Winter 2009

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Winter 2008/9 looks set to be a good one for wintersports both in Scotland and the North of England.
So far I have managed the following days on the hills -
 
1. Dec 9th 2008 on Raise (Lake District).
2. Feb 2nd 2009 at Glencoe.
3. Feb 9th 2009 in the Lowther hills.
4. Feb 12th 2009 at Yad Moss in the Northern Pennines.
5. Feb 24th 2009 - March 12th 2009. Canada/USA road trip.

Dec 9th 2008 at Raise.
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Jill snowboarding at the Coe - Feb 2009.
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Jill at Yad Moss - Feb 2009.
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Pictures and reports from my days out on the hills can be found on the following links -
 
(Raise 9/12/08)
 
(Glencoe 2/2/09)
 
(Lowther Hills 5/2/09)
 
(Yad Moss 12/2/09)

Jill at Glencoe - Feb 2009.
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Buichaille Etive Mor - Glencoe.
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Touring the Lowther Hills - Feb 2009.
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The Lowther Hills from Eskdalemuir.
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Radar station at top of Lowther - Feb 2009.
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Canada / USA 2009 Trip report

When we arrived back home after our Feb/Mar 2008 trip I was as usual keen to plan and book our trip for the following year. We love Rossland and Red Mountain and in recent years we have always included it as part of our road trips. Last year we had a fine time down at Schweitzer Mountain in Idaho and we had heard good things about Big Mountain in Montana. This place has now been rebranded as Whitefish Mountain resort after the nearby town and has excellent on the hill accomodation as well as a decent snow record.

I decided just as last year to book everything independently and the first thing to sort out were the flights. Our Son would be over 2 years of age on this trip so would have to have his own seat. We had flown last Winter with Zoom direct from Glasgow to Calgary and this proved a great success and so much easier than transferring through Heathrow. We got the dates for our 2009 trip and then booked our flights direct with Zoom using a credit card. I then looked at vehicle hire and made a reservation with National. They did not take an upfront payment but gave me a quote for an SUV.

I then sorted out where we would stay on the trip which would see us spend a night at Calgary then down to Whitefish before Red and then onto Fairmont Hot Springs for a couple of nights on way back to Calgary.

Then to our horror we heard that FlyZoom were being wound up and that we would have to make alternative arrangements for our flights. I spent a few hours one evening seeing what was available and managed to book Air Canada flights from Glasgow to Calgary via Heathrow, these were more expensive than Zoom as well as having the extra inconvenience of flying via London. My next issue was trying to reclaim the money from Zoom and fortunately after a few weeks I was reimbursed by my credit card company.

Once Xmas and New year were over it was no time at all until we were packed up and on our way up to Glasgow airport. We always like to go up the evening before and over the past few years had always stayed at the Erskine Bridge Hotel. This was fine but you have to rely on the Hotels transfer bus to get to and from the airport and as it always means a wait on our return plus the Hotel is in the opposite direction from home we decided to stay at the Holiday Inn which is located on the airport. It cost 93 for the night plus car parking while we were away. Pretty good value and included a decent buffet style breakfast. That evening we had our dinner and then went for an early night. The next morning we were able to load all our luggage onto two airport trolleys which you can find at the Hotel entrance, from there it is a short distance under a covered walkway. We had no issues at check-in and all our luggage including two snowboard bags were soon off our hands and with having an energetic toddler in tow that makes things a bit easier. We headed through security which was quite slow and very warm and we did not have long to wait until we were on board the BMI flight to Heathrows terminal 1. Craig was pretty well behaved and enjoyed the short flight. On arrival in London it was very quiet and we were surprised at just how few people were about as we made our way via “Flight Connections” over to T3. The departure lounge here was quite busy but we were soon on our way down the long walkway to the plane and flight AC851 took off on time for Calgary. Craig was a bit upset for the first 30 minutes or so and did not want to wear his seatbelt but he settled down and we managed to keep him entertained for the duration of the flight, we had wrapped up little gifts for him to open and he also had his portable DVD player to keep him amused. On arrival at a very cold Calgary it took about 30 minutes to get through customs/immigration and a further 30 minutes to retreive our baggage. In the past we have just trudged across the road and checked in at the Delta Calgary Airport Hotel but while checking the prices we noticed that there were other much cheaper options available so we had booked the Sandman Airport Hotel a short drive away. We picked up our hire car in a matter of minutes from the National car hire desk, we were handed a very stylish looking luxury Lincoln MKX SUV and soon had our luggage loaded. Last year we had brought over Craigs car seat from home but decided it would be easier just to hire one with the car. This cost C$70 but was not the easiest thing to fit but after a bit of a struggle it was secured and we were on our way. It was a chilly -27c late afternoon as we drove out of the airport and down onto Barlow Trail heading south to McKnight Blvd and to the Hotel. It makes such a difference that we know our way around Calgary pretty well after all the years we have been travelling here. We unpacked our overnight bags and made our way to check-in. Craig was reluctant to come inside and just wanted to stay out playing in the recent fresh snow. Although it was really cold he seemed unperturbed and even after such a long day he was still awake and well behaved. We decided to stay up for as long as possible so made our way to the Hotels small swimming pool for a dip before getting ready to go for some dinner. The Moxies Classic Grill chain of restaurants is located at the Hotel and we were soon being shown to a table and ordering dinner, the steaks were very good and after being washed down with a couple of pints of Amber Ale (C$5.99/pint) I was feeling the effects of a long day. The bill for our starters ,main courses and drinks came to C$104 (61).We retired to our quite spacious room and went to sleep at about 8pm.

The next morning (Feb 26th) after a reasonable nights sleep we were up before 7am, it had been a very cold night and as I packed the car before breakfast it was showing -9f, I am always confused with low Fahrenheit readings but understand them when we hit the 70s and 80s in Summer but after doing a quick conversion on the calculator it worked out at -22.8c. We went back to Moxies for a breakfast of pancakes and some orange juice (C$34 for 3) before we set of south and down into Montana.

Whitefish, Montana.

We set of from Calgary at 8.45am for the 285 mile drive down to Whitefish,Montana. The roads in Calgary were hardpacked snow and we saw a couple of crashes on the way out of the City. Once onto Deerfoot trail we made good progress and onto Highway 2 south where the roads were very quiet, we headed down to Fort McLeod and Cardston to the US border crossing at Carway. There was only one other vehicle in front of us and we were soon told to park up and come into the office. The staff here just like last year at Roosville, friendly and helpful. We got our visitors visas ($6) and were soon on our way, this is a very remote part of Montana and there were no towns or villages for miles as we headed south on snowy roads to Babb,St.Mary and Kiowa then on to Browning which is in the Blackfoot Indian reservation. We stopped at the

Subway there for lunch just as the sun came out. It had been a really nice drive with some fine scenery. Craig fell asleep in the car after lunch as we made our way west on hardpacked snow to Columbia Falls and up to Whitefish, when we arrived in town it was snowing heavily and we could not find any signs with directions up to the ski hill, eventually we found the way and after about 20 minutes drive we were at Whitefish Mountain resort and the main check-in desk. We had booked to stay at the Morning Eagle condos which have there own underground heated carpark. Had booked this earlier in the year when the pound was much stronger against the dollar and the total cost for 4 nights was $1076 (785). Expensive but worth it, Craig had his own room which was classed as a den and the whole open plan living area was spacious and well furnished, we had a lovely bedroom with lots of storage space and the bathroom was huge and included a large washing machine and separate tumble drier which were to come in handy over the next few days. It was still snowing as we unpacked and things were looking good for our first day on the hill. We were then ready for some dinner so took a walk up to “Ed and Mullys” where it was only $3 for a beer, what a difference from the Alps ! After dinner we headed back to the condo and I got my internet connection set up which had a good strong WiFi signal. Off to bed by 10pm and it was still snowing outside.

Craig had woke up at 4am but went back to sleep until we all got up at 7.15am, I got breakfast sorted and took all our kit down to the car. The daylodge is a short drive down the hill from where we were staying and that is where the kinder care is located. The condo is otherwise ski in,ski out. We drove down and got parked up and made our way into the large lodge which houses the usual ticket office,lockers,ski hire,restaurant etc. Once kinder care opened we introduced ourselves and the Manager Nancy could remember speaking to me back in December when we had made a reservation for Craig, I suppose she does not hear too many Scottish accents in these parts ! Child care costs were C$60/day plus $10 for lunch if required. Once Craig was settled Jill and I got our boards and set out to explore the hill.

Whitefish has 7 chairlifts (3 high speed quads, 2 fixed quads, 2 triples) that normally run plus two others that act as a back up for Chair 1 if it is down for maintenance. There is also the Bigfoot T-bar of which I will mention again later , the Heavens T-Bar which is used for competitions and a conveyor carpet in the beginners area.

There is also another chair (Elk) which is for access to some of the accomodation. All these lifts cover 3,000 acres and 94 marked runs as well as limitless off-piste skiing in bowls and in gladed areas. The area averages more than 300 inches of snow per year, has a summit elevation of 6817ft and a vertical drop of 2353ft with the longest run being 3.3 miles. So there was certainly more than enough terrain for Jill and I to cover on this trip.

It was still snowing as we set out for the Big Mountain Express (Chair 1) and there was a little queue, chatted to a local snowboarder while we were in the line and he said that this was by far the busiest day of the season even though we were on the chair in less than 5 minutes and this was at the start of the day. They had not had very many great powder mornings so all the locals had shut up shop in town and headed for the hill. I enjoyed telling him about powder mornings in Chamonix and other places in Europe and saying just how spoiled people are living in a place like Montana when 30 people in a lift line is a busy day.

It was misty at the top but there was great fresh snow in every direction, as it was our first day and we were unfamiliar with the area we made our first run of the day down Ptarmigan Bowl keeping near to the lift in order to help navigation, the powder was light and knee deep and we made nice turns until the visibility lifted and we made our way onto the piste and cruised down the blue run“Corkscrew” coming out at the bottom of Chair 9, there was nobody there so we got on and it slowly made its way up a rather flat area through the trees, this is a beginners area but still steep enough to make a few fresh powder turns through the trees. We were back up to the top a couple of times finding different lines down the front side of the hill, every run being on nice fresh snow. It was then time for a coffee stop and we headed back to the village for coffee and a huge muffin at the small and intimate “Big Drift Coffee house”. We then had a few nice runs from Chair 2 which access the “Fishbowl” terrain park. It was very quiet in this area and the blue runs from the top of the chair are nice and cruisy and they are longer than they look on the piste map. Lunchtime saw us head to the “Bierstube” which is located just across the road from the Morning Eagle Condos. This is a very atmospheric place with a nice relaxed vibe where they serve good food and good beers all at reasonable prices. Jill had some nice Chilli while I had the soup of the day which was Clam Chowder. After a few more runs on the front side of the hill we went to pick up Craig from kind care at 2.45pm. He had been fine but was now looking forward to getting out on his own small plastic skis we had brought with us. He was walking around pretty well on them and just wanted to head higher and higher up the nursery slopes. After his skiing and a snowball fight we headed back to the car and drove back up to Morning Eagle. Had a rest, went to the village store which was just up the road to stock up on a few things before we went for dinner. Tonight we went to the “Hellroaring Saloon” where the food and service were excellent. Had some really delicious meatballs washed down with a few beers before we headed home through some quite heavy snowflakes, it was certainly looking like another powder day for Northern Montana. We were all away to bed early again tonight.

It had been a quiet and peaceful night until we heard Craig coughing then being sick at 6.40am, we got him up and into the bath and all his bedding into the washing machine, which we would be using constantly over the next couple of days . Outside the sky had cleared and it was all set to be a fine,sunny day with a nice covering of overnight snow on the ground. Craig was sick again and looked quite pale and unwell so was not going to go to kinder care today. I drove down to the daylodge to let them know. Jill stayed in with Craig while I got out to hit the fresh stuff. I headed straight up to the Summit House and dropped down into the Back Bowl where I cruised down the groomers to Big Creek Express (Chair 7), it was very quiet and I virtually had the place to myself. Back to the top and I headed down towards the Big Foot T-bar, there were a few people in front of me but I could see lovely clear untracked terrain up above me. The T-bar is only open at weekends so much of the area had been untouched except for a few people who had made it up there under their own steam.There were stunning views down and across towards the Flathead Lake and Blacktail Mountain. I done a couple of loops of the T-bar for some fine tree runs before heading back over to the front side of the mountain, a run through the park and back to the condo. Craig seemed a bit better and we all had beans on toast for lunch. Jill then got her board out and done a few laps of the park at the back of Morning Eagle while Craig and I played around in the snow. When Jill was finished we got into the car and drove down to Whitefish, Craig fell asleep as we drove round the edge of the lake then headed into town, he then woke up and was very sick all over the car, it certainly was not a nice job cleaning it all up. We had a look around the shops including an amazing toy shop (Imagination Station) where we had a nice chat to the owner before we headed back up the hill. I went over to the Bierstube to order dinner to take back to the condo, this was great as I had time for a few beers while I waited on the food. It was reasonably busy as it was a Saturday evening and everyone was having a fine time. Got chicken wings,burgers and pizza and had a nice feast in the comfort of the condo before watching tv and having an early night.

Sunday morning (1st March) arrived and Craig had slept all night and was looking a lot better as we sat down to eat breakfast. Outside it was calm and cool with high cloud which looked as though it might be capable of delivering a bit more snow during the day. We decided to take Craig down to kinder care where he was a little reluctant to leave us but he had settled well after a few minutes and ended up having a good day. I was eager to take Jill to some of the areas I had discovered while on my own yesterday so we headed up Chair 1 to the summit and down into the Back bowl, runs like Black Bear, Marmot,Whitetail and Kodiak were all in excellent condition. You really get the feel of being away out in the wilds over here, it is remote,peaceful and beautiful. Headed over for a few runs from the T-bar and there were still some untracked areas from yesterday. We popped in to check Craig was ok then decided to head over to the “Hellroaring Basin” to explore the chutes. It was quiet and a really good area where all the runs eventually reach down to a blue run called Hell Fire which ends back at the Hellroaring Triple chair (Chair 8). This area closes at the end of March as the Grizzly Bears start to wake from their winter hibernation. One of the Lady snow hosts we had been talking to earlier in the day used to work with bears in the area and told us a lot about them and their environment. We had a late lunch today in the Bierstube washed down with a couple of pints of Porter before we went to pick up Craig. We borrowed a plastic sledge and pulled him around for a while at the back of the condo. One of the Ladies who works at the kids centre also does a little baby sitting in the evenings and she offered to come up to the condo that evening to allow Jill and I to go out for dinner on our own. We got Craig away to bed by 7pm and once Lynn arrived we walked up to the Hellroaring Saloon where I had Buffalo and Jill had Sirloin steak for dinner. We then went down to the Bierstube for a drink , it was really quiet in there tonight and by 10pm we were ready to call it a night. We had most of our things all packed ready to move on in the morning. We really enjoyed our stay at Whitefish and its certainly somewhere I would return to and I would also recommend it to anyone who has a liking for a quality ski hill that is quiet and friendly with terrain for every level and also an excellent kids centre. Lift tickets cost us $56/day (40).

Red Mountain

Monday morning arrived and we soon had everything packed into the car and after checking out at the central reservations office we were on our way out of Whitefish heading south to Kalispell. It was a fine morning and the roads were quiet and we were making good time on the 263 mile drive. We were going to stop at Libby for lunch just like last year but as Craig was fast asleep in the back we kept going up to the border crossing at Porthill. It began to rain and it was a real downpour as we pulled in for lunch at Creston. Fed and watered we were soon on our way and I was a bit concerned as to what the weather was going to be like going over the Kootenay pass to Salmo. I thought it might be a blizzard when we got higher up but it kept raining and only turned to snow at the very top of the pass. The road was like a river in flood but as we got over the summit it began to clear and dry up. We arrived in Rossland by 2pm and headed down into the lower part of town to find the Black Bear b&b. This lovely old place is owned by Greg and Tauna Butler whose former place was the Rams Head Inn up at the ski hill. We always used to stay there but it has gone downhill faster than Bode Miller since going into new ownership. It was great to see Greg,Tauna and their family again and we were soon settled into the Grand Room (C$145/night). We took a drive back up to Rossland, it’s a fine old town and I love coming back here again and again. We went to the Post Office then to the Prestige Inn for a coffee. Tonight I began to feel really unwell and it was not long before I realised I had the same bug which Craig was just recovering from. I was unwell and awake all night and it was the worst I have ever felt.

The next morning I was exhausted and drained of all energy, at breakfast all I could manage was tea and toast. We managed to make it up to the Ski hill and Jenny greeted us as we arrived at Reds kinder care. She could remember Craig from last year. The kids are in a long tall building just in front of the nursery slopes, its very homely and cozy. It costs C$55/day. I was just not well enough to board today so I dropped Jill off in Rossland and I went back to the b&b and to my bed for a few hours sleep. This afternoon we drove back up to the ski hill to pick up Craig, he had been fine and had enjoyed his day. We then drove down the hill to Trail and to the Aquatic centre. This is an excellent facility and Jill and Craig spent some time in the various pools having fun while I sat at the side feeling sorry for myself. Once back in the car Craig fell asleep as we went to the shops and then for some dinner, I did not eat much so there is a chance that this illness might help me lose some weight ! I was away to bed by 7.30pm but did not sleep well.

Wednesday 5th March arrived and I certainly felt a bit better as we went down for breakfast. We went up to the ski hill and Craig was dropped off at kinder care with Jenny. I went to the ticket office and bought two 5 out of 6 day passs and it was great that they accepted the remainder of my US dollars as part payment. Day tickets were around C$56.50/day. (33). It was quite a mild and misty morning at the base but when we got above mid mountain it cleared and became bright and cold. I was still feeling a little drained and weak so we took it quite easy today but in saying that we covered quite a bit of terrain. The snow was in great condition and there were very few people on the slopes, Red was certainly a lot quieter than usual and it seemed like the credit crunch was having an effect on business here just like everywhere else. We finished up after lunchtime and headed back to the b&b once we had picked up Craig. We then went back down to the Aquatic centre in Trail and this time I manged to go in swimming as well. Once we were dried and dressed it was time to go to one of our favourite places for dinner. We were meeting Susan,Bill and Joan at the Collander. We always come here on our first night back in town but this year it happened to be the second night of our trip which was just as well as I would not have eaten much last night. We always go for the “special” which consists of salad,potatoes,chicken then meatballs and spaghetti. It is a great feast and very very cheap and there is always way too much food. After a good chat and a couple of glasses of wine we headed back up the steep hill to Rossland. We were in bed at the same time as Craig again tonight, well fed and on the road to recovery.

Thursday morning arrived and I felt much better as we headed down for breakfast at 8am, it had been snowing overnight and the car was covered with around 6” of dry powder. Ate pancakes and maple syrup then cleared the snow from the car and made our way up to the ski hill. Jill took Craig to kinder care while I headed off to meet our old friend Andy. Andy Cant is a snow host at Red whom we met on our very first trip here a number of years ago and we have kept in touch with him ever since. The stories the hosts can tell from the old days at Red always facinate me and its good to learn more about the history of the place. Andy has a great memory and remembers all the things we have talked about on our previous trips. We spent the morning with Andy touring some of the glades of “Buffalo Ridge” on Granite Mountain, finding sweet pockets of powder. Stopped at Paradise Lodge for morning coffee and got to meet a few more interesting characters including Howard who at 92 years old skis at Red 3 days a week as well as a couple of days at his local hill, 49’ North over the border in Washington State. He also regularly heli skis and has about 3 heli company jackets for racking up plenty of vertical feet. An amazing character and I also noticed while we were having our coffee that the majority of people in the lodge were quite a bit older than me, there were lots of people in their 60s,70s and 80s who all looked so well and so fit, it just shows what exercise and a good mountain environment can do for you. Also amazing to see so many mature people enjoying a ski hill that is mainly steep and deep stuff, no cruising around eay groomers for this lot. Jill and I had a great morning with Andy and said goodbye at lunchtime when we went to Rafters for a pint. Jill and I then done a few runs on Red before picking up Craig where we found he was still enjoying his afternon nap. Tonight for dinner we headed up to the Rockcut Pub, this is an old favourite of ours and the owner Warren is a right character. The food is good, they have a great selection of beers and the waitresses are always pleasing on the eye. Tonight Craig had Poutine ($8), I had a chicken clubhouse burger ($14) and Calamari ($11) while Jill had a NY steak ($24). A couple of nice pints of Rickards Red at C$4.99 each washed it all down. We got back to the b&b and once Craig was asleep I uploaded some of my photographs onto my websites before going to bed.

Got up to a bright and sunny morning, today we were moving on from the Black Bear b&b to the Prestige Inn which is located in upper Rossland. We only moved as we planned to meet up with friends from Vancouver but their plans had fallen through and could no longer make it across. We set off for the hill after packing the car and paying our bill to Tauna, arrived at 9.15am, got parked up and Craig safely delivered to Jenny at kinder care. Jill and I started out with a few nice runs on Red , the “Cliff” and “Back-Trail” were in excellent condition. We then moved over to Granite and found some real nice snow on a number of runs accessed from “Buffalo Ridge“.

Lunch was down at Rafters where a Chicken Kebab and Pita bread gave my energy levels a boost before a few more laps down Main Run. We called it a day quite early and while Craig was still at kinder care we drove down to the Prestige Inn and checked in. We unpacked and done a load of laundry . We had booked a one bedroom suite which was nice and spacious with a small kitchen area and plenty of storage space, there was also good WiFi internet coverage. It cost us C$652 (382) for the 3 nights. We headed back up to the hill to pick up Craig and he was in a good mood after having a fine day, we then called in at Greg and Taunas before driving down to Trail. The journey from Rossland to Trail is down a very steep and quite winding major road which has lots of big trucks on it heading down to the States. Passing through Warfield you soon come to the Columbia River which split’s the town of Trail in two, before the bridge you come to the Tech Cominco arena home to the Trail Smokeaters. Once over the bridge you have the main residential areas looking down onto the river, this is where we were going tonight to have dinner at Susans along with Bill and Joan. As we sat looking out of the window we were told to watch out for Bald Eagles which sometimes perch on the tall trees above the river but tonight they were not to be seen. We had a nice meal then headed back up the hill to Rossland watching the outside temperature falling as we gained height back up to Columbia ave and Rossland. Its always delightful driving back into the town with its wide main street and the trees along the side decorated with small blue lights, its even better when there is a nice fresh covering of snow along the walkways and on the parked vehicles as it was this evening. I wrote a snow report from today and then fell into bed shortly after 9pm. Glad there is no real partying to be done on this trip !

Saturday March 7th arrived and when I looked out at 7am it was snowing. We had a quick breakfast then we were on our way. Got a space in the top parking lot by 8.20am. It was quite cold as we got Craig onto his skis for 20 minutes before kinder care opened and he had a fine time trudging around the fresh squeaky snow. Once he was safely with Jenny we were soon on our way up the Silverlode Chair, I was surprised at just how quiet it was for 9am on a Saturday morning after a decent overnight snowfall but I was certainly not complaining. We had a few nice runs over on Paradise side then headed down via “Rinos Run” to the daylodge for a hot chocolate. Later we did “Beer Belly” “Dougs run” and the snow was starting to accumulate quite nicely. We finished with a few powder turns on Main run and were back in the car by 12.30pm. We drove down to the Prestige Inn, put on some laundry and went into the Hotels indoor hot tub for a relaxing soak. Afterwards we had a walk around the shops in Rossland before going back up the hill for a late lunch at Rafters. We then picked up Craig and he got his skis on again for a while before we headed back down to town.

The plan was to eat with Greg and Tauna at their place tonight but we could not get in touch with them so we decided to eat in the Hotel. They have a lounge bar and a restaurant adjoining it and when we walked down to the bar with Craig we were told that no kids were allowed in the lounge bar and could we go to the restaurant. We said that would be fine and we ordered a drink and asked for the menu from the unhelpful and unfriendly waitress and sat dwon at a table with a nice view looking out over lower Rossland. We asked if they would possibly heat some baked beans that we had for Craig to have along with his dinner but were told No that it was not the hotels policy to do this, we explained that he had been unwell and that as there were no other guests in the dinning room could they not just heat them up in the microwave but they said no, I asked for the manager and he was also very unfriendly and quite rude so we just got up and walked out saying that they obviously were in such a good position and so busy they could afford to turn away $200 or so. In all our trips to Canada and the US over the years that is the first time I have ever had negative service from anywhere, what a contrast to the Rockcut Pub up the road where the service is excellent and they were only too happy to heat up some beans for Craig a couple of nights previously. This put me off the Prestige Inn completely and although the accomodation and price was pretty good I certainly would not stay with them again either in Rossland or elsewhere. Anyway we decided to get a carryout Pizza for tea from Mistys which is just up the street opposite the Flying Steamshovel Pub. I walked up the road, placed my order then had a couple of beers across in the bar, collected our Pizza and went back to the Hotel to eat. It was excellent and after failing to finish it all we were again away to bed early.

Sunday would be our last day on the hill at Red for this season so I was keen to make the most of it, we finished of last nights Pizza for breakfast and on arriving at the hill we managed to again get a space in the top parking lot which is not that big. Again,like yesterday it was quiet with few skiers or snowboarders about and we headed up to the Paradise area where we had first tracks on the groomed steep and cruisy runs like “Southern Belle“, ”Gambler” and “Southern Comfort“. It was cold but the hard packed powder on these trails was groomed to perfection and it was great fun blasting down runs we know really well at high speed. We later hit sweet powder pockets on “Shoulder” before heading to the base for lunch. This afternoon it began to cloud over and we started to get a few light snow flurries as we spent most of our time on the front side of Granite mountain. On calling it a day we put the boards into the car and took a walk over to the Silver Creek condos sales office for a chat and a look at the model of the resort with all the plans for future expansion. It all looks good but I just hope it never takes away the special quiet ambience that Red has at present as I would hate to see it become another commercial profit orientated hill that might lose the local friendly feel that it has built up since Rossland became Canadas first Alpine resort. At present sales of property on the hill are very slow, Im not sure if its just the present economic climate that is the cause of that or the simple fact that a lot of the property is a bit overpriced.

We collected Craig from kinder care and payed the bill for his time there, it came to C$312 (183), he had a good time and we look forward to him returning next winter for proper ski lessons.

Tonight we were back up to the Rockcut for dinner before returning back to the Hotel to get packed for the move to Fairmont Hot Springs in the morning.

Some facts and figures about Red Mountain (Red Resort)

Summit elevation - 6807ft

Base elevation - 3888ft.

Vertical drop - 2919ft

Skiable terrain - 1685 acres

Number of runs - 87

Longest run - 4.3 miles

Beginner terrain - 15%

Intermediate terrain - 40%

Advanced terrain - 45%

Average snowfall - 300 inches

Lifts

1 quad chair

2 triple chairs

1 double chair

1 surface T-bar

1 surface carpet

Terrain Park

Ski/Boardercross area.

Fairmont Hot Springs

Monday March 9th 2009 and after my best nights sleep of the trip so far I was up at 7.30am, looking outside made me want to stay as it was snowing heavily and there had been a decent accumulation overnight even down in town so up the hill would be pretty good. Alas we had to move on and we had a drive of 215 miles in front of us including the climb back over the Kootenay pass, last year we were delayed for a couple of hours because of snow clearing just the other side of the summit on the Creston side. We had breakfast and checked out and headed down the hill to Trail for the last time on this trip, we called in to say our goodbyes to Bill, Joan and Susan and as we left Trail the snow began to ease off and we had a problem free run over to Creston where we refuelled the car and on to Cranbrook. Craig was settled in the back so we did not stop but kept on going up past Fort Steele and Canal Flats until we reached the 4 seasons resort of Fairmont Hot Springs. Last year we had stopped for lunch here on our way back up to Banff from Red and it was somewhere that I felt would be a nice place to end our trip before flying home. We were early and our room was not yet ready so we headed up the windy road to the resorts small ski hill where we had a bite of lunch in the modern daylodge. Its quite an impressive place and Craig played happily in the snow before we returned to the resort to check-in. I managed to park the car round the back and it was not far to take the luggage up some stairs to the room. We had a view out over the lodgings own private guests hot pool. The room was not big but was all we needed for a couple of nights. It cost C$303 (89/night) and we spent around another C$250 in the restaurant over the two nights.

We then went a walk over to the main pools, there are 3 pools with the temp varying a few degrees between them. It was -15c outside but was lovely once in the warm water whose temp varied from 30c in the diving pool up to 32c in the large swimming pool and a really warm 39c in the main hot pool. These mineral rich waters are some of the cleanest in North America and they are drained, cleaned and refilled overnight. Craig really enjoyed it and was encouraging us to get out and bring snowballs into the water. After an hour or so we got dried and changed and took a drive down to the supermarket for a few provisions. Once back in the room I struggled to get a WiFi connection probably because we were quite far away from the main lodge, I took the laptop to the lounge where the connection was good so I caught up with my e-mails and what was happening in the world while sipping a cool beer from the bar. Tonight we went to the dining room once Craig was in bed and had a really nice meal. I had some excellent Pork and we washed it down with a nice bottle of Canadian white wine. A quiet nightcap in the bar and we were away to bed just after 10pm.

I was greeted to a pleasant sight when I looked out the next morning and saw a nice cover of fresh snow on the ground. We got ready and drove the short 5 minute drive up to the ski hill where it was very quiet. Bought a lift ticket for C$38.50 (22.50) and I then found that I was the second person on the chairlift after the ski patrol. Looking down as the chair slowly headed to the top I could see nice fresh cover on the runs but it was very cold at a chilly -22c at the top and a degree warmer at the base. It was not so good when the gloves had to come off to take a few pictures though but I soon warmed myself up with a few nice powder runs where nobody else had made any tracks and it was like that all morning. I headed back to the daylodge where Craig was happily playing away inside and took over childcare duties so that Jill could get out out for a few runs, with so few people on the hill she was still able to make her own fresh tracks. We had lunch at the daylodge then made our way to the supermarket and to put some fuel in the car , it was 95c per litre and I just put enough in to see us back to Calgary airport as I had already pre-paid for the fuel when we got the car. Once back at the lodge I caught all the football scores on my laptop before we went to the pools again, we were in the water for around an hour and a half and it was certainly a bit busier than yesterday.

We had our dinner along with Craig in the lounge bar this evening before going out for a walk before darkness fell. We then packed our bags ready to leave in the morning and after Craig was in bed we had a drink in the lounge before retiring just after 10pm.

Fairmont Hot Springs Ski Hill facts.

Top elevation - 5200ft

Base elevation - 4200ft

Vertical drop - 1000ft

Longest run - 1 mile

Lifts - 1 triple chair, 1 surface platter lift

Night Skiing - Fridays (high season)

 

Woke up on Wednesday 11th March to a clear and cold morning and I soon had all our luggage loaded into the car. We had plenty of time so we went for a dip in the nearby guest pool, on the way we discovered there are also a couple of small indoor pools. The walk from the lodge to the pool is along a covered walkway but as soon as you step outside the cold air hits you. We enjoyed a last relaxing soak before going to the dinning room for a late breakfast. We checked out and left for the 185 mile drive to Calgary at 11.30am. It was a fine drive through the Kootenay and Banff National parks with hardly another vehicle on the road, we stopped at Canmore for some lunch and as we neared Calgary the “low fuel” alarm came on in the car but I was certainly not going to put any more in and just hoped we had enough to see us back to the car rental returns area. The drive into Calgary past Olympic park and through the edge of the city to the airport is straightforward and we were soon handing the keys over and getting our luggage onto trolleys. The car was covered in mud but except for a large crack on the windscreen which had grown longer every day since the start of the trip it was fine. The bill was C$1350 (790) for the trip which was for unlimited mileage, child seat hire, tank of fuel ,all taxes and for the roadside service plan and insurance. The receipt stated we had covered 4837km but I am certain we did not do that much, that is over 3000 miles and I would estimate we covered around 1400 miles so just as well we were not paying by the mile !

At check-in we were told that the aircraft had been downsized since our booking had been made and although I had already pre-booked our seats we were given new ones all sitting apart , couldn’t see this working with a 30 month old toddler sitting away from his parents on his own. We were told it would all be sorted at the gate before boarding the aircraft but on arrival at the gate we soon realised we were not the only ones who had a problem, some people were a bit heated about it but in the end it was all sorted out and we got our 3 seats together. The flight home was fine and we arrived at Heathrow the next morning, made our way to T1 and caught the BMI flight Glasgow. On arrival our luggage arrived quickly and it was only a short walk back across to the Hotel to pick up the car and we were soon on our way down the road arriving back in Dumfries by 4.30pm.

All in all this had been a great trip with no real issues. Travelling with small children is not easy and a lot of forward planning is required. Staying on the airport the night before was a good idea but I would always advise taking your own childrens car seats as they are carried free of charge on most trans-atlantic flights. The portable DVD player was great to keep Craig occupied although after a few hours you could strangle Bob the bloody Builder and kick Thomas the Tank Engine off the rails, only thing I forgot to take was the in-car charger so we went through a few batteries.

Whitefish was a great success and the Morning Eagle condos are first class and it’s a resort we would love to return to. Red was excellent as usual and Fairmont Hot Springs makes an excellent place to unwind at the end of the trip.

Im now looking forward to planning next years trip.

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