Red Lodge

A great end to my ski season

I love Red Lodge and spent a season there in 79/80. I have an Indy Pass burning a hole in my pocket and my son Ryan lives in Bozeman. For a month now I have been looking at Open Snow to see when Red Lodge will get snow when Ryan has his days off. The planets finally aligned with a snow forecast that lined up with Ryan’s time off so I drove to Red Lodge on Sunday March 21st.

From Minneapolis it is a looong one day drive for those with stamina or two drivers. In my youth I drove it non stop several times but it is a bit too long for me to solo drive now. A two day drive is more reasonable.

There is a row to park RV’s in the Red Lodge parking lot, no reservations and no charge. It is a modest walk up to the lift. (On a powder day you can ski all the way down to your RV.)

Little has changed in 40 some years. It still has one bar/restaurant, a cafeteria and just a couple small new buildings for rental, ski school and retail. There is not on mountain lodging or a second base area. There are two lifts at the base; one for beginner/intermediate terrain and one to access the rest of the mountain.

The forecast was for snow the first night. Ryan wouldn’t arrive until the next day so that first powder day I was on my own. That night and during the day we received over 12 inches. It was the best skiing I have had in a few years! Frequently the depth was shin high and on one of the steeper pitches (run is called Drainage) it was knee high and even a few face shots. That feeling of rhythmic bouncing and playing with gravity, who can ever get tired of this?

The above pictures show where it opens up. Prior to this it is tree skiing and toward the bottom it empty’s into a somewhat narrow creek bed. Not so great I skied this alone but I tried to be careful.

Ryan arrived the next day and we skied the left-overs off Cole Creek. Lot’s of runs to the skiers left of Cole Creek lift in an area called Headwaters. This is all tree skiing, sometimes very tight trees, sometimes tight and steep. Cole Creek is a detachable quad so it would get skied out quickly at a mega resort. Here at Red Lodge there are many more open chairs than chairs with skiers so we had really good skiing all afternoon.

On day two with Ryan we slept in and skied in the afternoon. We went back to Headwaters but it was now in a gnarly state. Lot’s of those bobsled like turn arcs made by boarders between the trees. After I took a few glancing blows off some trees we decided to head into the bar and see how their Canadian Poutine and fries measured up. You can be the judge from the picture below.

Ryan drove back to Bozeman after skiing; his work calls. I would likely have started back home the next morning but the forecast is for snow yet again over night. So one more day of powder skiing and trying to not brain myself on a tree.

Waking up the next morning, I see 3-4 inches. Nice, but not enough to dampen the moguls to my taste and certainly not enough to fill in those bob sled tracks in the trees. So a good day to walk main street in Red Lodge and go for a snow shoe hike.

As I walk the street it really does not seem like much has changed since I lived here during the winter of 79/80. Same bars, pizza place and of course the best candy store on the planet.

Any visit to a beautiful mountain area is not complete until I visit a local real estate office. In looking at the all listings shown in the various windows, it seemed 3/4 of them were sold. Odd, why show so many listings that are sold? Turns out the reason is there are very few active listing. The one agent I spoke with said the market is so hot that a good property priced right gets an offer the day after it goes on the market!

Now on to the mission of the day, a nice little hike on snow shoes. At the bottom of the Red Lodge Mountain road there a couple nice hikes and some campgrounds. I drove until they stopped plowing at a picnic area named Wild Bill Lake.

From here the road is nicely groomed for all recreation types. Classic cross country, skate ski, snow shoes and even snowmobiles. I only brought my snow shoes so down the road I went like a plodding mule. Nimble Nordic skiers breezed by me while I slowly slogged on. The views and quiet were tremendous.

With no new snow coming it is time to drive home and call it a ski season. I certainly learned a lot about skiing out of an RV and trying to chase powder this season. Next post I will lay out plans for the 21/22 season.

One final note, thought I would acknowledge how lucky I am to do this. Ryan has become a very strong skier and I so appreciate him dragging me down these steep tree runs and occasionally helping me dig out of a wreck. It is a special season of life we get to do this. Dad can still ski at a reasonably high level and Ryan is willing and able to hang with Dad on the hill. There will come a day when Ryan won’t be able to spend so much time with his Dad. Also so appreciate my wife Jackie who puts up with me going on these little adventures while she stays home and takes care of the home front, chickens and dogs.

A few more blog posts to come on these subjects, then on to other topics.