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Backcountry runs, craft beer and a Scandi-chic café are turning this underdog mountain town into a world-class ski destination.
Smithers is part European mountain village (“Alpine Al” and his alpenhorn loom large on Main Street as town talisman) and part northern hipster outpost. It has new craft breweries, a young mayor (who bikes and skis like everyone else), a diverse artistic community (including Grammy-winning singer Alex Cuba) and a growing contingent of expats from southern ski towns who’ve discovered the untouched dry-powder terrain of the Babine and Telkwa ranges (overheard: “Whistler is for wimps”). Here, skiing Hudson Bay Mountain is the backyard milk run.
The Hankin-Evelyn Backcountry Recreation Area is a 3,770-hectare mountain mecca just an hour away, for those willing to earn their turns. That means no snowmobiles, no lifts: skin up, ski down. Trek up to the 1,700-metre Ridge Trail, where a sweet warming hut sits just below alpine bowls and chutes, then let ’er rip down one of 13 cut runs.
Ski out from Hudson Bay Mountain into town (a 1,151-metre descent from peak to street), where you’ll find the tasting room of Smithers Brewing Company (opening this spring, complete with bike and ski racks outside) and the Alpenhorn Bistro and Bar. Sip on Seven Sisters Stout, courtesy of Sherwood Mountain Brewery in the neighbouring town of Terrace (another powderhound’s Valhalla, two hours away).
Stick around the Alpenhorn for some Swiss onion soup, Bavarian beer brats or, as you might expect, wiener schnitzel—hearty European fare tempered with West Coast kale salad and tuna poke. And get your millennial-friendly avocado and smoothie quotient filled at Two Sisters Café, amid Scandi-chic lambskin throws.
Stay in town at the Stork Nest Inn, run in part by Brian Hall, who also happens to know everything about skiing the Smithers area. He’s a local legend, the visionary behind the pristine playground of Hankin-Evelyn, and happy to share stories over the inn’s renowned breakfast…and maybe a few tips on those powder stashes.
Elevation: 1,676 metresVertical drop: 533 metresRuns: 36 (25% easy, 55% intermediate, 20% advanced)Longest run: 8 kilometres (finishing with Trail to Town)Average snowfall: 6.35 metresTerrain: 118 hectaresPopulation: 5,351