The lifts are slow, the powder is untracked two days after a storm, and old people heckle from the lift; Red Mountain is a unique place. I was invited by Helly Hansen to come up and check out Red Mountain a couple weeks ago, and quickly learned to love the quirky mountain as I learned about the long history, passionate community, and skied some crazy fun terrain.
On our first night at Red, we sat down for dinner with CEO Howard Katkov, who began skiing at Mammoth in the 1960s. Howard and his friends would sleep in a VW Bus and ride the two chairlifts with long straight skis and Scotch Guarded jeans. After a couple days at Red I wouldn’t be surprised to see similar kits around, it’s a place that savors the experience over the extravagance. Since taking over Red Mountain, Howard and his team have turned the small community hill into BC’s third largest ski resort.
Expansion on this scale can quickly wipe away the unique character and quirks of a small community ski area, however, Howard and the team have managed a unique balance of size and stoking the passion that brings so many people to Red Mountain. Many of the folks we met throughout the weekend count their time at Red and in the nearby town of Rossland by the decade, not the years. The ski area has been around for 112 years, and Howard told us his mission is to “make sure it’s good to go for another 100.” While the weekend was full of plenty of marketing speak, I found what seemed like a very genuine desire to build and grow sustainably, a novel concept in today’s quest for bigger and better.
The mountain itself is amazing, and worth a visit even if you set the warm and fuzzy feeling inducing stories aside. Spread across four peaks, the selection of terrain seems endless. There is skiing nearly 360 degrees off of the peaks, allowing for all aspects to be explored. This is a big plus when the sun or the wind may spoil one aspect. There are steep shots everywhere, and more natural features than your legs will be able to handle. The lifts are certainly slow, which makes it even more amazing that you can go a whole lift ride without seeing a skier beneath you, on a weekend. Local shredder and Helly Hansen athlete Simon Hillis showed us around the nooks and crannies. He’s only 14 and definitely one to watch on coming up on the freeride side. (Check out my full guide to skiing Red Mountain Here)
On one morning, we were the ones below the lift when a chair of skiers with an average age above 70 passed above, giving a friendly heckle of jealousy because we got to go up early with ski patrol. That’s something you don’t see at a normal ski hill, these people love Red.
Helly Hansen treated us well, providing gear and our venue for the week, and also telling us their story. The gear was nice and techy overall, I had zero complaints about the performance, it kept me dry, and the right temp. The one piece ski suit that they make is downright baller. I talked about how a piece like that has the power to transform the perception of a whole brand, and if Helly Hansen wants to be cool again, look no further than the onesie.
We were given a presentation on the brand’s history and missions. Helly Hansen is 140 years old, and sold the first commercial waterproof gear in the world. I sat through the presentation not unimpressed, but seeking to connect the great sense of community of both Helly Hansen and Red Mountain with our community on Newschoolers.
Given the heritage of the brand, I turned to the discussion to a common topic here, are they core? The answer I found is one that may not resonate with some who can’t see the tangible consumable content that is often associated with a “core” brand, who seeks to give back and market themselves via athlete sponsorships. However, Helly Hansen seeks to invest in skiing by promoting participation and supporting industry professionals, like ski patrol (whose asses we kicked at flipcup during our visit). Take it for what you will, but I think this adds an interesting dimension to the conversation of what core means, by showing another way a brand can give back.
A trip like ours was amazing, we skied with the CEO, we skied a day at Big Red Cats, and we ate very well. This is certainly not the way myself, and I’m sure a majority of the people on this website take a ski trip, however, even stripped of extravagance there is a lot that makes Red Mountain worth a trip on any budget. The mountain is seriously awesome, and the town is lively, too. The way Simon and the other locals skied, whether they were 14 or 80, was fun to watch, and their smiles tell the story of their passion.
The soul of skiing is a concept often chased far away from from our home mountains as we chase the whimsical and unjaded passion of other skiers. Brought to a new mountain we are able to pick out the moments that make us smile, whether heckling octogenarians or deep powder on an uncrowded slope. These moments stir passion. The more we see, the greater the soul, the vibes, and other descriptors we use to try and place meaning on the feeling we get from loving to ski. Coming to Red Mountain gave me many of these moments, and I’m already excited to come back and find more of the soul of skiing.
Helly Hansen paid for my trip to Red Mountain, and set myself and the other media visitors up with a sweet itinerary that included riding with ski patrol, meeting some great locals, and experiencing the town of Rossland.