Sanctuary from drought 

Finding powder at B.C.’s own Shames Mountain

Photo by Jordan Manley
  • Photo by Jordan Manley

An old wise man once said that on any given day of the year, it is snowing somewhere on the earth. What he forgot to mention is that more often than not that place is Shames Mountain, B.C. Or maybe he didn’t forget, but rather "neglected to mention" the name of the place.

Very selfish of him, especially in a season when skiers throughout the province are deeply suffering withdrawal from that white powdery substance that he’s coveting. Skiers throughout the Pacific-Northwest, from Vancouver Island to Fernie, Oregon to Idaho, have all been starving for their fix of powder this season, as Mother Nature decided to spend most of her winter having an affair with Hawaii. Whistler locals complained about rain though skiers in every neighbouring region had it far worse; facing long-term closures at their local resorts.

While some skiers fled the continent and others abused their video games, keen ski travellers knew of one place Mother Nature wouldn’t neglect. So it was no surprise when the Shames Mountain snow-phone told us to sit down and listen: "95 cm of snow has just fallen on the resort." Distant memories of powder skiing overcame us, assuring us we couldn’t miss this chance to score powdery face shots only two hours away.

Located between the quirky industry towns of Terrace and Prince Rupert in northern B.C., it’s an easy-going two-hour HawkAir flight from Vancouver to Terrace/Kitimat, with jaw-dropping views of the Coast Mountain range the whole way up. After clipping the tops of the University of B.C.’s taller buildings, the flight steers north, yielding an unfamiliar bird’s-eye view of familiar peaks including the Tantalus Range, Mount Atwell/Diamond Head, Black Tusk, Whistler, Blackcomb and all the surroundings. Shortly after buzzing Mount Waddington and the rest of the range, we found ourselves safely landed and lounging at the Best Western Terrace Inn, dusting off the powder boards and prepping for the days to come.

The next morning our wheel-less duo searched for rides to the resort, and found a daily school bus shuttle for only $4… how could we pass it up? With flashbacks from the cult-classic film Napoleon Dynamite in our heads, the ride bestowed an eye-opener far better than any movie could provide. Armed with more hysterically absurd teenager quotes than I knew what to do with, we finished the bus ride well aware that we weren’t in Kansas anymore. Only two hours as the crow flies from home we’d entered a whole other cultural dimension, far from our glittery home resort of Whistler.

At the base of Shames Mountain we immediately found a group of locals keen to share their secrets with us, and were greeted by many of the familiar faces we’d met on a previous trip to northern B.C. A patroller – who’s opening remarks were, "So, you guys aren’t from here are you?" – quickly reminded us just how tight-knit this small ski community is. Only a handful of local hardcores and families have caught onto the wise man’s secret at Shames, leaving 40 feet of annual snow and some killer backcountry terrain all for their own taking.

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