As the Bull Wheel Turns: Enjoying Canadian skiing
February 11, 2012
This is the second and final part on Curtis Fong’s journey to the North American Snowsports Journalist Association’s annual Western Winter Summit in British Columbia. The first part can be found here: http://bit.ly/w8AXMD
Red Mountain is just a few miles north of the Washington-Canadian Border, which includes a 20-question interrogation when crossing the boarder. But, once there you will find a great skiers mountain that receives an average of 300″ of snow a year, and offering a big drop with over 2,900 vertical feet on 4,200 acres serviced by 6 lifts. This area built the first ski lift in western Canada in 1947. There are 88 marked runs with lots of incredible glade skiing as well as plenty of double-black diamond terrain off both peaks of Red Mountain and Granite Mountain. Plus, lots of accessible back country terrain. I gingerly skied some of the groomed black diamond runs off the top in the morning, feeling my oats and challenging myself to make tighter turns on steeper terrain. My muscle memory was coming back and I was starting to feel more comfortable cruising these great groomed runs. I skied till noon then headed to Whitewater Resort for the afternoon.
The drive on the Powder Highway from Red Mountain in Rossland to Whitewater Ski Resort out of Nelson took about an hour and a half and we arrived with fresh snow falling and a full parking lot. Whitewater was hosting the Whitewater Jr. Freeski Open that afternoon with young men & women going for it under the Summit Chair. Whitewater skis big, although it’s only about 1,200 acres, it has over 2,000 vertical feet serviced by 4 lifts with 76 marked trails and like Red Mountain, endless tree skiing and back county accessibility to much, much more.
Visibility was nearly nil as snow continued to fall that after and I opted not to ski this afternoon and decide to have lunch instead and continue to watch the kids competing in the Freeski competition.
That afternoon, I headed into Nelson, British Columbia, about nine miles away where our overnight accommodations were at the historic Hume Hotel. Originally built in the 1880’s this property has undergone several renovations but many of the historic aspects of this hotel have been preserved. A great place to stay as they also have the “Library” Lounge with dinning, the “General Store” Restaurant, not to mention a sports bar pub and rocking night club that features live entertainment with over 150 shows per year. The rumor is that this hotel is also haunted, as all kinds of things have been known to go bump in the night.
We were welcomed at the National American Snowsports Journalists Association’s annual Western Winter Summit reception held in the Touchstone Nelson Museum of Art and History and featured a great selection of local area wines and gourmet appetizers prepared by the chefs of the Whitewater Resort. One of the galleries featured an exhibition titled Two Views. A compelling collection of photographs presenting two views on interment and incarceration in the early 1940’s. Ansel Adams captured the spirit of the Japanese people in the Internment Camp at Manzanar located in our eastern Sierra; and the contrast of the images from Leonard Frank as he documented the processing the Japanese people as they entered the Canadian Interment Camp of New Denver. Needless to say this was a very emotional display for me to view remembering my parents telling me of their school friends and their parents as they were rounded up and taken to Manzanar and how these Japanese Americans lost everything from their homes and land and all personal belongings that they couldn’t take with them. Nearly 120,000 Japanese Americans and 22,000 Japanese Canadians were affected. Wow, such different times during WW ll.
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We drew names for a dine-around and headed to a variety of restaurants in historic Nelson. Nelson is charming community with a variety of ethnic backgrounds where the hip live next to the metros complete with a historic district and year round activities, similar to Lake Tahoe, with all winter activities to mountain biking, fishing, hiking, water sports and plenty of bistros, cafes & restaurant dining, plus art galleries, theaters, festivals and more.
After ski reporting duties the next morning, we headed back to Whitewater where they picked up 4 inches of fresh snow. I booted up and decided to ski my conventional 1080 Gun mid-fat ski as there was this layer of fresh snow over groomed runs. This was a great choice and these work just about in all mountain conditions, but stayed on high angled black diamond groomed runs and linked powder spraying turns. It was so much fun to carve turns, like cutting butter, in this light 4″ of powder over groomed. Whitewater Ski Resort receives and average of 480″ per year and there was no lack of snow this winter in this region of British Columbia.
Feeling much better and getting muscle memory back, I skied much harder that day and challenged myself to do non-stops down these runs. I wasn’t the fastest down these runs, as a matter of fact, I held back and let the others go before me, still being as cautious as possible, but after several runs, with more confidence, started to let the skis run. Oh Yeah! Our guide took us over to Glory Ridge where we skied down Morning Glory to the base of the Glory Ridge Chair. This chair is located on the access road about a mile before you get to the base area. This is the area where locals park and access the mountain to get in a few turns in the morning before work.
Red Mountain and Whitewater Ski Resorts are truly two of the best-kept secrets on the BC Powder Highway. Great Snow and the most inviting and friendly people you would ever want to meet. If you get a chance to head up to British Columbia, Canada, put these two resorts on the check list. You will be blown away with all they have to offer. If you fly, the gateway would be Spokane, WA and there are tour operators that can transport you to Red Mountain and onward on the British Columbia Powder Highway.
For more information on Red Mountain please visit: redresort.com. For more information on Whitewater Resort, visit: skiwhitewater.com, and for information on all the resorts, snow cat & heli-skiing and more on the British Columbia Powder Highway, visit: powderhighway.com.