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Shames, BC–The Tiny Hill With More Terrain Than Whistler

Editor's Note: Lee Lea went north last winter to avoid the weak layers plaguing the Whistler-area snowpack to the tiny, community-operated ski area known as Shames. With persistent bad layers kept his group from accessing much alpine terrain, the potential at this tiny mountain is outstanding.

The 2013/2014 ski season in Southwest British Columbia was a bit of a writeoff, with several persistent weak layers developing as very little snow fell in Whistler while arctic cold fronts set in. Meanwhile, some mountains, including Shames outside of Terrace, were owning continent-wide deepest snow totals well into January.

We staved off powder starvation with some pow-hunting trips, but planned a trip to visit the Terrace area and backcountry ski at Shames’s insanely large backcountry-accessible terrain. This little hole in the wall ski area averages 12 meters (approximately 40 feet) of snowfall a year. The surrounding Skeena Range mountains are "only" about 1800m to 2000m high. Shames’ base area elevation is at about 700m and extends to about 1100m. 

Tyler and Sharon checking out the potential. Shames the ski area occupies only 10% of its 8,730 acre tenure–more terrain than Whistler and Blackcomb combined.

The resort area is 144 acres and occupies less then 10% of their huge 8,730 acres of tenure. To put that number into perspective, Whistler/Blackcomb’s total lift-served area is 8,171 acres while Vail has 5,289 acres of lift-served terrain. However, because of the resort’s location in North-Central BC, it  serves a population of only 30-40,000 people and only gets 30,000 or so skier visits a year. That's a little bit more than our home mountain of Whistler/Blackcomb might see in a busy winter day!

The resort area is 144 acres and occupies less then 10% of their huge 8,730 acres of tenure. To put that number into perspective, Whistler/Blackcomb’s total lift-served area is 8,171 acres.

This is a new area for the ski hill. Since becoming a community owned ski-hill Coop in 2012 there has been a ton of community support and interest in the little mountain that could. 

Thanks to the dedication from the community, the ski area persists, providing recreation and incredible access to some great backcountry skiing. This past season saw the provincial government forgiving an outstanding loan (getting a huge debt monkey off Shames’ back), the ski hill making an operating profit, and many little capital improvements take place.

Up the fixed-grip double chair towards the goods...

Then the T-bar takes you to 1150m. There is some good skiing off the T-bars especially after a snow dump. Across the valley there is also accessible ski terrain in more stable times

But we came here to tour!

Stu taking in the Valley of Certain Doom. Tyler Wilkes photo.

Good skiing off North Bowl. Tyler Wilkes photo.


Lee enjoying the pow!


Big slide off Super Bowl. One destination that will have to wait until next year hopefully.

Touring goals limited 


Breakfast at Skeena River House on the Skeena River.

Unfortunately, avalanche hazard this year was pretty high in the alpine as the persistent weak layer so prominent down south reared its head in a big way in the Skeena Range/Shames area. Reality keeps one’s goals in check, so we cancelled potential opportunities to get into the amazing alpine potential and postponed it for another year.


Z-boat is an awesome Lodge right on the Skeena river.

We did have the opportunity on this trip to say with Brad and Kim at Skeena River House (fka Z-Boat River Lodge), a fishing outfit that will now become a Bed and Breakfast which is much needed in Terrace. As this is a working town, accommodations are expensive and basic. It will be nice once Brad and Kim get their lodge set up as a B & B which will provide a very nice place to chill after a hard day of skiing in the winter or biking in the summer!

If you want to know more about backcountry skiing possibilities in Shames see this page here with descriptions from local guru Rod Gee and get this map

From The Column: TGR Trip Report Picks

If you want to know more about backcountry skiing possibilities in Shames see this

http://backcountryskiingcanada.com/index.php?p=page&page_id=Shames Mountain Backcountry

and get this map

http://www.johnbaldwin.ca/backcountry-shames.asp

What time of year was this trip?

    March 2014

    March 2014.  Usually that’s safe.  But it was an unusual year

Sweet thanks!

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