Monthly Archives: December 2012

Christmas 2012

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Looking towards Roxanne – Run of the day.

What a run of exceptional skiing we’ve had. Day after day of untracked, uncrowded goodness. Thanks to Red Mountain for running the lifts through the quiet pre Christmas season, to Red Mountain Patrol for opening everything on time every day, and to all my friends, family, and the community of local skiers for sharing the good vibes. Merry Christmas to all.

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Elise, Harry and I.

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Skiing with my Nephews.

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Cam – Slides.

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And Again.

 

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Big Grins

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Stewart – Face-shots aplenty.

Thursday was memorable day of skiing at Red. By morning there’d been 41cm of new snow in the past 24 hours, and it was snowing and blowing hard all day. Motherlode was only loading every second chair due to icing, slowing the pace a little, but I still skied first chair to last, every line deep and untracked. It wasn’t the easiest of skiing, with poor visibility, unexpected wind-lips, hair-trigger slabs releasing inbounds, and upside down snow (heavier on top, lighter underneath) to contend with, but a perfect day to play with my new DPS Lotus 138s.

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Elise.

This morning I got to ski with Elise on her first day of the season, and first day (post surgery) of powder skiing in over a year and a half. Fortunately the snow conditions off the Red Chair (which opened for the first time this season) were allot more predictable than the day before, and so it was all smiles in the untracked expanses.

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Early Season Skiing

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Powderfields.

Few people ski before Christmas. Most locals are busy working, perhaps getting organized for the festive season, and tourists choose more reliable weeks for their vacation. So when it snows and the lifts are turning, as is the case this season, it’s by far the best time of year to be skiing the resort.   We’ve had an exceptional amount of snow lately, and I’ve just been been lapping my favorite lines, over and over, fresh every time.

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When your truck is covered at the end of the day, it’s been a good one.

 

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May I never cease to be delighted by the Kootenay Sea.

 

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Snow-ghosts framing the Microwave.

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Olaus Jeldness graces downtown.

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Loving the new lines on Grey.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Last Minute plans

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Breaking Trail out of Twin Lakes

I was already in bed when Kieth phoned. ” How about touring at Kootenay Pass tomorrow?” With only variable early season conditions on offer in the Rossland Range, the prospect of real powder skiing seemed particularly appealing.  5000′ of vertical later, it was pretty clear we’d made the right decision.

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First Real Pow Turns of the Season.

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LSD Chute.

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Looking back to the Muffin.

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Heading for the Highway.

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Banana Chute.

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The Spy Who Loved Me.

I recall but can’t locate the quote, something to the effect that we live our lives endlessly striving to realize the first few big ideas that capture our imaginations. In the summer of 1977 I watched the James Bond movie The Spy Who Loved Me  for the first time in a suburban Australian cinema. The opening scene, with its’ cliched sexuality, devil may care bravado, and death defying stunts (climaxing with Rick Sylvester’s ski base-jump off Mt Asgard) , exemplified all that an impressionable 9 year old boy could aspire to. I didn’t live anywhere near the mountains, and didn’t know anyone who skied, but the seed of curiosity and ambition was sown.

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Red Opening Day Preview

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Elise – Kootenay Cabin.

It can be a long road back from injury. Elise is still working to regain full function after leg re-alignment surgery just over a year ago. We wandered up into Squaw Basin this morning, hoping for some soft smooth turns, but since it rained to the top of the mountain on Tuesday, the couple of inches of variable light fluff on top wasn’t yet enough to repair the damage (breakable crust in the open, crunchy under the trees, and scratchy on the groomers). It’s still snowing heavily so I’m trying to remain optimistic about conditions for tomorrow, but regardless the top two thirds of the mountain is filled-in like it’s mid-winter with a layer of concrete, and it’s only going to get better.

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Red’s Grey Mountain Expansion

Fall Logging.

Fall Logging.

After months of rumour and obvious run clearing activity, this Fall Red Mountain Resort formally announced their planned lift and terrain expansion onto Grey Mountain. The press release and associated promotional video http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C3z97E9HSSY&feature=plcp  pump it up in the hyperbolic style as is usual for such things.

Red’s current owners have always been transparent in their ambition to transform what has always been an obscure community ski hill with potential, into a thriving destination resort. Inspired by the decades long orgy of real estate speculation and easy profits now relegated to history, they’ve  experimented with all manner of initiatives to stimulate interest. My imperfect memory registers Slalom Creek, a proposed Valencia hotel, the Silverlode expansion, it’s just “Red”, the proposed golf course expansion, Caldera, TMP, Elevate, “Stupid Deep”, glading/logging on Mt Roberts, White Wolf Ridge and Mt Grey, the Lodge expansion and upgrade, the “Gathering”, Captain Jack’s, a Backcountry Yurt, Skier Cross, and the Red Haus, but as evidenced by the continuing flat number of skier visits and anemic real-estate sales, they’re yet to find a winning formula.

In this context the Grey Mountain expansion is the latest and most ambitious attempt to stimulate interest and kick-start development at Red. Community cynics are yet to be convinced that it’ll come to anything beyond logging, but all signs point to them being sincere in their intention to install two new lifts servicing 1000 acres of new cleared and gladed  terrain.

It’s not going to be another Granite, although depending on your perspective this might be a good thing. It’ll lack the long fall-line steeps and variety of unique terrain and tree features that make skiing Granite such an endlessly challenging and stimulating experience for the current clientele, but of course we’ll still have Granite. Designed to a formula followed by every other high end resort expansion for the past 30 years, most of the skiing on Grey will feel a lot like all those other resorts – interweaving groomed runs and evenly spaced glade skiing on moderate terrain, and Red will be hoping it draws in the same crowd. I’ve heard the negative opinions of the arm-chair experts, and spouted a few of my own, but when looking up from the bottom of the recently cut ski runs, the magnitude of the expansion really is impressive, and there’s no denying that we’re going to have a huge new area of fun ski terrain to play on. I toured up Rino’s Run today, and blanketed in powder, the new lines looked enticing.

New Line on Grey, from Rino's.

New Line on Grey, from Rino’s.

However the question remains as to whether or not the expansion will stimulate the hoped for increase in operating and real-estate income. My personal investment history demonstrates little prescience, but I’m well aware of the particular challenges with which local development must contend. Red Mountain is remote and inconvenient to get to and from during the winter, snow falls are adequate but lack in comparison with the big hitters, and no-one has found a way to sell “terrain”. The base-area is devoid of amenities and character, downtown lacks retail and nightlife options, local construction costs are extravagant, the City treats the Resort as a means to subsidize residents, the high Canadian dollar and increased border security are disincentives to American visitors, our prohibition era liquor laws handicap festivity and sap profitability, and a unionized workplace limits operational flexibility. If Red can overcome all these, a weak international economy, flat or depreciating real-estate values in most markets, and still find a way to selling many millions of dollars worth of recreational real estate, then they amply deserve their success.

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