We have been visiting Canada
for many years now but this was the first time we had an 18 month old in tow. It meant we had to plan our itinery and where
we would visit around Craigs needs. It was quite a challenging trip but very rewarding.
Over the last few years we have used the services of either Ski Safari or Frontier Ski to book our trips
as they usually came up with very competitive prices which I could not match by booking myself. This time it was Frontier
who got the nod. We are based in Dumfries in SW Scotland and have always flown to Calgary or Vancouver from Glasgow via Heathrow
using British Airways or Air Canada. Having a toddler with us we decided
to use Fly Zooms direct service from Glasgow. As Craig did not have to pay for a seat we upgraded to the premium cabin and it was well
worth it. The service on board was really good and we have booked with them for next season already.
After an 8 hour flight we decided that we would pick up the hire car the next morning so it was an easy walk out of the
airport, across the road and we checked in at the Delta Calgary airport Hotel. This hotel is ideal although the nightly
rate is expensive. Next year we have decided to pick up our hire vehicle right away and go to the Sandeman Hotel which
is only 5 minutes drive from the airport and is significantly cheaper.
Our hire car was booked through Thrifty. Ourselves and Jills sister Julie and her husband Callum who were with
us had prebooked 4x4 vehicles. We were told at the desk that they did not have any available that day ! In the end Julie
and Callum took a minivan and we got a luxury Chrysler 300 car. We were given $250 refund each. All the kit went in the minivan and we had lots
of space in the car. We brought Craigs own carseat over on the plane with us at no extra cost. It would have cost nearly $140
to rent one and there was no guarantee that one would be available.
The 190 mile drive down to Fernie was trouble free. We stopped at Castle Mountain for lunch. This is a great little ski hill
that we have been to before. They have opened up more beginner/intermediate terrain this season and they also now have kinder
care facilities. Not too many places to stay except for the ski lodge at the base and a few B&Bs near Beaver Mines including
Aspen Grove where we stayed a couple of years back and is highly recommended.
We were soon at Fernie and checking in at the Lizard Creek Lodge. We had a 2 bedroom condo and it was excellent.
There was so much room and it was beautifully decorated and equipped.
We had Craig booked into kinder care at the daylodge for 3 days. He was happy and contented and the staff were very friendly
We had snowboarded at Fernie a couple of times in the past and when we arrived the snow was in good condition.
The groomed runs were excellent. We ate at Kelseys, the Italian restaurant near the general store then down in Fernie
we went to the “Corner Pocket” where the Bison was excellent. On the final night we ate in the Lizard
Creek restaurant and the food was excellent - Alberta tenderloin with Lobster. Prices were reasonable at Fernie
for food and drinks. A pitcher of Kootenay Mountain ale in the Griz bar was $12. The kinder care bill for 3 days was
$171 and that included lunch.
I had heard good things about Schweitzer Mountain down in Idaho so we decided to spend 4 nights down at Sandpoint. We left Fernie and drove down highway 93
to the border crossing at Roosville.
Last year we had crossed into the States at Patterson to go to 49’North and the experience was not much fun,
but at Roosville the US customs were brilliant, they chatted away and shared a few jokes and generally made us feel welcome.
After paying our $6 visa fee we were on our way down towards Eureka then onto the town of Libby, Montana for lunch. It was a very scenic mornings drive
along Lake Koocanusa. Fuel was $3.19/gallon and it was only $35 to fill the car up. We drove on past beautiful Lake Pend Orielle
to Sandpoint. We
did not stay in the resort but at the “Western Pleasure Ranch” which was a 35 minute drive from the ski hill. We stayed in
the meadowview guest house which was in a lovely quiet setting away from the main ranch.
We went down into Sandpoint
for dinner at a lovely Italian restaurant called Ivanos where everyone was so friendly.
We got discounted lift tickets at the ranch the next morning and drove up to the ski hill and checked Craig into the
kinder care where the staff were the friendliest people you could imagine.
As soon as we parked the car I knew right away that I would enjoy this place. Firstly the skiable area on the front side
of the hill looked far bigger than I had imagined. They have recently put in a couple of new lifts.
A new triple and a new quad chair. Basically the hill is split into two well linked parts. The front Schweitzer Bowl and the
Outback Bowl. The
snow was excellent and there had been a few inches of new snow overnight. There were not many people on the hill and we had
no queues all day. The middle of the village has a few nice condo blocks as well as about 8 eating places, 4 bars, a general
store and 3 ski/board shops. I would certainly recommend staying on the hill as it has more life to it than Fernie
has. We had 3 days riding here and I felt we really just got to know the place and had just scratched the surface of what
Schweitzer has to offer. There is terrain for all levels including a small beginners park and the “stomping ground
terrain park” which had some pretty big features. A lot of the front side of the hill is floodlit for night skiing at
weekends and during the holiday periods. From the Basin Express then the Lakeview triple chair the possibilities are endless.
There are lots of chutes and wide spaced gladed runs as well as nice cruising pistes lower down. From the base area you can
also take the Great Escape quad and this opens up some decent intermediate/advanced terrain. After day one on the front bowl
we handed in our boards for a service ($10 each board) and dreamed of hitting the Outback bowl the next morning.
We woke the next morning to find some fresh snow down in the valley. On the drive back up to the ski hill we could see
that there had been quite a few inches of fresh stuff. Just as we parked the car the sky cleared and the sun came out. The
views from Schweitzer are some of the best I have ever seen from a ski hill. You are looking down towards Sandpoint and the massive and weird shaped
Lake Pend Orielle.
We picked up our newly serviced boards from the “Ski and Ride Center” where the friendly ski/board
tech was happy to chat away and tell us the best areas to hit after the new snow. We made our way over to the “Outback Bowl” which
is served by a fast modern 6 pack, a rickety old 2 man chair and a T bar named “Idyle Our”. In this area there
are long and wide cruising blues but the best stuff is the Black diamond and double Black diamond trails through the trees.
We followed the advice we were given in the morning and made fresh powder tracks all day. It was amazing, down at the bottom
of the Bowl is the “Outback inn” which was a great place to stop for a refreshment. It was full of old
locals who seemed to use it as a social club. I was amazed at what I found at Schweitzer and it certainly betters Fernie
in my book. The statistics for the hill are pretty decent :-
2900 Acres, Longest Run- 1.7 miles, Vertical drop - 2400ft, Top elevation - 6400ft.
Average annual snowfall - 300”, Ski season - Nov to April.
Childcare was $55/day including lunch.
The resort was very family friendly but had terrain for all levels of skier or boarder. Puccis Pub in the village
was good for a beer and the Lakeview Café was good for lunch ($64 for 4 including beer).
I would recommend Schweitzer to anyone and we will certainly be going back.
It was then time to leave this lovely area in the north Idaho panhandle and drive back to Canada to return to Red, a place we have visited many
times and one of my favourite hills in the world. We drove to Priest River, crossed into Washington state , headed up to Usk and then across past 49’ North
, up to Colville, Kettle falls and back into BC at the Patterson crossing. From the border it is a short drive to Rossland
and up to the Rams Head Inn. We have stayed here a few times before and it is a beautiful B&B just a short walk
from Reds base area. We were sad to hear that the previous owners ,Greg and Tauna Butler had sold up as we had got to know
them well on our previous stays. The Rams Head Inn was just not the same, firstly it had been expanded to take more
guests and in the mornings it was too busy in the lounge at breakfast time. The guy who worked at the Inn was great but the
woman owner would come in to do breakfast and she was not very approachable or friendly. She hardly spoke a word to us and
when we asked for something it all seemed too much of an effort for her. We were quite sad about this as the place had so
many great memories for us. We met up with the previous owners and they were also sad to hear that things were not as they
were ! Greg and Tauna have now got a new place in Rossland and we are booked to stay there for 3 nights next March
followed by 4 nights at the Prestige Inn which we had a look round this year and seems to be a nice place.
Our first night at Red means one thing, a family reunion down at Trail where we all go to the “Collander”.
This traditional Italian family restaurant is an institution in the area and is well worth a visit. The food is superb,
service first class and value for money it is hard to beat. This year we had relatives over from Vancouver, Alan was born and bred here and he was meeting up
with some of his old mates and he had a surprise for us. We had known about the old cabins up on Granite mountain for a few
years but never really knew where they all were as they are hidden in the woods. Well we were invited to visit one of them
for a drink and a bite to eat. “The Stagger Inn” had been built by some of Alans friends years ago and at weekends
they would go up there and stay in the cabin. It was an amazing place and so warm and homely inside. As for boarding on Red
and Granite mountains I just cant think of anywhere else I would rather be. For this season the resort had created a few new
trails from the new Silverlode chair, these were easy blues and greens but its good to see Red providing more trails
for beginners and early intermediates. The only fault I could find was that the new chair was a fixed speed quad and a lot
of people had trouble getting off at the top. One good thing was that the new chair rises higher than the bottom of the upper
Motherlode chair giving a nice easy cruise down to it.
At the base of Red things are changing with new condos taking shape and I just hope the place does not grow too
big too soon.
Craig was booked into kinder care at Red and on two of the days he was the only one in. Jenny who runs the place
is excellent and Craig is already booked in again for next winter. The new trail map is split into 3 sectors and is still
not very representative of what is on the ground. For people coming here for the first time it can be confusing. Once you
get to know the area the worlds your oyster and you could ski here all season and still find new delights.From the top of
Granite you can drop down anywhere in the knowledge that you will come out onto Rinos run or easy street and get back to the
Motherlode chair. Rinos run is now what used to be called Long Squaw, they changed the name as it was thought to be politically
We met up with Greg and Tauna and had a morning blasting the blue runs from the Paradise chair. Names such as “Southern
Belle”, “Gambler”, “Ruby Monday and “Southern Comfort” all provide fast carving sport.
We stopped for a break at the warm and welcoming “Paradise Lodge” for coffee and a muffin then went on a hike
up the side of Mt Roberts, it was a hard 30 minute slog then we dropped down through the trees in deep untracked powder arriving
back at the bottom of the Paradise chair. Next years hike will be up Grey Mountain.
A day lift ticket at Red is $58 but they are available as a discount through the travel operators and via some
of the accomodation. Kindercare for Craig was $55/day.
The terrain park at Red is quite expansive and has various kickers, boxes and rails.
For eating , as I said earlier the “Collander” in Trail is a must visit but nearer the hill we always
like walking down the road to the “Rock Cut Pub”. The owner Warren is always very welcoming and helpful
and it serves great pub food and has a fine selection of beers.
We cant wait to return to Rossland and Red Mountain next season.
It was time to leave for Banff and my main concern was the continual snowfall and having to get over the Kootenay pass. We had about
an hours delay as they blasted the snow away on the Creston side. Once down the other side we were soon at Cranbrook for a fuel stop then headed on
to Fairmont Hot Springs for lunch. We liked the look of this place so much we have booked to stay a couple of nights
at the end of next years trip.
It was then on up to Banff
and to the Banff Springs Hotel. We had visited the hotel before but had never stayed there. The place is beautiful
but I feel it is over rated and not as good as some of the other hotels in the chain. There were only two of the restaurants
open so after a couple of drinks in the Rundle bar we went to the Italian restaurant where the food was really good.
Next day it was back to Calgary
for the flight home.
Next year we are flying to Calgary and going down to Big Mountain, Montana. The resort has now returned to its old name of Whitefish
mountain. We then have 7 nights at Red and then a couple of nights at Fairmont Hot Springs before flying home.
This year we drove a total of 2028km.