GCSA RED Mountain
The night before, lost in the middle of nowhere, Tim made a harmless comment. Maybe we could go to the mountain later, noonish. I lost it: I had been sitting in the car by then for 48 hours and I wanted to snowboard. Not drive, not sleep, not explore, but snowboard.
We woke up at an unreasonable time after an unreasonably short sleep and headed to town. Trail is a small place on both sides of the Columbia, dominated by an enormous hilltop factory that looks like a medieval castle, if the architect/stonemason had decided to make it as scary as possible. The factory does gases of some kind and seems harmless, but it certainly harshes the otherwise very touristable buzz of the town.
We were on the East side of the river (which is the side with the view of the factory). In the summer, a riverside park would have given us access to a beach, but it was mid-February and a damp cold. We hit town to look for food and drink, which we found at Ferraro Foods. Then we drove on the highway up through Rossland (again, super touristy) to RED.
It was Friday by then and I still didn’t expect a lot of people. Who has ever heard of RED Mountain resort? It’s so unknown, Google Maps doesn’t even know there are lifts there.
Still, when we parked, we already had to go to secondary parking. It was fine, as it was close to the lifts, but I was not happy it might be crowded.
RED is slightly odd in layout. The titular Red Mountain is on the far East side of the layout (all North-facing) and is not attracting any visitors. Everybody instead heads to the other two mountains, Granite and Grey.
Because of our parking, we started at Red. The lift, Red was an incredibly uncomfortable two-seater with the hitch in the middle, so that you only had the width of the seat to get on. We tried it twice: the first time, Tim almost fell off; the second one, I managed to get thrown off the chair for good. Fortunately, there was nobody interested in the chair, or I would have felt bad for slowing everybody down.
Now, Red is not terrible. There are great runs coming down, and even the trees look nice, despite being too dense and steep. It’s the kind of place that a local might want to check out: the first few times slow and cautious, and then more and more breaknecky. You know, like the Free Fall Glade at Copper. But we were not in the mood and repaired for better locations.
We hit the base lift to the middle mountain, Granite. Silverlode got us a third of the way up the mountain and was clearly a beginner lift. From there, we could explore the rest of the place. We opted to go for the slow Motherlode that got us to the top of Granite.
And here things started to look up. Motherlode was steep. It ran up a gully and felt like you could touch the rock face without even trying. Tim, who suffers slightly from vertigo, didn’t feel well. Thankfully, this was the only time he needed to get up this particular lift.
At the top, we looked for options. Going back was not one of them, since Tim was freaked out. It was his second season and I confess that face looked intimidating to me after 20 years of snowboarding.
Fortunately, the back side was promising. The main lift there was named Paradise and going down was definitely a hint at what might come there, in paradise. The snow was perfect, the riders were amazing, and the terrain fantastic.
We continued on loops, splitting eventually up because timing was off. I continued going down the trees and had the time of my life. Then we decided to hit the restaurants, which involved getting off to the side.
Here, flat tracks. The nuisance of the snowboarding world. We managed to get to a small place called Constella Clubhouse, but it didn’t have any decent food. Just downhill from there was the actually lodge, Paradise, where we got what we wanted.
Constella was an odd name. It turns out the mountain has created a series of huts, named after constellations, and offers those to wealthy stargazers (or mountain aficionados). Neat idea for people that want first tracks and can afford them.
From there on, we continued looping around the mountain. Eventually, we ran back into the lodge. Back to the AirBnB, with nothing much of a nightlife to look for.
Saturday was definitely not going to be as much fun, as it was going to be crowded. We still got up in time, knowing we had to leave the AirBnB anyway. We continued on Paradise, and hit Grey Mountain, too. That one was not as much fun, probably because the layout was more unidirectional.
We hit the front side lodge, this time, where I learned that paying with a contactless card is not as easy as it sounds. It was rejected and it took me several tries to make it work. Then we split again and I managed to hit Topping Creek lift. All in all, the place was too crowded. I did a run straight down the face of Motherlode and had fun, but it was time to hit the road.
Driving to Revelstoke
One of the annoying things about the trip was that we had to drive during the weekend. That translated into enormously inflated prices for hotels, crowded resorts, and general nuisance. We got into the car and drove off, hugging the Columbia River to Castegar, where we’d cross and follow the Kootenay for a while.
Tim had never been on a ferry and felt uncomfortable driving onto one, so just before town we switched. Google Maps told us there was going to be a ferry, and we could avoid it by driving around town. I found it odd that they ever had a ferry if you could just drive around, but we followed instructions, to find that the “ferry” was a bridge over the river.
We drove away from the Kootenay into the Slocan River valley. So far, the entire drive had been underwhelming. We needed gas, daylight was about to end, but we were not impressed with the Canadian Rockies.
That changed when we got to Slocan Lake. The beauty of this place is simply astounding. In the distance, peaks bathed in the sunset (Mt. Ferrie), to our left mountains rising straight out of the lake, with sides and slopes covered in what looked like vegetational fur. It was serene, and beautiful, and eerie.
It got dark around here, before we hit New Denver. We passed the microscopic Summit Lake Ski and Snowboard Area into a dark Nakusp, the last settlement before the undoubted ferry.
We made it out there, me back at the steering wheel. The signage seemed to be very concerned about safety, which surprised us until we saw it was a steep drop down to the terminal at Galena Bay.
We parked the car behind a Jeep from Washington State. We checked the time table and we apparently just missed a ferry, the next one would make it in a half hour.
While we waited, a gentleman knocked on the car’s side window. I opened the door to figure out what was going on and a stream of strange words came out of the man’s mouth. I was perplexed, wondering what language he was speaking. It turns out he was Ukrainian and had seen the Slava Ukraini sticker on the back of my car and assumed I was from there. We chuckled and I wish him the best of luck and his nation victory.
We waited for the half hour. The ferry arrived, smooth as silk on the perfectly still lake. It was a shame we hadn’t made it during daylight hours, as that would have been an amazing ride.
Instead, it was dark. We couldn’t see our terminal, we couldn’t see the other side. We couldn’t even tell we were moving, as the process was so smooth and the engines so quiet. We got out of the car, snooped around, and got back in when we were cold.
Then we hit the other terminal. Again, we felt nothing. It was as if the ferry was still moving. The gates opened and we all drove off into the night.
Sadly, from here on the snow hit us. We could barely see anything and only haltingly made it into Revelstoke.
Alpine Inn & Suites
We got into town and immediately parked at the hotel. We got in to check in, only to find out that the clerk thought we had already checked in. I said, obviously not, since we just got into town. He checked his records and showed me the check-in sheet, signed by … someone. I asked him if the signature even remotely looked like it matched my last name, and he granted that nope.
He went on to check. He called the room, but the occupants were either not there or didn’t answer the phone. He checked the other outstanding reservations to figure out if he could hand out somebody else’s room (if the were to no-show). No such luck.
I knew from the original search that finding a room in Revelstoke this Saturday night was going to be impossible and was starting to despair. Maybe we’d have to drive on to some outlying location?
Finally, we figured out what happened. The owner of the place had checked in a couple into our room. The clerk then walked to the room and knocked on the door, where he informed the guests that they were in the wrong room. They asked if they could stay where they were and the clerk came back. Apparently, they had booked and paid for a one bedroom suite with kitchen, and since they didn’t want to switch, we’d get to enjoy it!
Revelstoke on Saturday
The drive to the resort from town is short and sweet. Even on a snow morning it was not a problem, and we were packed and ready by opening hour. We found parking, we geared up, and we walked.
Question: would our passes work straight on the lift, or would we have to get a pass like we had at RED Mountain? The line at the ticket counter was bad enough, I tried at the rental shop. The employee there was about the nicest human being you could imagine and immediately started hunting down the answer for us. After a short while, he came back with good news and bad news.
The good news was that we could just board the gondola, no day passes required. The bad news was that this was a holiday in Canada (Family Week) and that it was an IKON blackout date. So we were welcome to ride any day, except fot this one.
Now, the blame falls squarely on me. I thought the blackout date in February was Presidents’ Day, which is around the Valentine’s Day weekend. I don’t know the formula too well and planned the trip for the wrong weekend. The holiday weekend. That was pretty dumb, especially because there are only two holiday weekends that are blacked out all winter. Sigh.
We had to leave. I was furious, but had nobody to blame but myself, which made me quiet down. We left the place and spent the day in town while the entire population of Canada was on the slopes. And half the US population, too.
In the end, we got lucky. The fact we needed day tickets at RED Mountain had seemed a nuisance, but it allowed us to get two-day passes, and one of those days happened to be a blackout day. So while we couldn’t snowboard at Revelstoke, we had gotten the second day at RED for free!
We spent as much time as we could in town, but by 14:00 it was time to leave. Shout out to the delightful Modern Bakeshop and Cafe, which served amazing food and drink (despite being more old-timey than the name suggests) and to The Annex, which had a great selection of Revelstoke shirts.
Off to Golden!
We drove away in the early afternoon and continued to follow CA Highway 1 – the Trans Canada Highway. It wasn’t much for a trans-Canada affair, and the hideous amounts of snow were good for the slopes but not for the road.
Eventually, we made it into Golden. Since we are from the West Denver area, the name of the place amuses us, as Golden is the tourist trap-cum-college town just North of here.
The last part of the drive was the best, in a broad valley that was mostly snow free. We arrived too early to check-in, but not by much, and decided to check out town.
Golden sits at the confluence of the Kicking Horse River with the mighty (not so much here) Columbia. We parked right there, heading to a large cafe called Bluebird that served decent fare and coffee.
We could have hit up the two main tourist sites – both bridges – but we were pooped and daylight was waning. We went instead to one of the few open stores in town, the delightful Bacchus book store.
From there to the hotel, the Golden Village Lodge.
Now, the main draw of the place is the insane views across the valley to the mountains. You can see the runs of Kicking Horse Resort from apparently every single room!
That part was great (although it didn’t do us any good unto the morning). The downside was that the hot tub was cold, and we had been looking forward to it all day and paid for it months in advance.
Otherwise, the place was great. The Indian restaurant that is part of the complex has great food, and parking was easy. The highway noise was not bad, at all, and staff was friendly. [next]