I used to think snowshoeing was for people who couldn’t ski — a slightly less cool version of outdoor sports. Then, I went snowshoeing in Rossland, BC.

Snowshoeing in Rossland - Melanie Chambers
Snowshoeing near Rossland, BC – Photo: Melanie Chambers

My friend points his walking pole at the peak of Old Glory. At 2,377 meters, there’s a lonely, uninhabited cabin. Between the 1940s to the ’60s, rangers rode up on horseback to operate the weather station. Today, my friends and I are snowshoeing to a lower spot called the Unnecessary Ridge.

Snowshoeing in Rossland - Melanie Chambers
“The Kootenay Sea” – Photo: Melanie Chambers

Looking behind us, a soft fog settles in the valley of the mountains. Locals call it the Kootenay Sea. We’ve been climbing through the forest for about two hours, following the tracks of backcountry skis. Our dogs leap and dance. If I had a tail, it would be wagging, too.

 

(Note: if you’re planning to enter avalanche terrain, make sure you bring someone with an Avalanche Skills Training certification and the proper gear—avalanches are a real threat here. Really, everyone should have the training to be safe).


Red Mountain Resort is justifiably the main draw to this little mountain town, but not only does the backcountry snowshoeing, fat biking and Nordic skiing offer up glorious mountain views, but the outdoor exertion also justifies the necessary traditional aprés drink.

Rossland Beer Co. - BC Ale Trail
Rossland Beer Co. in Rossland, BC

Rossland Beer Co. is the heart and soul of Rossland’s aprés culture and this year is their 10th anniversary. It is the place to be after playing in the mountains. On any given night you’ll find someone in fat bike goggles or ski boots ordering beer at the bar. Outdoor culture abounds in Rossland.

The walls reveal some of the history and culture: a black and white photograph from the 1930s show a homemade bobsled careening down Spokane Street during the town’s winter carnival, which is celebrating its 150th anniversary this year. It’s the oldest winter carnival in Canada. A set of skis is a tribute to a local ski legend Ranger Ray Raymond Gaudart. And there’s a huge black and white painting of hops by artist Alex Moon.

Rossland Beer Co. - BC Ale Trail
Petri Raito and Melanie Chambers at the Rossland Beer Co. in Rossland, BC

“We wanted to have a place that we liked to hang out in,” says co-owner Petri Raito, who started the brewery with childhood friend Ryan Arnaud. As teens back in Winnipeg, the duo sneakily siphoned the horrible tasting homemade beer from Petri’s stepdad. When they began making their own beer, they were meticulous from the beginning. Without syrups or extracts, they used real grain. Back then they brewed using a Braumeister electric beer maker and fermented the beer in 19-litre glass carboys. Today, Arnaud is the brewer (alongside general manager Brad Brown); Raito is the business guy.

Rossland Beer Co. - BC Ale Trail
Rossland, BC

Tucked away in the West Kootenays, Rossland is a four-hour drive from the airport in Kelowna. “We’re never going to have that influx of weekenders,” says Raito. “It will never hit Banff or Whistler-like status. And, we like that.”

The beer, made from local grains sourced in Armstrong, are named after local legends. Paydirt is a pale ale that starts with a citrus taste and ends with a hoppy finish. It is named after a phenomenal black diamond downhill mountain bike trail in Rossland. The Seven Summits milk stout is a deliciously light stout named after the legendary 2007 Bike Magazine’s trail of the year and an International Mountain Bike Association Epic Ride (for non-riders, this is the Oscars of mountain biking). The 35-km trail, not an everyday ride, is a point-to-point journey for the mountain biker who wants to test their mettle.

It’s also possible to fat bike parts of the trail in the winter. Starting in the Seven Summits parking lot, the trails are ungroomed, yet still rideable thanks to the skiers and snowshoers packing down the trail. Just a quick drive north of town, the gentle but never-ending climbs lead to expansive mountain views. And the best part: zipping back down the mountain. A wonderful surprise is that you’re never riding long before encountering a warmup cabin.

Doors painted with local artist’s work and fresh cut wood to throw onto the fire, the cabins are a testament to Rosslanders DIY attitude and love of their home.

The next day, starting on the Centennial trail, I’m loaded up in layers of merino wool and heated gloves to ride the groomed trails just outside town. With studded tires the size of small automotive inner tubes, the bike feels a bit like riding a tank. But it’s fast and flowy thanks to some local trail groomers who volunteer their time. The trails are grippy and hard packed, but watch out: put your leg down into a snowbank and you’ll see how deep it really is: I’m up to my thigh in snow.

The view on top of the Kootenay Columbia Trail – Photo: Melanie Chambers

I start climbing Mo then backtrack to Eddy J, a tight switchback climb and descent through the forest. Over to the Kootenay Columbia trail, it’s a punchy quick steep slog to the lookout. Sitting on a wooden bench half buried in snow, I watch as the stars slowly take over the expansive sky and the sun sets over the sleepy town.

With a headlamp to guide me, I ride downhill all the way into the parking lot beside the Flying Steamshovel Inn and Gastropub for a post-ride dinner. Not only does it carry the Rossland Beer Co.’s beer, its menu is eclectic: imagine Korean bibimbap, steak frites, and tiny tacos. Plus, the appetizer-to-end-all-apps: the Scotch Egg. It’s a soft boiled egg wrapped in panko crust and fennel sausage.

Steamshovel - Melanie Chambers)
Mussels & fries at the Steamshovel in Rossland, BC – Photo: Melanie Chambers

The Steamshovel also has a huge selection of other BC craft beers–a toasted coconut black lager from Field House Brewing in Abbotsford or a delicious double tart IPA called the Righteous Wave that makes your mouth pucker from Twin Sails Brewing in Port Moody made in conjunction with Slackwater Brewing in Penticton.

Black Jack Ski Club - Melanie Chambers)
Nordic skiing at Black Jack Ski Club – Photo: Melanie Chambers

Black Jack Ski club has been around since 1983 and has helped nurture some formidable athletes, such as two-time cross country skiing Olympian George Grey and this year’s Olympic hopeful, Rémi Drolet. In the parking lot today, there is a bus load of school kids—they start them young here.

Black Jack Ski Club - Melanie Chambers)
Red Mountain in the background at Black Jack Ski Club – Photo: Melanie Chambers

With 42 trails that are impeccably groomed, you might never do a repeat route. I chose Gibbard’s, a 5.5-km trail to a cabin. The steady false flat climb is only 152 meters of elevation, but it’s a workout. Turning around for the glide back down, the lights from downtown glitter in the night sky. In town, the sky is painted pink as the skiers and fat bikers make their way into the brewery. Another glorious day of mountain life in Rossland.

Rossland BC - Melanie Chambers)
Downtown Rossland at night – Photo: Melanie Chambers
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