Northwest, Pacific Northwest, West coast.
All names associated with our little slice of heaven up in the north, However, each tends to give me the impression of tall green trees dappled with rain and filtering light to the mossy ground all year round. Instead, spring comes much later in Terrace, BC; March is the season where we get a little more daylight each day, a little more time for seeking adventure. It’s still cold and breezy, but all things are relative and when you’re from the north you tend to grow a little tougher (or at least more stubborn). Over the last few months Ben and I have come to Terrace chasing snow, driving in the early hours to get to Shames Mountain for first chair. We’ve passed through but never really stayed awhile to see the rest of what this small city has to offer. And after a busy couple of weeks, some time to spend together exploring a different place sounded amazing.
The morning we arrived in Terrace we found the main transit stop quite easy to get to, located right downtown outside the Skeena Mall. A little ways away from the tourism centre where you can pick up a bus pass, but we had change so we went without. Perfect though, for an easy hop on and off the Bear Country Inn where we stayed for the weekend. It had been suggested that Terrace Mountain is a good winter hiking option, located just a few minutes away by bus from downtown and only a short hike through pine trees and rocky outcrops made for a scenic trail. We decided against renting snowshoes as we had previously thought of doing, but thankfully the weather had warmed up the week before, compacting the snow enough that the well used trail was perfectly fine in a good pair of shoes. We hopped onto the city shuttle (Bus 2) and headed towards the trailhead, warm coffee in hand.
We stopped at the nearest spot to the trailhead, the corner of Park and Apsley, and continued along Johnstone street. The trail was steep in sections, but lots of branches and trees made it much easier to ascend the slick trail. That, and Ben’s ski touring poles came in handy. The hike from start to finish is 5km of rolling hills and various viewpoints, you can check out the map here. Because we didn’t have the whole day left we got to the 3km viewpoint, but even that was worth it. Ben headed up ahead of me, breaking through the trees and cresting the hill, all I could hear where cheers and laughs. I immediately knew the walk was worth the view.
Stretching out ahead of us was all of Terrace, nestled in between the tall mountains sloping into the Skeena River. Each one capped in snow, sunlight shining off each one of its faces like a faceted gem. We stayed up there for a little while taking photos and joking around, just enjoying the sunshine and warmth. Before long we started back down the trail, happy with our choice to only go halfway as we wanted to take a walk around Ferry Island while the sun was setting. Going down was slightly more treacherous than going up, we tried to run and slide down the steep sections to make the ice a little more enjoyable. It turned our hike into a stop-and-start jog and we reached the trailhead faster than expected. We had a small wait for the bus where we originally came around and we made our way back to the Skeena Mall to catch the next one heading towards Ferry Island.
The Thornhill bus wasn’t an extremely long ride to get to our stop from downtown. Just a few streets away on the south side we hopped off at the Walmart just before the bridge. From there it’s at most a eight minute walk; however, having to cross the highway twice to get to the walking path made it a little more exciting. Going to Ferry Island, although vastly different in the middle of winter, reminds me of the summer trips to Terrace my family used to make when I was a kid. The forested island along the river was just a playground, filled with huge trees and tall ferns. I haven’t made the time to come back to walk around very often, but it’s nice to have the chance to slow down and enjoy the little things.
With the sun setting behind the mountains and the wind starting to chill the cottonwoods we decided to cut our wander around the island short and walk back up the frozen riverside. After we made it back to our hotel we warmed up with a hot shower and made our way to the Blue Fin Sushi Bar for dinner. Probably one of the best sushi spots in the northwest; it’s been around for a long time and the only thing that’s changed much is its location. Filling our bellies from a day full of running around and hiking hills, we slowly made our way back to the hotel for a good night’s sleep before we head up into the mountains in the morning.
Bright and early the sun shone down into the valley,
We rolled out of bed and quickly threw on our ski clothes, knowing that our route to the Shames ski bus had coffee and hot food. The Elephant’s Ear Coffee Shop is our usual go-to stop before skiing for a good coffee and snacks for the hill; they’re open early enough to still get to either the ski bus or drive up to the hill without taking time out of your skiing and offer more than just muffins. We grabbed our to-go mugs and a bite to eat (As you can tell, Ben is “mime-ing” through the window that our food is ready.) and kept along our ten minute walk up to the pick-up spot. The bus is a great option for people who don’t want to make the commute up to Shames with their cars or want to get up before everyone else. It leaves from the old Esso station at 8:00am in downtown Terrace and is a $10 round trip. Honestly I think the bus option is awesome; you’re saving gas and helping out the environment by carpooling. The only downside is that if you are doing any back-country touring from Shames you have to be back at a certain time or risk not having a ride back.
The roads were bare and the mountains outside our windows, while rugged and intimidatingly large, had a warmth to them. We got our tickets at the lodge and headed up to the top of the mountain. Shames is a small hill, with only one double chairlift and one T-Bar but the terrain is super fun in bounds and limitless out of bounds. A large percentage of the people who come to the community co-op-owned hill come here for the backcountry access. Both Ben and myself have been touring off of the T-bar here and each time was mind-blowing. The steep terrain and nicely-spaced hemlock trees make for incredible riding, both in quality and the sheer beauty of the valley.
We spent the day between hiking the boot-pack trail just outside of the boundary for some fresh snow and fun jumps, and just riding the T-bar; of course that being said, if you are planning on riding out of bounds at all, you should have avalanche equipment and some knowledge of avalanche awareness and mountain safety. The sun warmed up our backs as we spent the whole day under it, and as always the snow did not disappoint. Ben hucked backflips as I took photos and watched (along with a crowd at the top of the T-bar). Eventually he wanted to get out for a little excursion with his touring skis and I stayed behind to ride in-bounds as I didn’t have a split-board for this trip.
While Shames is a quiet mountain nestled into the northwest, it boasts a large community of avid backcountry riders. On a average day you might see five to twenty people layered in Arc’teryx all putting on their skins and beacons to head into the back 40 (if you’re curious, here’s a full list of routes and info: Shames Mtn Backcountry). Most backcountry riders up here choose the quieter tour up from the valley or sled access spots, but it goes to show just how great Shames Mountain is for everyone. A $23 dollar lift ticket will give you a quick and cheap ride up to the top of the T-bar for access and an easy start on the legs. There are other starts through the valley while you’re driving up, but for the most part I would suggest driving up if possible to avoid being stuck on the mountain if you arrive back to civilization later than planned.
Ben showed up a little while later, not having gone too far as the south-facing aspects were a little too sun-cooked and presenting some potential avalanche issues. So we opted to do some mellow runs until the bus showed up and we would head down for the perfect end to any ski day: brews at a local brewery.
I’m almost certain that we have stopped at Sherwood Brewing every time we come to ski,
and it makes sense. For northern breweries, we don’t have a whole lot of choice, either four hours east in Prince George or equal that distance west in Prince Rupert. To have such an awesome one only a couple of hours down the road and at one of our favourite skiing and climbing spots I feel pretty lucky. Much like Shames, the atmosphere is positive and community-oriented. The kind of place you’ll likely run into a friend or make a new one, canines included – there is almost always a cute pooch also hanging out inside. Once we got back to the Esso station and walked back to the Bear Country Inn, we didn’t bother changing into town clothes but simply dropped our gear and headed right from the main Skeena Mall exchange to the brewery. As always, the place was hopping at five o’clock in the afternoon, people who had also just gotten down from the mountain or off work chatting away. We “tucked” into a couple of beers, Ben got the Lava Bed Red Ale and I got the Seven Sisters Stout. Each named after local locations, the Ale after the Nis’ga Memorial Lava Beds just north of Terrace and the Stout after the Iconic Seven Sisters mountain range just west.
Ben and I hung around for a while, just enjoying the end to an awesome couple of days around Terrace. It’s true that you don’t always appreciate what you have right under you, and this area in the northwest is still so unexplored, not just by everyone else, but by ourselves even. These mountains and valley towns of the northwest have so much to offer to the adventurous traveller, it just takes the spirit to find it.
We want to thank BC Transit for the opportunity to explore this piece of the northwest and inspire us to think creatively and sustainably about how we access adventure!
Want to plan your own #ExploreBCbyBus trip? Click on the links at the top of this page to get inspired by suggested day trips in communities across BC. Plus, if you share how you’re using BC Transit for your adventures this spring on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter using #ExploreBCbyBus, you’ll be entered to win weekly prizes of month-long bus passes, and a Grand Prize of two year-long bus passes and an adventure getaway for 2 or 4! All details can be found at explorebcbybus.com/contest