. Even the first chair of the day at RED still moves quicker than the midday lines at other resorts. Add in 300 inches of annual snowfall, and this hidden gem sounds almost too good to be true—but it isn’t.
For experienced skiers (with levels from intermediate up to über-expert), Rossland is also home to Big Red Cats. The only snowcat skiing operation in British Columbia that offers separately guided trips for different skill levels, Big Red Cats opens the opportunity to explore an additional 19,300 acres of some of the best tree skiing and glades in the world. Want to try cat skiing but not quite ready to take on the backcountry? RED offers legendary $10-a-run cat skiing on Mount Kirkup. The terrain in this area offers open runs, tree skiing, and rolling advanced terrain, perfect for skiers and snowboarders comfortable with blue and black ungroomed runs.
Even after the chairs close, the festivities continue. After an exhilarating day on the mountain, The Josie’s guests can drop their equipment off at the ski concierge located next to The Velvet Restaurant and enjoy Executive Chef Marc-Andre Choquette’s French-influenced dishes and locally-inspired drink creations, complemented by stunning views of the mountainside. Don’t miss the signature French onion soup, for which Kootenay residents have been known to drive in especially. On Fridays, après-ski raclette is also offered on the outdoor patio, with warm mugs of mulled wine to complement the melted cheese served over warmed potatoes and gherkins.
The Josie also boasts an Aveda Concept Spa, featuring luxurious hot stone and chakra balancing massages on its treatment menu. Hotel guests can luxuriate in the hotel’s new panoramic, slopeside, cedar barrel saunas—which feel like basking inside a warm and toasty snow globe with an unfettered view of the mountains—to relax muscles and improve circulation after a day on the slopes.
At the end of a trip to Rossland, one is guaranteed to feel utterly restored in the way that only an exhaustive weekend of gliding through sprays of glittering powder under bluebird skies can elicit. However, while Rossland offers a bounty of adventure, there’s also its small-town charm (and priceless quality of feeling undiscovered) to be extolled. Once a destination for gold-hungry prospectors, Rossland now brings explorers around the world for a different kind of rush.