THE TINY TOWN of Rossland, BC (pop. 3,653), surrounded by the rounded, weathered peaks of the Monashee Mountains, has about half the townsfolk it did 100 years ago. Back then, saloons and brothels lined its booming streets, and the gold mines on the south side of Red Mountain were among the most productive in Canada—before, that is, they went belly-up in the 1930s. The busted economy, however, didn’t squelch Rosslanders’ desire to have a rollicking good time come winter: The Red Mountain Ski Club built western Canada’s very first chairlift on 6,800-foot Granite Mountain in 1947, and the locals’ wintertime habit has pushed the resort’s boundaries ever since.
Today, six lifts serve 87 runs on Red and its adjacent peak, Granite Mountain, but Red’s still the kind of place where you can find your own little piece of the wild Canadian West. That’s partly because it’s easy to ditch whatever crowds you might encounter: A "ski anywhere" policy gives skiers and snowboarders access to the entire circumference of both peaks—that’s 1,685 acres of terrain (with 2,500 more acres in the backcountry) and a whopping 2,900 vertical feet. In fact, Red Mountain’s reputation for hair-raising steeps and chutes, and powder as ticklishly light as champagne, means that it regularly draws skiers from Australia and Europe, who happily spend a day on a plane for the chance to partake of one of the Holy Grails of untamed fall-line skiing. It’s one of the few resorts in the world where even marked, inbounds, double-black-diamond runs come with the recommendation that your first run be in the company of a guide or a local expert.
A ‘ski anywhere’ policy gives you access to 1,685 acres of terrain (with 2,500 more acres in the backcountry).
And if all this downhill powder should do a number on your knees (which after a few days it likely will), just strap on your skinny skis and pop across the road, where the Black Jack Cross Country Ski Club maintains 19 miles of groomed trails. If even that seems like too much effort,then consider calling up Le Petit Fromage—whose guides will lead you to a cabin in the woods, where wine and a hot pot of cheese fondue await. And if even the thought of that luxury should cause you to tire? Stick to plying Rossland’s broad main street, lined with false-fronted buildings dating back to 1901. With so few bars, you’ll quickly become familiar with your fellow imbibers, evidence that, though the mountain is large, Rossland is a small town at heart.