After more than 3 months, I’m ecstatic to report that I have gotten back on the road! At least temporarily. Adrian and I took a week off work and got in the car like normal people going on a normal vacation and still managed to have one adventure after the next all week long. Thanks to the reciprocal passes we get for working at Red and the awesome people we stayed with, we hit 5 mountains in 5 days for only the price of gas and Tim Hortons. 3 powder days and 1700km later, I’m sitting down with very sore ankles to share my thoughts about everywhere we went.
Turns out this place is in the absolute middle of nowhere. We turned off the highway in Penticton on the most random looking road and followed in through a reserve, passing SO MANY HORSES. I was already losing my mind over that when about half way up, it started snowing. Hard.
So hard that our car, which doesn’t like going up hills very much in ideal conditions decided that the road was just too slippery for its two aging snow tires and started sliding backwards. Without panicking, we just turned around, found a safe place to park, got out everything we’d need for the day, and flagged down the first car to pass by for a ride the rest of the way up. Good thing, too, because it’s not an adventure until you find yourself in the car of a stranger.
The mountain itself was adorable. Just two chairs and only one worth riding. It was a slow start. I spent about an hour wandering around, wondering where the runs that weren’t groomers were, but eventually I convinced the lifty to tell me where his stashes were. He pointed me at a run called BEST DAY EVER— a name that proved itself appropriate. It was snowing so hard that tracks were filling in by the time we were on our next lap. Visibility wasn’t great, but that didn’t matter because the trees were fantastic. Locals were saying that it was the best day of the season, and we were there for it.
To make the visit even more special, we got to share it with my Uncle Ron. He hosted us at his home in Penticton and even came up to the mountain. We were skiing very different speeds, so we couldn’t ride together, but we got to catch up over a beer and wings in the lodge.
Ah, the Whistler of the interior! Fitting that it started with frustration and disappointment. The first thing that happened was Adrian noticing he’d bent one of his edges at Apex, which was now sticking out at an angle that looked great for catching sticks. We had gone as hard as we possibly could have the day before in the amazing snow, so we were also super sore. However, we couldn’t be too grumpy. We had 17 fresh centimetres and blue skies. And to make it even better, people who go to Big White apparently don’t like trees at all.
After hitting up Cliff Bowl, where Adrian dropped some sweet lines and being dicks about how the trees on Powder chair were too easy, we cruised over to the far side of the mountain to ride the trees on the Gem Lake chair. The terrain was super interesting and largely untouched. It was easy to feel like I was lost in those trees, and I mean that in the best way possible. I only wish we could have found that chair earlier. Take note, all who visit the biggest of the whites.
Special thanks to Nicole, our wonderful couchsurfing host who invited us to her birthday dinner at a delicious Indian restaurant and put up with Adrian apoxying his snowboard in her living room!
I think that at this point, the powder gods knew that we needed a break. Because there were only two fresh centimetres in the past 24 hours and a big dump forecasted for the next day at Revelstoke, we decided that this would be our “groomer and chill” day. But if you know us, then you can probably guess how well that worked out. There was a lot of “Hey, do you wanna do this double black?” “…Yeah.”
One such misadventure ended up claiming Adrian’s edge for good, but edges are for noobs anyways.
I could imagine Silverstar being extremely fun when full of powder because of its super mellow trees and wide chutes. However, it was so easy that I could do any run on the mountain, even though it was icy. At one point, we decided to try out a run called Deer Park. It looked really flat, but it was full of powder and rated a black diamond, so I figured it would get steep just beyond where we could see. That never happened, though. We emerged from the flats full of heavy snow exhausted and annoyed. It was basically an ungroomed green run with trees. Apparently Red is the only mountain in the world that rates its gladed runs anything other than black or double black.
The coolest thing about Silverstar was definitely how there was tubing included in the lift ticket. We never actually indulged in that because it didn’t start until an hour after the mountain closes, but we thought that was a super nice thing for them to do.
This was the mountain that we by far had the most anticipation for, and the only mountain that came anywhere close to the quality of Red. We were also very nervous about this one, because our plan until within 24 hours of arriving was to spend the evening in a bar to dry out our gear and then sleep in the car. Fortunately, that didn’t happen thanks to the good folks at The Zoo— an epic 13-person house just minutes from the base of the hill. A friend of a friend, crazygood skier Scott, took us in at the last minute and spent the next day showing Adrian all the best sports on the mountain.
I chose not to go with them because I’m a chicken shit and didn’t want to hike, but I had an amazing day— possibly my best day ever— shredding harder than I had ever shred before through Revy’s endless supply of tree stashes on the Ripper Chair. The snow fell all day and I was having so much fun that at 2 o’clock I decided I should give the entire other half of the mountain a chance. The Stoke Chair wasn’t as good, but it was pretty good.
Adrian also had an incredible day. Apparently Revelstoke is all about the ridges. With just two minutes of walking, you’ll be able to find fresh tracks whenever you want. You can also hike up to the mountain’s peak and sub-peak, past where the highest chair goes, for some stellar alpine. Adrian would also like you to know that he dropped a 35 foot cliff threading the needle between two trees with a super sketchy landing in trees as well. And he almost landed it. Apparently that guy Scott I mentioned threw a huge 20-foot backflip. These guys are clearly way too cool to ride with me anyways.
When we walked up to the ticket booth to claim our free day passes, the girl behind the glass didn’t even uncross her arms as she told us, “Oh, you need a voucher.” We have this theory that Lake Louise wanted free passes to other mountains but didn’t want to give out any of their own. Luckily, Adrian did his homework. We whipped out the vouchers and showed Louise what was up.
Well… sort of. It was the 5th straight day of giving everything we had to the mountains, and we were really running low on everything we had. I actually had more energy than Adrian, which was really bizarre, but that’s not to say my entire body wasn’t throbbing. Thank goodness it was bluebird and not a powder day. We’re not sure what we would have done with another one of those. As it was, our priority was looking at the ridiculously pretty mountains of the Rockies, but we still found ourselves making questionable decisions when it came to the choice between double blacks and groomers.
The most amazing thing was, despite Lake Louise being a very busy mountain and there only being 17 centimetres of snow in a week, we found fresh tracks in almost all the trees. We had to duck lines to get to them, but still…Where’s your sense of adventure, Lake Louise regulars?
In a significant amount of pain, we called it an early day and went to make the best of the Banff park pass we were required to purchase by taking a very slow walk across the frozen actual Lake Louise. Then we went into the lobby of big hotel and made fun of rich people before heading back to Banff.
In Banff, we were lucky enough to be hosted by Todd and Daniel, friends of a friend who were between room mates and willing to take in a couple tired ski bums. That night, Todd took us out to a truly strange, yet very interesting experimental audio visual show. Then, the next morning, We squished everything to one side of the car and put Todd in the backseat for out long drive home. En route, we did a hike/ epic ice slide to a frozen waterfall and stopped for a soak in a rustic hot spring tub to ease our aching muscles.
As our luck would have it, the very next day after our evening homecoming, we woke up to a fresh 30 centimetres right here. There’s no way in hell you can stay home on a day like that, so we dragged the abused meat sacks that resembled our bodies up the hill.
There’s two big things that I took away from this trip. The first is that Red is an insanely difficult mountain. All season, I’ve considered myself a pretty terrible skier, but everywhere we went, I could ski just about any run or space between runs. I took my newfound confidence straight to the bank and dropped into runs on the backside of Granite and Grey that I’d never even considered taking before. What everyone told me at the beginning of the season was right after all— Red really does force you to become better in a big hurry.
The other moral to this little trip is that I’m so glad that I chose Red to spend my season. I couldn’t imagine spending 5 months at any other mountain… except maybe Revelstoke.