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Shed a few layers and embrace spring skiing
The Vancouver Sun, March 9, 2022
An underwear tree, massages, dinner tours, and luxurious stays make spring skiing all the rage
Riding up the Silverlode chair at RED Mountain last weekend, I chatted with my fellow lift riders, both strangers, about the ski conditions and the resort’s underwear tree.
For the uninitiated, an “underwear tree,” is an evergreen tree close to a lift that people throw undergarments onto and it gets decorated like this as the season goes on. RED’s is just getting started as skiers flock to the mountains and strip off more than their winter gear and embrace spring skiing.
Later, at après hot spot Rafters Bar, my husband and I recalled the day’s highlights over beers and the thump of DJ music, packed in close to other skiers doing the same thing.
It was all very 2019. And it felt like a giant spring thaw.
With B.C.’s latest health regulations allowing full capacity at restaurants and fewer gathering restrictions, it seems like the winter of our pandemic discontent might be (finally?) nearing an end.
Couples and families that haven’t travelled much in the past two years are not only hitting the slopes in droves, they’re adding on to the holidays with post-ski massages, snow cat dinner tours, and stays at luxurious hotels and chalets.
RED Mountain Resort
It’s Western Canada’s oldest ski area and its namesake mountain has been operating a vintage double chairlift for nearly 50 years. This history and its Hot Dog…The Movie 80s vibe, combined with fantastic fall lines and some of the most diverse and challenging terrain in B.C., make RED Mountain a favourite.
“Part of RED’s charm is that nothing is roped off,” says Liz Day, who moved to Rossland five years ago and manages The Josie hotel. “There’s just so much terrain.”
The resort’s 3,850 acres includes four mountains (one of which is cat-ski access), and there’s skiing on every aspect, from double-black chutes down the north face of Granite Mountain to eastern facing alpine bowls on Grey Mountain.
“Spring at RED is so fun—sunny, slushy good times,” says Day. “Locals head up to the top of Granite and ski down with the last rays of the day.”
Stay: The Josie, located at the base of RED, has been named Canada’s Best Ski Boutique Hotel the past two years at the World Ski Awards. Stylish rooms and suites blend comfort with resort and valley views. And there is a dedicated ski concierge who readies your planks for schussing. After hitting the slopes there is après-ski cocktails at The Velvet Restaurant and Lounge that nod to Rossland’s rich mining and skiing history.
Elevated activity: I’d never had my feet dipped in hot wax or my eyelids massaged until I experienced a 75-minute traditional Indian foot, hand and head massage at SpaTerre at The Josie. Therapist Shatti Shatti from Shatti Esthetics Studio can either come to the hotel for the treatment, or you can visit her studio in downtown Rossland.
Revelstoke Mountain Resort
It’s been described as a “mining town with a skiing problem,” and that really sums up the juxtaposition of Revelstoke’s gritty industrial past (and the heritage buildings to match) with its modern residents’ obsession with carving turns.
When spring’s bluebird days illuminate the resort’s 5,620 feet of vertical, along with its varied terrain of steep open bowls and glades packed with an enviable alpine base, it’s an ideal time to ski by day and relax in a chalet by night.
Stay: Forget ski-in ski-out, in Revelstoke, you can heli-in and heli-out at a chalet close to the resort’s base. The Flying Moose Chalet, is a no-expense-spared eight-bedroom lodge complete with a chef’s kitchen, full gym and, yes, private heli-pad. The timber-frame lodge includes an outdoor sauna and hot tub, a well-stocked bar (drinks and food are included), and games around the wood-burning fireplace.
Book the Flying Moose privately (it sleeps up to 17) and then take advantage of the chalet’s many amenities, says property manager Sally Robertson. It comes with two massage therapists on site in the spa, along with a dedicated chef who prepares breakfast daily and a three-course dinner each night, served by the chalet host.
Elevated activity: Both Selkirk Tangiers and Eagle Pass heli-ski operators can pick up skiers from the chalet for a day of powder-eight turns atop glaciers, down wide-open meadows, and through ancient forests.
SilverStar Mountain Resort
When the spring days lengthen and sunny skies replace winter storms at this Okanagan resort, you’ll be treated to views of both Kalamalka and Okanagan Lake in the valley below.
SilverStar has been our family’s home resort this season and it shines in the spring with après-ski in the Victorian-style village, sunny patios like Black Pine Social, and plenty of powder stashes still to be found on Attridge Mountain and the tree runs that funnel to the Silver Woods Express. When the lifts close, there’s tubing and ice skating at Brewer’s Pond.
Stay: Just steps from the gondola and village restaurants, the upscale Snowbird Lodge makes it easy to get going: put the ski boots on in the luxe mountain-modern suites, grab your gear from the ski locker, click in, and go. At day’s end the private patio hot tub can be put to good use.
Elevated activity: Climb into a snow cat for a 30-minute ride to Paradise Camp on the backside for a three-course dinner inside the cozy, lantern-lit cabin. Snow Cat Dinner Tours run Saturday nights through March 19.
Fernie Alpine Resort
When we lived in Alberta our family was what you’d call “Califernians” (Calgarians loyal to Fernie). March was one of our favourite months to visit because it meant either fresh powder in the resort’s five alpine bowls, or soft-corn snow down the steeps off Polar Peak or Snake Ridge.
There’s also a great après-ski vibe outside of the Cornerstone Lodge, where parents gather by the fire while kids do slushy laps on the Mighty Moose platter. And you can’t beat the patio at The Griz Bar for enjoying a pitcher of beer in the sunshine.
Stay: It’s mere steps to the Elk Chair from the Lizard Creek Lodge, which has just refurbished all of its studio and multi-bedroom units with new furniture and accents. The lodge also has an enviable slopeside patio, where Mom and Dad can sip smoked-cedar-whisky cocktails from The Cirque Restaurant while the kids splash in the pool.
Elevated activity: Check out the backcountry to get a reliable powder fix. “I have definitely noticed an uptick in inquiries from people who want to learn to ski tour,” says Melissa Makepeace, owner of Mountain Addicts.
Her company offers ACMG-led small-group trips onto the powdery slopes surrounding Fernie. Tunnel Creek is a good area for beginners as participants can skin up and ski down, learning the basics in one day.
Whistler’s snow base and huge size means you can send rooster tails of slush (or even plumes of powder) flying behind you well into May.
My first experience in Whistler in spring during the World Ski & Snowboard Festival, awakened me to the notion that skiing with a hangover was a natural state of being. Though the town’s party reputation has been tempered during the pandemic, riding the mountain’s open bowls, alpine couloirs and quad-burning cruisers is still the main draw.
Stay: The new Fairmont Gold boutique hotel, located inside the Fairmont Whistler, is upping the village’s slopeside experience with spacious guest rooms with gas fireplaces and soaker tubs, a private concierge for guests, and an exclusive lounge that serves a hearty breakfast and après-ski canapes.
Elevated activity: Take a helicopter with HeadLine Mountain Holidays to spectacular natural ice caves, sequestered in the Pemberton Ice Cap. After showing you the ancient glacier from the air, they will have lunch waiting in the blue-walled ice caverns.
Plan your spring ski trip around these on-mountain events:
• RED Mountain: Closing weekend brings the exciting Slush Cup spectacle on April 2 followed by Retro Day at RED on April 3.
• Revelstoke: Folk-stoke band Shred Kelly hosts a pop-up concert après-ski in the Rockford Outdoor Plaza on March 27.
• SilverStar: Peak Pride at SilverStar takes place March 31-April 3 with a Pride parade, drag show, beer gardens and live music.
• Fernie: Head to Elk Valley April 9-10 for Fernival, the annual closing day weekend that features live music and beer gardens.
• Whistler: Watch big mountain skiers ride gnarly terrain—and be judged on style, control and technique—at the IFSA National Juniors Freeride Competition March 18-20.