“Skiing in Northern B.C. is a total breath of fresh air. Actually, I take that back. It’s hard to breathe there sometimes, because the snow is so deep. Skiing in Northern B.C. can’t be compared to anywhere else in Canada. It’s a complete cultural experience and feels like going back in time 20 years. This is reflected in people’s ski gear. The few people who ski are simply there to have a good time. There is a wild, untamed feeling to the area; lift lines do not exist, and you can expect to find fresh tracks for up to a week after a snowfall.” —COLSTON VB, PRO SKIER
LOCATION: Putting the “North” in Great White North in this large, remote and rugged region. The scenery is spectacular, as snow-capped peaks, raging rivers and lush, green forests dominate the views in between the small towns and villages along the area’s two main highways, 16 and 97.
TERRAIN: Shames, Powder King and Hudson Bay are spread far apart, so each offers something different. The three resorts offer a limited range of in-bounds runs; however, each resort offers near endless amounts of slackcountry and true backcountry options with enough steeps, trees and gullies to keep even the most seasoned skiers and snowboarders happy.
VIBE: Resorts are about as unpretentious as you can get. The locals are laid-back, genuinely friendly and proud of their hills. They actually want to show off their sweet, hidden spots on their mountain, because they want you to love and appreciate it as much as they do.
GETTING THERE: If you have the time, the 15-hour drive from Vancouver is one of the most scenic trips you’ll ever take. For those who don’t have time for two full days of driving, there are daily flights to Terrace, Smithers or Prince George departing from Vancouver. Choose which resort you want to hit up and book your flight accordingly.
HUDSON BAY MOUNTAIN
PARTY FACTOR: 2/5
ROMANCE ODDS: 2/5
OVERALL COST: 2/5
SLEEP: LOW-END, HOSTEL, SLOPESIDE
Hudson Bay Mountain is the prominent feature in Smithers, standing high above the town, which is why many locals refer to it as “The Mountain.” The resort is divided in two: the South Face, the more beginner-friendly half of the hill, and the North Face, which has more difficult and longer runs. There are plenty of long, cruising runs with zones of well-spaced-out trees in between. Hudson Bay is primarily an intermediate resort that caters to families. The are some steep gems off the North Face if you’re looking to break away and up the adrenalin. While it may not get a ton of annual snowfall, what does fall is light, fluffy powder, and some of the easiest snow you’ll ever get to ski or snowboard on.
Latest: Development continues with the Hudson Bay Mountain Estates, which is located in the heart of the mountain with easy access.
Must-hit: At the end of the day, check out the Rotary Community Trail that takes you all the way down into Smithers; the 3,775-foot continuous vertical drop is a great workout for your last run.
Smithers, B.C. / 1-866-665-4299 / hudsonbaymountain.com / Runs: 36 / Ticket: $49 / Vertical drop: 1,750 ft. / Rideable terrain: 315 acres / Lifts: 4 / Average snowfall: 550 cm / Open/close: Nov. to Apr. / Freestyle: 1 park / Terrain: 25% beg./55% int./20% adv.
Photo courtesy of Hudson Bay Mountain
PARTY FACTOR: 2/5
ROMANCE ODDS: 2/5
OVERALL COST: 2/5
SLEEP: LOW-END, HOSTEL, DELUXE
Shames Mountain probably isn’t going to win you over with first impressions. With only one chairlift, one T-bar and a kids’ rope tow, you’d be totally forgiven in writing this place off when you first roll up. The lack of crowds, the varied terrain both in and out of bounds and the friendly vibe really sweeten the pot. Oh, and the snow… all 40 feet of it that falls over the course of the season. With that much snow and its remote location, you can easily find fresh lines days, or even a week, after a big storm. In fact, the resort has been known to close on account of too much snow. That’s a nice problem to have.
The vibe at Shames might have something to do with the fact it’s one of the few locally owned, non-profit co-operative-run ski hills in the world. A few years ago, when the resort had to close, the locals rallied to save their beloved hill. You know it’s something special when a town comes together to keep their favourite resort in business.
Latest: Improvements continue to the lodge and chairlift.
Must-hit: On a powder day, hit up Deliverance or Junior’s Jingle and repeat over and over again.
Terrace, B.C. / (250) 635-3773 / mymountaincoop.ca / Runs: 28 / Ticket: $45 / Vertical drop: 1,600 ft. / Rideable terrain: 252 acres / Lifts: 3 / Average snowfall: 1,200 cm / Open/close: Dec. to Apr. / Freestyle: 1 park / Terrain: 21% beg./60% int./19% adv.
PARTY FACTOR: 3/5
ROMANCE ODDS: 2/5
OVERALL COST: 3/5
SLEEP: LOW-END, SLOPESIDE
You can’t really call yourself “Powder King” unless you have the goods to back it up—and boy do they ever. The hill is blessed with an annual average snowfall of 41 feet of powdery goodness. You might be best to bring a snorkel. There’s a good variety of groomers and blues for the beginners and intermediates, and black diamonds and easily accessible backcountry for the more advanced. Powder King also offers some fantastic tree riding across the resort.
Powder King is very isolated yet still central to a number of Northern B.C. communities that call it their home hill. Drawing people from Prince George, Mackenzie, Chetwynd, Dawson Creek and Fort St. John makes for a great vibe on the hill. For the true Powder King experience, spend a night or two in the mountain hostel nicknamed the “Chateau ATCO” and soak in the vibe.
Must-hit: With the resort being closed Monday through Wednesday (except on holidays), Thursday and Friday are a definite way to score face shots if it’s been snowing all week.
Pine Pass, B.C. / 1-866-POW-KING / powderking.com / Runs: 37 / Ticket: $55 / Vertical drop: 2,100 ft. / Rideable terrain: 925 acres / Lifts: 3 / Average snowfall: 1,250 cm / Open/close: Nov. to Apr. / Freestyle: 1 park / Terrain: 37% beg./38% int./25% adv.
Breakfast: Get your coffee and Timbit fix at Tim Horton’s in Prince George before the long drive to Powder King. In Smithers, check out Louise’s Kitchen and order any special that starts with “Louise.” Cowpuccino’s in Prince Rupert is a great place to grab a coffee and pastry.
Lunch: The Whisky Jack’s Lounge at Hudson Bay Resort is always a solid choice for a tasty lunch with stunning views of the Bulkley Valley. Get your greasy, deep-fried fix with a burger and fries at the day lodge at Powder King. In Smithers, Java Coffee House has healthy, homemade meals.
Dinner: Haryanna’s in Terrace is well worth the wait, especially for the Butter Chicken. In Smithers, the Trackside Cantina serves up excellent burritos and margaritas that will have you coming back for more. For a fancy treat, order any seafood dish at Charley’s Lounge at the four-star Crest Hotel in Prince Rupert.
Parking lot bonfires/tailgating seems to be a popular choice at Powder King. Bring your own smokies and beer. Karaoke, for some reason, is hugely popular throughout the north; the Twin in Smithers is one of the better establishments. In Terrace, hit up Mike’s, a cool pub with a laid-back vibe, then head down the road to the Spirit Bar.