- Resorts: Red Mountain & Whitewater
- Trip Dates: February 28 – March 3, 2023
- Ski Days: Wednesday, Thursday, Friday
- Day 1 (Red Mountain): 2 inches, partly cloudy all day (10 inches total in the past five days)
- Day 2 (Red Mountain): 2 inches, snowing all day
- Day 3 (Whitewater)): 10 inches, snow flurries
Day 1: Spokane to Rossland
I flew into Spokane International Airport, picked up my rental car (thanks to Budget for the free upgrade to large AWD SUV – I needed it!) and hit the road.
The drive from Spokane to Rossland is pretty straightforward. As promised on RedResort.com’s “How to Get Here” webpage, there were no crazy mountain passes and things were pretty flat overall. (You always gotta be careful with those marketing departments!) Some sections were a little less plowed than Colorado or Utah visitors might be used to, and you do have to cross the border, but neither were big hangups at all.
Door to door, I pulled into my hotel in less than 3 hours.
However, once in Rossland, the AWD definitely came in handy. Some of the roads around town were quite snowy and steep, and I’d have been a little stressed without the extra gripping firepower.
Day 2: Checking out Red Mountain!
Overnight, Red received about an inch of snow. (Or roughly 3 centimeters as my new Canadian friends would put it.)
But more importantly, the mountain had now received somewhere around 10 inches over several small storms in the past 5 days. End result? SOFT surface conditions.
I was originally nervous about the morning overcast and fog, especially after my scary whiteout trip to Whitefish a few years ago. But after my first chair ride up in the morning, my jaw hit the floor. Midway up the mountain, the clouds parted and revealed an absolutely stunning view of the morning sunrise and inverted clouds.
I kicked off my trip with a fantastic and deep run down Sally’s Ally, which feels like you’re on the edge of a cliff overlooking the towns of Rossland and Trail. The snow was deep and soft, and wow, what a taste of things to come!
I then headed up Red’s legendary Motherlode Chair. This is the main artery up the mountain, and it’s every bit as slow as advertised. The total ride up takes somewhere around 15 minutes, but again, the top rewarded me with unbelievable morning views of the sunrise and morning clouds, plus beautiful white tree snow ghosts!
I spent most of the morning lapping the runs under Paradise Chair. And what a perfectly named chair!
Gambler was filled with incredible, deep, and still mostly unskied powder. Ruby Tuesday was a nice, steep, black groome, and given the conditions it was riding very soft and very fun, and there’s even quite a few trees and ungroomed terrain to pop in and out of.
The conditions off Paradise were so good that I could have spent all day here, but in the interest of familiarizing myself with the mountain, I kept the adventure moving.
I then headed over Grey Mountain Chair. The top of this lift had even more white, fluffy trees, which was a bit of foreshadowing to what might have been the softest and deepest snow on the mountain. I enjoyed a few laps of Corduroy, Juiced, and the liftline, which were all filled with huge, soft moguls.
Next stop: Toppling Creek Chair. This is a relatively short chair (although, since Red only has slow lifts, it still takes a while to get to the top!) that services gentle blue terrain. Many of these runs seem like they could have been greens, but I still had a great time hopping into still untracked snow in the ungroomed sections and between the trees.
By this time, it was already 2:00 PM, so I ended the day heading back to my two favorite parts of the mountain so far – Paradise and Red Chair. I ended the day with a few nice laps on each, as the snow started falling again.
First Day Ski Stats:
- Total Runs: 20 runs
- Total Vertical: 25,564 ft.
- Run of the day: Sally’s Alley for an incredible sunrise view, or Gambler for perfect powder.
Evening Thoughts about Red
First impressions of Red? This is a huge mountian, with only a few slow chairlifts. So, while I had checked out all the chairs in one day, I still felt like I’d barely scratched the surface of all the terrain those chairs serviced. Somebody could easily spend a lifetime here, especially if conditions remained as good as I’d experienced today!
Day 3: Skiing Red with the Locals!
If there’s an award for friendliest locals, Red wins it handedly.
At this point in my life, I can count on one hand the number of times chairlift chats have led to skiing a run with somebody. At Red, it happened all day!
This second day of skiing started with some seriously low clouds and awful visibility, so I headed to Toppling Creek chair where I could stay below the fog. But while there, I met an incredible friendly guy from Quebec, whose son works at Red Mountain. To my surprise, he offered to show me some tree runs, and next thing I know, I’m skiing with him (and eventually, his son, too!) through lunch.
We started by lapping some of the trees underneath Topping Creek. This is usually a “beginner” section of the mountain, so the densely trees were completely untouched.
From there, we headed up Gray Chair, where we encountered even deeper trees around Cory’s Run and Shulz Trees. Despite the snow report saying we’d “only” received 2 inches overnight, we found ourselves skiing thigh-deep snow in the midst of these tree runs.
Around 11 AM, we headed to the front side to meet my new Canadian friend’s son, who had an hour “ride break” from his job in the village. So, over the next hour, we headed up Red Chair and lapped War Eagle and its trees. To nobody’s surprise, these skied fantastic and much deeper than advertised, although this legitimate double black terrain was starting to push the edge of my abilities, and not to mention – conditioning!
By lunch time, my legs sufficiently fried, I thanked my new friends for the unexpected tour and headed back up Motherlode Chair, promising myself not to let these friendly Canadians drag me into more double black terrain.
Famous last words…
While on Motherlode, I immediately met yet another friendly local! This one was born and raised in Rossland, and she’d been hoping to find someone to ski the trees with her. Who am I to say no?
She quickly navigated me down the Powder Fields Traverse and into the legendary Powder Fields, which opened up to some of the most pillow-soft and perfectly spaced tree skiing I’ve ever come across. Make no mistake, these were incredible conditions, with each turn approaching face shot as we skied knee-deep powder.
What was that they said about 2 inches overnight?
My new best friend next offered to take me down High Spirits, which is located along the expert’s side of Granite Mountain, and the only aspect of the resort I hadn’t skied yet. And yet again, this run opened up to wide open trees, incredible deep and pillowy fields of powder, and just some of the best skiing anywhere.
If my legs were toast before, they were burnt stew by now.
Again, I thanked my unexpected tour guide and offered my poor description of the secret Gray Mountain trees (that I’d skied earlier in the day) as a token of my appreciation. She went off in search of that pow, and I headed over to Paradise Chair for few last runs before closing.
By this point, it was quite foggy and cold, and Paradise was almost completely vacant. While skiing down the usually popular Ruby Tuesday, I stopped for a moment and noticed not a single soul within miles. I paused and listened to the silence, reminding myself what a beautiful place the mountains can be.
Second Day Ski Stats
- Total Runs: 20 runs
- Total Vertical: 26,714 ft.
- Run of the day: Powder Fields
Evening Drive to Nelson, BC
Around 3:30 PM, I called it a day and headed to the car. To my surprise, enough snow had fallen throughout the day that the gravel parking lot was now covered in white, so I skied down the sidewalk, across the parking lot, and right to my car. I guess that’s how you know it was a good day!
I then drove from the Red Mountain parking lot to Nelson, BC. Although it was snowing slightly, the drive was pretty uneventful, other than the beautiful views of the Columbia River along the way. In just over an hour, I’d checked into my new hotel in Nelson, legs totally fried yet excited for tomorrow at Whitewater.
Day 4: Powder Day at Whitewater!
Whitewater sits about 30 minutes outside of Nelson, with an unrelenting uphill access road.
It was snow packed on my visit, and I suspect it stays that way all winter long. Although there weren’t any crazy drop offs or canyon plummets, I was still thankful for the All Wheel Drive!
Pulling into the Whitewater base, and the vibe is immediate.
One base lodge, three lifts, and a whole lot of locals. I once heard Whitewater described, “like Alta, but 20 years ago,” and I could immediately see the resemblance.
I was surprised at the 5-minute lift line for Summit Chair, until I boarded said Summit Chair and talked to a local.
“What a day!” they said, before explaining that they lived in Nelson and their work adhered to the town’s legendary “20 centimeter rule” – if Whitewater gets more than 20 cms in a 24 hours period, most employers allow their staff to take the morning off any go skiing. (They just have to be back by 1:00 PM)
As it seemed, nearly the whole town was adhering to the 20 CM rule, so Summit Chair and Glory Ridge both had ~5 minute lines all morning. But I didn’t mind in the slightest, because the skiing was worth the wait!
I took a few warm up runs down the Bonanza and Sleeper Ski Way, both blue runs which I suspect are typically groomed, but today were instead filled with at least a foot of snow.
On my third lift up, I was joined by a ski instructor who was explaining the day’s plans to her students. According to this instructor, the best approach to Whitewater on a Powder Day is to take Summit Chair to the top, then ski down some of the easier runs like Claim Jumper and Morning Glory, dabbling into the powder to check out conditions on your way down. If all goes well, you can spend a few laps skiing powder along Glory Ridge, before heading back to the front side to harvest the goods there. And to end your day, finish with the Silver King Chair – since the runs are shorter and the locals overlook this side of the mountain, you can find some good end of day stashes after your legs are tired.
And that’s exactly what I did for the rest of the day, snow falling off and on all day long.
Halfway along the way, I took Glory Ridge up with another set of friendly locals, who took me down Glory Basin into Dynamite, which was again some unexpected and incredible thigh-deep snow – probably my deepest of the trip.
And as instructed, I ended the day lapping Silver King – having a blast finding mostly untracked snow off Jackpot and the Concentrator Trees all the way until 4:00 PM.
- Total Runs: 23 runs
- Total Vertical: 25,613 ft.
- Run of the day: Glory Ridge/Dynamite with the locals, or Jackpot/Concentrator Trees.
Day 5: Nelson to Spokane
On Saturday, I begrudgingly started my travel day back.
Nelson to Spokane is a little less than 4 hours of driving. Despite a few snow pockets, everything went according to plan, and I spent most of my time reminiscing about the trip.
Red and Whitewater’s little pocket of interior B.C., along with their authentic ski towns, are a special place in the world of skiing.
It’s a different type of skiing – the old, slow chairlifts and general lack of infrastructure feels like a step back in time – but patient travelers are rewarded with a more laid-back approach to the mountain, mixed with a vibe that’s uniquely B.C.
I’m sure I’ll find my way back!