Pacific Northwest Ski blog (and a few other places!)

Lots or reports from skiing around the Pacific Northwest, with some East Coast excursions thrown in for good measure

Mid January at Red Mountain

It’s a bit of a hike from Pittsburgh to Red Mountain, BC. Massive terrain expansions are tempting things though, especially at a place like Red where some of the best lift-served ski terrain on the planet can be found. The Grey lift adds a whole new 360 degree-ridable mountain of rolling, wide open terrain with plunging vertical north facing chutes that can scare the crap out of most people. They looked particularly terrifying this particular weekend as Red was maybe a foot or so short of being fully open, leaving some of the more precipitous lines unskiable except for the few superfolks that roam around resorts like Red.

Luckily, a little knowledge, gathered on many previous visits, goes a long way at Red. Especially when sun trashes anything south-facing, inducing a freeze-thaw cycle that renders a good chunk of the mountain glacier-like until at least early afternoon. Luckily, there a bounty of north-ish facing terrain to play on, where cold temperatures kept the snow in extremely good condition. The whole mountain required care to avoid ski-grabbing twigs protruding from the snow, like mine-laden snowmariner periscopes waiting to take down the unsuspecting rider.

On Granite, lines from Beer Belly around to the 3rd Slide were skiing well, with packed powder and only low down shrubbery to avoid. Powder Fields was pretty decent too, if a little exposed on the cliff front in places. I scored an excellent late afternoon run down Jumbo, when day long sunshine had created conditions more reminiscent of late March than mid January.

On Grey, from late morning we were finding soft lines down the front side. Red Mountain blue runs (ungroomed, bumpy) they were, in the finest tradition. In normal winter conditions, this terrain would offer boundless opportunities for exploration. One day, when the snow is deep.

On Sunday, ironically, the sun did not arrive. We stayed on north-facing runs – Captain Jack’s Trees and Roots Meadows were especially excellent – and we even shredded the odd Paradise groomer for high-speed, tree top dodging practice. After lunch, we ventured over to the venerable Red Chair, laying out laps on the steep smooth blues as well as the bumps around War Eagle and the lift line, which were skiing particularly well. With reluctance, we got our last chair about 2.45pm, and started the journey back to Spokane. It had been an excellent weekend, and really just served to convince me that a return visit, for a week or more, with mid-winter conditions, has to be high on the priority list. So much epic terrain. So few people.

8200m, 9200m, 7800m vertical

Season Totals: 19 days, 150,000m vert

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