Imagine you’ve pulled yourself out of bed before dawn, poured yourself a fresh cup of coffee to go, and hit the open road from quaint Smithers, BC, mountains hugging you on both sides. You drive towards those mountains, park the car, and strap on your touring skis – and within minutes, it feels as if the whole of the mountain belongs to you. There are no ski lifts, no crowded groomers, no thumping chalet tunes – just you, the blissful quiet of the mountain, and your skis.
That’s how I felt as we began our day of touring the stunning Hankin-Evelyn Backcountry Recreation Area, one of Northern British Columbia’s outdoor crown jewels. I toured this magnificent mountainscape with back country visionary Brian Hall and guides Sean Fraser and Hatha Callis; we toured all over the non-motorized terrain, plowed endless runs, conquered alpine bowls, and zipped between tree after tree on one of the most thrilling ski adventures I have ever experienced.
I learned out at Hankin-Evelyn that the back country is open to everyone – not just the hardcore ski bum. Guides like Sean and Hatha are also exceptional teachers, and happy to share their mountain home with beginners and experts alike.
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What Mountains Will Come
Let me admit something straight away – I’m not a great back country skier. I’m not even a good back country skier. In fact, I’m a fairly poor skier in general. But when the opportunity came up to try back country skiing in BC, in one of the sports’ finest destinations, I knew I couldn’t pass. What could possibly go wrong?
Plenty could go wrong, in fact. Back country skiing carries some inherent risks – you never know exactly what it is you’re flying over on skis, avalanches are a real and present danger – but with guides Hatha Callis and Sean Fraser of Hyland Backcountry Services, I was never worried or afraid, despite how far outside my comfort zone we were operating. Sean and Hatha made our entire crew feel safe and secure by way of safety briefings and daily training sessions while we toured the back country – and as a result, we reached some incredible winter wonderlands I would never have encountered in my life, like this remarkable section of the Hankin-Evelyn Backcountry. The more experienced members of our group tackled the big mountain you see in the distance, while I was fine skirting the high alpine terrain, and taking my chances between the trees. And now I have something to conquer on my next visit.
How's this for a wild back country experience?
Our group set out into the Hankin-Evelyn rec area for a day of touring, though we had some ominous clouds overhead, and the wind was whipping fiercely. But after about two hours of touring, we broke through the clouds, left the wind behind us, and set out on an alpine expedition that was out of this world.