I remember the first time I attempted the T-bar at Phoenix Mountain. It was 1993, I was six, and barely broke 120 cm tall. My T-bar partner was my two-metreplus father, who weighed four times more than I. By the time we made it to the second tower, my little bottom had pulled the T-bar down so far that my dad was trying not to wince in pain as he was heaved up the hill by his calves. A surprise bump in the path caused my skis to swivel, twist, and cross over my dad’s. We both smacked down hard, but I believed that if I held on tight enough, the lift would drag us to the top. It took my dad half a tower to convince me to let go of my death grip on the T. Dad didn’t venture onto another T-bar with me until I was 17.
My parents taught me how to ski at Phoenix Alpine Resort strictly out of convenience as it was only 30 km northwest of our hometown of Grand Forks, B.C. Skiing at Phoenix Mountain is kind of like taking a step back in time. It hasn’t changed drastically over the years; the same six-tower T-bar has been in operation since 1969 and the day lodge is just as it was in 1981. But the loyal locals of the Kootneay/Boundary country have a vast amount of pride in their hill, and they have good reason to—Phoenix receives an average of nine metres of snow a year. “I love riding Phoenix,” says patroller Larissa Gaudry. “It’s such a beautiful hill. It’s very small but there is such diversity in the terrain. We also have some of the best snow around—no lie.”
Last year, the hill threw a big bash, celebrating 40 years of operation. Guests were treated to live music, cheap beer, and lift ticket prices of $3.50 that mirrored the 1969 price of a ticket. Go back a century, and it was an entirely different sight here. In the early 1900s, Phoenix was one of B.C.’s largest, boomingist mining communities. Resting at 1,425 metres, Phoenix was proclaimed “Canada’s highest city,” and was bursting with numerous hotels, saloons, breweries, and restaurants. It had a proper courtroom, an opera house, and even a professional hockey team (in 1911, the team won Provincials, and even asked to play for the Stanley Cup).
In 1919, the copper mining stopped, and everyone— everyone—left Phoenix almost at once. It became B.C.’s largest ghost town virtually overnight. Now the resort is maintained by the Phoenix Mountain Alpine Ski Society, and it has kept its small-town feel. Yeah, it’s tiny, and the liftie will know more details about your drunken Friday night than you do. The laps are quick and you might get bored of the same 12 trails. But it’s really hard to get tired of the blower snow and lack of lift lines. And if you get cold and wet, go into the lodge and buy yourself a famous Phoenix Burger. While you’re enjoying the greasy goodness, strike up a conversation with one of the friendly locals. They’ll entertain you with stories of what the hill was like when they learnt how to ski, and how they’re now teaching their kids to rip.
Just don’t attempt the T-bar with someone half your size
Locat ion: Grand Forks, B.C.
Elevat ion: 1,477 m
Vertical : 246 m
Snowfall: 900 cm
Lifts: One T-bar, one rope-tow