I snapped this pic from White-wolf ridge yesterday, on my way out to a couple of runs off Mt Record. I was struck by the contrast between the sunlit corduroy perfection of Southern Comfort and the dark, steep, and uber technical Microwave Face in the background. That skiing at Red encompasses such a range of experiences is key to it’s unique appeal, but the greedheads in charge have always had a difficult time with it.
Prior to the mid 70’s Red was all steep and challenging. It was only with the addition of the Paradise Chair in 1976 that groomed intermediate terrain made skiing more accessible and enjoyable for the young, the old, and the inexperienced. Unfortunately the debt incurred proved unmanageable, and led to the Ski Club selling out to Scat and his coterie of drunks and deadbeats in the late 80’s. When I started skiing at Red in the early 90’s, skiing the Microwave Face was considered a once a season accomplishment for a few ski bums. The first time I dropped in, despite being early March, it hadn’t been skied or bombed all season, so was loaded with snow, completely smooth and skiable directly off the top. I enjoyed a couple of years of some of the world’s best technical steep skiing and initiated a terminal day tradition (the drunk descent), before Scat decided to include the mountain’s most difficult lines on the trail map in the misguided notion that people would be impressed with the dramatic increase in the number of runs listed. I wish I still had a copy of that year’s trail map which included First Cooler and Super Cooler as quadruple black diamond runs. Predictably it lead to a bunch of wannabe extreme skiers and snowboarders dropping in to the wrong place at the wrong time, and requiring roped rescues by the patrol. The response of the ski-patrol was a policy of bombing the fresh snow off all the steep faces, attempting to render them unskiable. Protests were met with dismissals that “you’d have to be a lunatic to want to ski there” and so although now justified on some spurious notion of avalanche control, the practice continues to this day. That these lines continue to be skied on a regular basis, sans snow, is a testament to the skill and determination of those skiers, guys like Joe Cowan and Sparky Steeves (temporarily out of action), who delight in the raw challenge of these steep technical lines. I’ll wait till a little later in the year, when the afternoon sun begins to reaches the face, warming the snow and providing some adhesion to the rock. I’ll keep an eye on it whenever I look over from Mt Grey, and on the just the right day, I’ll drop in.