Clinging to the slopes of an extinct volcanic crater deep in the tree-covered Monashee Mountains, Rossland (population 4,000) was once a gold-rush boomtown known as “The Golden City.” The precious yellow metal was discovered on Red Mountain 1890, with the town’s population peaking seven years later at 7,000.
At that time, the city boasted four newspapers, 40 saloons, and daily rail service south to Spokane. By 1929, the mountain had yielded six million tons of ore worth $165 million. Today, tourism supplies the bulk of Rossland’s gold.
Rossland Visitor Centre (250/362-7722 or 888/448-7444, www.rossland.com, daily 9 a.m.–5 p.m. in summer) is in the museum complex south of downtown.
Sights and Recreation
The site of what was once one of the world’s richest gold mines is now part of an alpine resort offering some of North America’s most challenging lift-served runs. Red Mountain Resort (250/362-7384 or 800/663-0105, www.redresort.com) offers skiing and boarding on mountains for all ability levels, but “Red” holds most appeal for experts—and as any local will tell you, the advertised 640 hectares (1,580 acres) of terrain doesn’t do justice to the opportunities for skiing in the backcountry. Lift tickets are adult $64, senior $42, child under 12 $32.
On the west side of downtown is the Rossland Museum (Hwy. 3B and Columbia Ave., 250/362-7722, daily 9 a.m.–5 p.m. in summer, weekends only noon–4 p.m. the rest of the year, adult $5, senior $4, child $1.50), at the entrance of the Le Roi mine, which catalogs the area’s lustrous geological and human history. The museum also holds the western Canada Ski Hall of Fame, which honors such luminaries as Olaus Jeldness—instigator of the local ski craze—and Nancy Greene, a local skier who won a gold medal in the 1968 Olympics.
To experience the day-to-day life of the early hard-rock miners, tour Le Roi Gold Mine, next to the museum complex. The 45-minute tour includes detailed explanations of how ore is mined, trammed, drilled, and blasted, and tells you how to differentiate igneous, metamorphic, and sedimentary rocks. Museum admission is included in the tour cost of adult $10, senior $8, child $3.
Accommodations and Food
The Ram’s Head Inn (250/362-9577 or 877/267-4323, www.ramshead.bc.ca, $95–199 s or d), one of Canada’s premier small lodges, lies in the woods at the base of Red Mountain. Primarily designed for wintertime, the inn offers 17 ultra comfy guest rooms that ooze mountain magnetism. Factor in a congenial dining room (breakfast only in summer), a game room, sauna, outdoor hot tub, and a spacious communal lounge with luxurious chairs and a large fireplace, and you have the perfect place to spend a couple of nights. Winter packages average around $120–180 per person per night, including lift tickets.
Each morning, locals converge on the Sunshine Café (2116 Columbia Ave., 250/362-5099, Mon.–Sat. 7 a.m.–4 p.m., Sun. 8 a.m.–2 p.m., lunches $5–8) for hearty cooked breakfasts from $6. The rest of the day, the café offers a diverse menu including Mexican and Indian dishes.
Goldrush Books and Espresso (2063 Washington St., 250/362-5333, Mon.–Sat. 7 a.m.–3:30 p.m., Sun. 7 a.m.–1 p.m.) sets a few tables around bookshelves full of local and Canadian literature.
On the road up to Red Mountain, Rock Cut Pub & Restaurant (250/362-5814, daily from 11 a.m., $9.50–19) is busiest in winter, but open year-round. It offers typical pub fare, smartly presented and well priced. Enjoy the mountain surroundings by eating on the heated deck.
© Andrew Hempstead, from Moon Western Canada, 3rd Edition