A roll of quarters. A cheap takeout pizza. Two-thirds of a beer at a Leafs home game. These and other $10 items spring to mind atop Grey Mountain, the biggest news of the 2013 ski season.
Why was I pondering the power of the purple bill before schussing down 600 vertical metres of untracked powder? Because that was the price of the snowcat ride to the top of Red Mountain Resort’s third inbounds peak.
Until the B.C. resort ran a chairlift up Grey the following summer, the mountain’s south-facing glades and cruising runs represented the ultimate in what locals call “slackcountry” — backcountry skiing, but without the exertion and risk. The slopes were cleared, graded, and were patrolled and avalanche-controlled, meaning backcountry neophytes could carve their way down without expert guidance. One run was even groomed. Plus, instead of having to hike or ski up as they did in the past, visitors could save their energy for the descent by hitching a 10-minute ride on a 13-passenger snowcat. This was one of the most striking deals in resort skiing, given that a day of cat-skiing usually runs around $400.
My time on Grey was the culmination of a road trip to three out-of-the-way ski resorts — Kimberley, Red Mountain and Whitewater — that dot the southern section of the Kootenay region’s “Powder Highway,” a 1,090-kilometre circuit linking eight downhill resorts and dozens of backcountry, cross-country, heli- and cat-ski operations.
But the journey was about much more than world-class skiing. There was jaw-dropping scenery, innovative cuisine, and welcoming mountain towns where the apres-ski scene eschews noisy Nickelback and Coors Light. Within a matter of hours, my wife Angela and I found ourselves living on “Kootenay Time,” a phenomenon that makes a week feel like a lifetime of “leaving the real world in your rear view,” as one bumper sticker put it.
Read the rest of the story in the Toronto Star.
WHERE TO STAY
Many of Red Mountain’s visitors arrive via Spokane, Wash. -- a three-hour drive to the south -- where the Davenport Lusso combines a prime Arts District location with stylish decor and locally-sourced cuisine and refreshments.