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Cross country skiing near Rossland, B.C.; Story and photos by Lee Juillerat
HighOnAdventure.com   April 1, 2013

Was I surprised? Yep. Anthony Bell told me he would show me something special, but the collection of eclectic, very funky hand-built cabins we visited were bedazzling.

Sixteen homemade cabins, each with its own peculiarity and personality, are scattered around the snowy backcountry at Strawberry Pass—which the locals call Nancy Greene Pass—off Highway 3 north of Rossland in British Columbia's scenic Monashee Mountains. Some are a few minutes from the summit parking area by cross country skis or snowshoes, some take a couple of hours to get there. Over the years, Rossland-area recreationalists have built the cabins on Crown land with the understanding they are for day use only.

Rossland BC cross country skiing
Nearing Cookie Jar

"They're used by a lot of families," Bell told me as we skied to Cookie Jar, a compact, brightly painted cabin just minutes from the Strawberry Pass parking area. "They are really multi-generational things. They're a community asset."

Rossland BC cross country skiing cabin
Rossland BC cross country skiing classy wood stove
Peeking out the front door
Classy wood stove
Rossland BC cross country skiing in Cookie Jar
Anthony in Cookie Jar

With its bright strawberry painted door, ceiling lined with old Nordic skis and a wood stove door enlivened by Grandma Moses-style rendering of a cross country skier—and an adjacent, well-stocked, roof covered woodpile—Cookie Jar proved an impressive introduction to Strawberry Pass's neighborhood of cabins.

Cross-country skiing in Rossland lunchtime
Rossland cross country skiing scrapbook
Enjoying lunch
Reading the scrapbook

From Cookie Jar it was an easy ski to Red Dog, a larger cabin with picnic table and a wood stove. Earlier arrivals, a mother, father and two children, had the stove fired up and were finishing lunch. The stove door was again impressive, this time a metal relief showing two skiers gliding against a mountain backdrop. Anthony, who had come prepared, unwrapped raclette cheese sandwiches from their tinfoil, which he placed atop the stove to simmer. While we waited, he pulled out a cabin scrapbook bursting with stories and photos about area history. Across from Red Dog a five-step stairway leads “Lynda's,” to an outhouse.

x-ski Rossland, wood stove
Rossland BC snow play
Rossland BC Lynda's
A different classy wood stove
Playing outside Red Dog

After devouring lunch, we slapped on our skis and quickly glided through a cathedral-like canopy of Douglas firs that eventually led to a logged out hillside and the Mosquito, an A-framed cabin, again with the requisite wood stove and more brightly colored artwork.

Rossland BC x-skiing to Mosquito
Rossland BC x-ski artwork
  Rossland BC relaxing in Moxquito  
Skiing to Mosquito
More artwork
Anthony relaxing

As we relaxed, Anthony talked about some of Strawberry Pass's other cabins, including Rock 'N Roll, which features old album covers, rock group logo T-shirts and instruments often used for impromptu jam sessions. He told of cabins near ridge tops, nestled in the woods, and how, when the snow melts, volunteers make repairs and stock cabins with firewood.

"It's so accessible," he said, referring to the Strawberry Pass cabins and other cross country ski areas, some just minutes from Rossland. "The community has a strong identity. It's a lifestyle thing."

* * *

I learned about Anthony's lifestyle at his home, the Red Barn Lodge Bed and Breakfast, a former dairy. Depending on which direction you go, it's just minutes from downtown Rossland, the Red Mountain Ski Area and the Blackjack Cross Country Ski Area.

  Rossland BC Mountain Nugget  
Rossland BC Mountain Nugget
  Rossland BC Mountain Nugget  
Too many chocolaty choices
Take your pick
Being choosy

That evening, still hungry after a big dinner at The Flying Steamshovel Hotel, my nose guided me along downtown's Columbia Avenue to the Mountain Nugget, a downtown chocolate shop where the gems are a dizzying array of boutique bars, caramels, toffees and other treats and, of course, boxed chocolates and truffles. Sweet.

* * *

The next day, with Andy Joat, another Rossland local, I was game for Blackjack. The truth is, I needed a good workout. After overdosing at the Mountain Nugget, where their slogan is, “Where Chocolate Meets Chocolate,” my chocaholic recovery program demanded exercise and fresh air. Joat had the perfect cure: vigorous skiing on the Blackjack's groomed trails.

Rossland BC Blackjack Ski Area
Gathering at Blackjack

The Blackjack Cross Country Ski Club claims more than 700 members, or one in six Rosslanders. The area offers nearly 20 miles of trails groomed classic and skate skiers, from novices to expert classics. Townspeople use headlamps or moonlight to ski after work, or cruise a 1-mile lighted loop.

Rossland BC x-sking
Rossland BC warming hut
Dwarfed by scenery
Trailside warming hut

Our daylight trip followed a groomed trail to Torresan's Cabin, an easy but scenic ski. An especially beautiful section cruises through towering canopies of trees. After a quick visit to the cabin—it's perched well above the ground to make access easy even during snow-dumping storms—Andy led on. We followed smoothly groomed trails, sometimes through open areas with expansive views, and, more impressively, rolling routes that weaved through towering hemlocks and cedars.

Over the next few hours I followed Joat's lead, blissfully unaware of trail names or distances. I was happily lost in the wonder and exhilaration of being outside, of my skis seemingly gliding effortlessly, of being immersed in a deliciously new environment.

Rossland BC x-ski trail
Andy on the trail

Kick, glide. Kick, glide. Repeat. And on even the slightest downhill grades, double pole, glide. Repeat. I was infused with sights and sounds, and the joy of being wherever I was.

When you go:

Tourism Rossland, http://tourismrossland.com

Rossland, B.C., information at www.rossland.com.

Red Barn Lodge, www.redbarnlodge.com.

Black Jack Cross Country Ski Club, www.skiblackjack.ca.

The Flying Steamshovel, www.theflyingsteamshovel.com.

Mountain Nugget Chocolate Company, www.mountainnugget.com.

About the author

Lee Juillerat has been producing photo-stories from around the world for High On Adventure for more than 15 years. He works for a daily newspaper in Southern Oregon and stories and photos have appeared in a variety of magazines and newspapers. Lee has written or co-written books about Crater Lake National Park. He can be reached at 337lee337@charter.net.

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