Shames Mountain is a home that skiers built

Photo credit: Mattias Fredriksson

People dig the top of the elevator at Shames Mountain near Terrace, British Columbia, Canada.

On my first visit to ShamesDecades ago, I stood atop a bowl etched by a glacier as the clouds lifted to reveal an undulating sea of ​​mountains dragging rivers fringed by deep valleys. The day that followed was filled with Himalayan panoramas, eye-opening tours, face photos and a red Fun-o-Meter. Many skiers called Shames’ backcountry access the best North American ski area, and I quickly saw why.

Today, however, Fredriksson and I ski within limits, weaving our way through the familiar crowd: Yvan Sabourin, helicopter guide; fisherman and adventurer Dean Wagner, who makes Divide skis by hand in his Prince Rupert home; Luc Joanisse, a semi-retired Quebec architect who is in his sixth winter here; and Rod Gee, a Shames original and an avalanche science guru.

“The characters here are legendary. If there was a local designer, he would have fodder for his whole life, ”says Sabourin. “And since the professional lift is perhaps one of the most stable incomes, it is pursued with passion and pride. “

the hinterland

Photo credit: Mattias Fredriksson

Leah Evans and Marie France-Roy ski touring in the Shames backcountry near Terrace, British Columbia, Canada.

The familiar cadre of greyhounds exchanging information and helping each other is a clear indication of the community ethic of affordability, sustainability, collaboration and innovation. These are the cornerstones of the group that came together to save the mountain from potential closure when the previous owners wanted to retire and put the ski resort up for sale. This is the story that defines Shames. This is the latest chapter in a 60-year ode to keeping the soul of skiing alive in a thriving resource town.

The first chapter begins in the 1960s, when local entrepreneur Bill Little installed a towline outside of Terrance and Northern Heights Ski Hill was born. It was essentially a glorified toboggan run, but it was popular enough to inspire calls for a real ski area. So one winter day in the early 1970s, local dignitaries and Canadian ski icon Nancy Greene were invited to ride a telephone company snowmobile to a radio tower on the north side of town. to assess the ski potential of the hill. Halfway through, the machine got stuck in snow deep enough to spawn immediate rave reviews from the field and the eventual opening of Kitsumkalum Ski Hill in the winter of 1975. Despite its promising start, its 13-year stint as a city hill was anything but glorious. With 1,460 feet of vertical slopes and 15 mixed trails, Kitsumkalum fell victim to a rapidly changing climate that robbed low-lying ski terrain. The summit barely came close to 1,640 feet. By the time a master plan for his replacement, Shames Mountain, was drawn up in 1986, Kitsumkalum had been out of action for three of its previous six seasons.

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