I must admit, it’s hard for a Manchester City supporter to write about a visit to a ski hill called Red Mountain. Especially when it’s a destination as spectacularly good as Red is.
Jan was signed up for a girlie ski clinic, so I had a weekend by myself to explore Red’s extensive terrain. As an old buddy of mine, Tony Parente once said, "Red is a small hill that skis big". How wise he was.
This was my 5th trip to Red over 6 years, and I guess I’ve skied 30% of the hill before this weekend. Laziness and incompetence are only partly the reasons for this, believe me. It’s simply that most of Red’s terrain lurks deep in the trees on Granite Mountain. There are a few token groomers, especially around the Paradise Chair, but most runs are not signposted. You ask locals, follow tracks in to the trees, or guess roughly where the run you’re looking for might be. This is the antithesis of mega-hills like Whistler or Vail.
Saturday was a wild day. 23cm of new snow, but high winds kept the top chairs closed until 10.30am. It then took 45 minutes for everyone to get up the Motherlode chair and disperse around the hill. After that, lift lines were a couple of minutes and I lapped Motherlode 10 times, skipping lunch and exploring new lines down either side of the chair.
It took a couple of runs to figure out my orientation on the hill. The wind had blasted exposed slopes, creating a decent windslab and heavy-ish snow. Out of the wind though, the snow was light and deep and enormous fun. Powder Fields, Orchards, the Slides and Links Run were roughly where I played. On Red, occasional visitors can never be sure …
Sunday was foggy, snowing and virtually deserted. I started on the double chair on Red, and followed some locals over the back in to trees which the wind had loaded with boot deep pow. It was heaven, superb steep fall line skiing, reminiscent of Strawberry Fields at Niseko (only steeper!). I never even knew these glades existed (they’re not marked on the trail map) – another fabulous Red discovery.
After a quick lunch, I headed up Granite and explored some of the trees over the back. I’m not exactly sure if I was on a named run, but each time I picked and slid my way through some very tight trees and dropped in to an open powder field that was virtually untracked. A fine reward for a tricky get in.
For the last few runs, I headed back to the front of Granite and tried a few new twists and turns through the glades. Again, I’m not exactly sure where I was. But as the wind was blowing in new snow and covering tracks between runs (a slow chair ride up helps!), creating perfect conditions, locating precise geographical coordinates was not a high priority.
When I finally headed down from the base of the closed Motherlode chair, I’ve never been happier to seen the remnants of corduroy on a green groomer. Legs and body were shot, and if a 5 hour drive had not lay ahead, beer would’ve been consumed.
Jan enjoyed her clinic and won a new pair of goggles. I needed new legs, but it had all been worth it. And we saw a moose on the drive up, and a (not so) Stealth(y) B52 bomber on the drive home. All made for an excellent weekend.
Red is a tree skiing paradise, blissfully undeveloped and practically deserted. And luckily it’s only 4 weeks until the next visit, with all that new terrain to find.
If only it was called Blue Mountain …
Trip details – 2 days, 15,900m vertical
Season so far: 16 days, 8 powder days, 122, 100 verts