Rossland
“Canada’s Alpine Town” rushed into being in the 1890s when gold was discovered on the flanks of Red Mountain. So many prospectors and related hopefuls arrived in town that within a few short years, Rossland—perched a kilometre above sea level deep in the Monashee Mountains—had become the largest city in British Columbia. The miners didn’t spend all their time under the mountains though. The Scandinavians in particular spent their leisure hours on the crust of the increasingly hollowed-out mountain looming over town. In 1896, Red Mountain hosted Canada’s first downhill ski race, and 50 years later volunteers at the ski club built Western Canada’s first chairlift. Rossland’s Wild-West history defines it still, with a wide main street that remains a passable setting for a few swinging-door saloons. Though it has shrunk some since its boom days, it remains a town unto itself—not beholden to a larger urban centre—and emits its characteristic unhurried tempo with its own radio station, weekly newspaper and mountain film festival. And while the mines shut down long ago, the prospectors of the 21st century—largely professionals who have migrated in search of the good life—are finding their own gold in them thar hills.

 

Outdoor lowdown

Hiking: There’s a trailhead at every corner of town and an unparalleled network of hiking (and biking and horseback riding) trails in the area thanks to the Kootenay-Columbia Trail Society, a well-funded crew of locals that coordinates the cutting and maintenance of trails with an unheard of seven full-time summer staff.

Mountain biking: The jewel of Rossland’s crown of crenellated cycling is the Seven Summits Trail, a 30-kilometre alpine cross-country ride that was the second trail in Canada to be awarded an “Epic” designation from the International Mountain Biking Association. The area also has plenty of arthritis-inducing downhills (one stretch of Oasis drops 1,400 feet over 3.6 kilometres), and Red Mountain’s bike park.

Skiing: If you’re a serious skier, you already know about Red, which may have the planet’s best collection of lift-serviced steep-tree skiing. Across the road, the Black Jack Ski Club offers one of the best-blanketed cross-country networks in the country.

 

About town

Rossland may be on the small side, but it’s not lacking for civilized touches. Those who like their food will find plenty of decent options, especially if they enjoy a little historic ambiance. Idgie’s Fine Foods, located in one of Rossland’s heritage buildings, is a local favourite for Italian, while the Old Firehall, a new restaurant in—surprise—Rossland’s historic fire hall, offers more than 40 wine varieties. There’s also the Flying Steamshovel pub, named after the helicopter that made the first flight in North America—and then crashed spectacularly near the site of the bar.

 

Other factoids » Home to Le Roi, the only historic hardrock gold mine in Canada that’s open to the public » former hometown of Nancy Greene-Raine » no traffic lights.

 

 
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