Red Mountain Resort’s early closure took season pass holders and destination visitors by surprise when the chairlift closure was announced Sunday morning, three weeks ahead of the slated end of season date. But in an ironic twist, Mother Nature brought in the goods, dumping 25 cm of snow just as the closure announcements were broadcast.
Now the local ski hill is back on course for spring skiing, explains Red’s general manager, Don Thompson. “That buys more time for spring breakers to ride the Silverlode, Motherlode and Paradise chairs beginning today,” confirmed Thompson. “Everything but Grey will be open, and we will stay operational as long as conditions permit,” he added.
The mountain’s thin snow pack created safety concerns and prompted the resort’s Sunday announcement.
Even though a blanket of fresh snow has extended the season, Thompson reminds skiers and boarders that off-piste terrain remains perilous, and he warns those areas are not patrolled.
“Part of the reason we were open so long is because with the thin snowpack you could see the hazards,” he explained. “Now with up to 30 cm on top, it’s more challenging to see. For people skiing Paradise, there’s good skiing on the groomed runs. So as an advisory, ski the groomed runs.”
The hill will monitor conditions day-to-day and provide updates at redresort.com.
The jury is still out if more snow or rain is on the way, according to Jesse Ellis from the Castlegar weather office.
“A couple of weak systems are coming our way, which won’t be snow producers for the higher elevations,” he explained. “The thing to watch is going to be toward the end of this week and into the weekend, a big system gathering steam off shore.”
He said snow or rain at the higher elevations is dependent on how quickly the system moves into the region.
“Truth at the moment is it could still go either way. The latest models are split 50/50,” said Ellis.
After an El Niño phenomenon ushered in a mild winter, Red Mountain fared quite well compared to many other BC ski resorts like those in Kimberley and Fernie, which were forced to reduce operations due to lack of snow.
Destination visitors from Europe and the United States continued to land in Rossland over the weekend for a ski vacation, says Thompson, as well as local families skiing for the day.
“We’ve been very steady,” said Thompson. “The lodging company has done well with high occupancy rates, and throughout town. Relative to a lot of other resorts, we’ve done very well.”
While the regional weather office remains at odds if more snow is on the way, Thompson said the resort is hoping to push its annual year-end bash past the previously slated March 22 date.
“We are finalizing the dates now,” he said. “If we are able to keep the mountain open we might push it back another week.”
There could be one casualty due to early snow melt, and that’s the annual Slush Cup run. The end-of-season activity is currently scheduled for March 28, however Thompson is uncertain if there will be enough snow to carry the event.
Howard Katkov, president of Red Mountain Resort, issued a letter to season pass holders on Sunday, acknowledging the painful winter for pass holders, destination visitors and the community as a whole.
In response to a shortened season, the resort has slashed costs to purchase youth early bird, junior early bird and college student early bird passes.
— With files from Sheri Regnier,