With over a century of history, Red Mountain is a stoic, albeit subdued fixture of the BC snowboarding scene. While more commercial destinations have been on the bigger, slicker, spendier track, Red has remained largely the same hill that it was in 1947, when its namesake ski club installed the first ski lift in Western Canada. Rising above Rossland, a one-time gold mining boomtown turned liberal haven, Red is an anomaly. With 4,200 skiable acres and considerable snowfall, one would expect condos and crowds to dot the landscape. Yet, despite its proximity to the US border and favorable exchange rate, Red isn’t overrun. This isn’t to say that this slice of the Monashee Range hasn’t evolved. A double chair still rises up Red Mountain proper with several high-speed quads climbing nearby Granite and Grey Mountains.
Red’s CEO Howard Katkov came to this nook in the Kootenay’s in 2000 with the intention of building a home and life for his family far away from the hustle and bustle of the lower 48. In 2004, he heard that the epicenter of their community was on the brink of closing, so he gathered a group of investors to take over. While more and more ski areas prioritize what’s best for the bottom line, Howard genuinely seems to keep the best line to the bottom paramount when plotting Red’s course. This is why as of August 23, 2016 Red is providing their patrons with an opportunity for ownership in a manner never before offered in winter sport. Here Howard elaborates on Red’s intention to make their resort less exclusive and more inclusive. – Pat Bridges
SNOWBOARDER: What makes Red Mountain so different?
Howard Katkov: To start with, it’s a snowboarder’s mountain. We have three thousand feet of vertical top-to-bottom and there are really no traverses. You can ride 360 degrees off of Grey Mountain, 360 degrees off of Granite Mountain, and 270 degrees off of Red Mountain, so that makes it quite exceptional. The tree skiing has been ranked number one in Canada for years. Red gets a lot of snow and it is the perfect 26 degree temperature, so the powder is a nice texture. I think equally as important as that, is the community and the people that work at the mountain. They make this experience like going to a family park. I remember one day getting in the liftline and there was a four-year-old kid whose parents had literally put a note with safety pins on his back that said, ‘Please help me get on the chairlift.’ I figure Red is like Jackson Hole, but with 20% of the skier visits. You could be here for a week and honest to God, someone will notice that you are in a liftline alone, ride up to you and say, ‘Hey, you ever been here before? Let me show you around.’ And they will show you the best lines on the mountain, because they know that there is so much terrain and snow that there that they will always still have a fresh line. So that is what makes it special.
As of late there has been a lot of news in the resort industry about mergers and acquisitions. What can you tell us about your announcement today and how it differentiates Red from the larger consolidation movement?
What we are doing is testing whether or not passion for a place can equate to ownership on a small scale. It is definitely not your typical investment opportunity. It is not like you are going to get a dividend every year. It is really more of an investment in a cause to preserve a place, and trust in management to do that for generations. That is the news. We hope to expand business with the money and support of a group of people who are passionate about this place. I am hoping it is going to resonate. It is the antithesis of one big company buying up another big place and consolidating. We are reaching out and saying, ‘Hey, join us in this cause.’ I might be disappointed.
So, it is as if you are taking a crowd funding model and raising capitol. Then, in exchange for the financial support, you are providing equity and partial ownership in Red Mountain to anyone who invests.
To anyone. Non-accredited investors in particular. I mean, an eighteen-year-old kid who busted into his piggy bank and gets $1,000 bucks can be an owner of Red Mountain. We give you that certificate and you own a piece of the mountain. We have opened it up to anyone. I like to say it is ‘powder to the proletariat.’ I would love nothing more than to have 10,000 people investing 1,000 dollars each and have them all become a part of the Red Mountain family.
And how much total equity are you planning to share with the public?
Depending upon what we raise, anywhere between 10-20% of the company.
Beyond having a piece of Red Mountain what are some of the other planned perks of ownership?
You start out with the first tier at $1,000 bucks and you get access to the club we are going to build at the top of the mountain. We are resurrecting the 1937 Red Mountain Ski Club. In addition to the club membership, you get five lift tickets. We are also setting up a foundation for an academic scholarship fund for the kids in the local community, so some of the money raised goes towards that. So, that is the first level. The next tier is $3,500 and that is ten tickets, a custom snowboard and access to the club. It all scales up from there.
And this is something that you have ad infinitum and you can sell it, gift it or will it to heirs?
Right. The neat thing is the access to the clubhouse is forever so even the next generation, they are members of the clubhouse. They are partners with the mountain.
There are a lot of resorts that are going to pay close attention to how this goes, I imagine.
I know and I am kind of putting my ass on the line with this. There is a lot of work that we have done to try to find the words and images that support this message. Whether this is successful or not, I want the message to get out there that small independent resorts matter and that the product that they deliver matters. They offer something that I think is really the core essence of the alpine experience.