There are few things for me in this world as satisfying after a day of snowboarding as a pint of beer… especially when it’s really good snowboarding, and really good beer. So when Red Mountain Resort decided to take that concept to the next level by throwing an entire craft beer festival at the base of their mountain, it was a pretty easy decision for me on whether I wanted to attend. I was in. So very in.
Red Resort is just outside Rossland, BC, which is located in almost the dead centre of the province, and just north of the Canada-US border. It’s also one of eight resorts on the snow-lovers’ dream road trip route, the aptly-named Powder Highway. There are a couple of ways to get there: if you’ve got the time (and the snow tires), you can make a winter road trip out of it (8 hours from Vancouver to the west, 7 hours from Calgary, AB to the east and 2.5 hours from Spokane, WA to the south). If you want to get from home to the slopes as soon as possible, you can fly from Vancouver into nearby Trail with Pacific Coastal Airlines in an hour. Our keen crew chose the latter, and lucked out with a perfect day for flying:
Despite my initial irrational fears due to the small size of the plane, we landed safe and sound in Trail after a smooth and sunny 1-hour flight. It didn’t take long to realize we weren’t in Vancouver anymore:
If you’re looking for all the frills and gimmicks, Red might not be the place for you. But if you’re looking for authenticity, character and sharing amazing ski terrain with what feels like only a handful of other people – you’re in the right spot. And on this particular weekend, it was also the place to be for craft beer lovers. Basically, I was in my happy place. I mean, look at our cabin:
After checking in, we took one look at the fresh snow and blue skies and headed straight to the chairlift. And the further up we went, the better the views got (and the more snow there was):
Red Mountain Resort is actually three mountains in one: the original Red Mountain, Granite Mountain in the middle and then Grey Mountain, which was only just opened this season after a big resort expansion. We of course had to check out the new terrain, so we headed up the brand new Grey Mountain chairlift and were even further blown away by the scenery (and again – that snow!):
After a solid afternoon of riding, we decided we’d earned ourselves a little apres and headed to the infamous Rafters Lounge (so named because it’s literally in the rafters of the day lodge) where we warmed ourselves with some spiced whisky (which happens to share a name with another Kootenays town, Revelstoke):
It was early to bed on night one, because day two was BEER FEST DAY. The temperature dropped sharply overnight, so we didn’t last long on the hill in the morning (the windchill was too much for our delicate coastal sensibilities). But come 2pm, we bundled up and joined 300 other thirsty craft beer enthusiasts in the tents at the base of the hill for the first annual Beer Goggles Fest.
There were eleven BC craft breweries in attendance, ranging from nearby Kootenays brewers like Mt. Begbie Brewery and Nelson Brewing to Okanagan establishments like Tree Brewing and Cannery Brewing to Vancover favourites like Parallel 49 Brewing and Central City Brewing. Although smaller than most Vancouver beer fests, it was still a great showcase of the breadth of quality craft beer being brewed across the province. Plus, it somehow felt different – it had that friendly Kootenays vibe that you just don’t find in some of BC’s bigger cities. I got to enjoy a bunch of old favourites, plus a couple of new ones (like Nelson Brewing’s not-yet-released ginger beer).
Later that night, we found ourselves back at Rafters to see Portland band the Thermals play in what was probably the most intimate venue I’ve ever experienced (without exaggeration, it felt like we were watching them in someone’s basement. A really cool basement that also has craft beer on tap and shots you do with your friends off a ski). For a resort with such a small village, Red manages to have a surprisingly vibrant music scene, with quality live bands regularly playing at Rafters (chalk another point up for them being my new favourite).
It snowed all day Saturday, and then it snowed all night, which meant that we awoke to a bounty of fresh powder on our final day at Red. After the Brewer’s Cup Race, in which representatives from all of the breweries competed in feats of ski racing and beer drinking (don’t worry, not at the same time), and the People’s Choice Awards were handed out (Vancouver’s Parallel 49 Brewing took the gold), we headed back to the hills.
Unfortunately, Monday morning had to arrive at some point, and so, jello-legged from three days of riding and full of beer, we sadly said goodbye to Red and headed west towards Vancouver and real life. I’m already counting down the days till next year’s Beer Goggles Fest (approximately 350, if you’re curious). If you’re a craft beer lover like me, do yourself a favour and do the same!
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