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Winter in Smithers: Northern BC's Great Mountain Town

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Skiing above Smithers | Northern BC Tourism/Mattias Fredriksson

With 360-degree mountain views, generous snowfall (the light, fluffy kind), and access to some of BC’s most expansive, accessible, and untracked backcountry terrain, it’s no wonder Smithers in Northern BC has earned a reputation as a mountain town with a serious calling card.

But the wonders of this northern mountain town don’t stop with its sprawling outdoor playground. From down-to-earth locals who enjoy sharing the local lore and off-the-beaten track gems, to a diverse and eclectic dining scene (complete with two local breweries), Smithers is a magnetic mountain town full of charm and character. If there’s a town more suited to winter fun than Smithers, we’ve yet to discover it.

Hudson Bay Mountain Resort

The endless backcountry surrounding Smithers is some of the best in Canada, and just 20 minutes from town, Hudson Bay Mountain is home to a fun 525 m (1,750 ft) of vertical rise with varied terrain. What really makes this local resort is its old-school charm, complete with a cabin colony filled with quirky A-frames stashed among the runs.

The Skyline Hut on Hudson Bay Mountain Resort | Northern BC Tourism/Andrew Strain
Table 100 at Hudson Bay Mountain

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The nearly symmetrical peak on which the resort sits offers hard-to-beat skiing that includes local favourite, the Trail to Town. This two-directional route connects downtown Smithers to the Skyline Lift. From the resort’s chairlift and two T-bars, you can access 36 runs of intermediate and challenging in-bounds vertical as well as off-piste terrain for more experienced skiers.

And where do the locals ski? Chapman’s Challenge on the north side of the resort is a steep and deep run, while Seven Sisters Glades serves up 18 ha (44 ac) of gladed terrain. Boarders take delight in the natural half pipe snaking down through Upper and Lower gully.

This season, Hudson Bay Mountain has made extensive efforts to adjust to the realities of social distancing. You can view the resort’s COVID-19 protocols here.

Pro tip: The local bus that runs from downtown to the mountain will cost you a mere $5 for a roundtrip ticket. You can either bus back at day’s end (after a bevvy or two at the Whiskey Jack Lounge) or zip down the Trail to Town for a true ski-out experience. You might even pass die-hard locals going the opposite direction, ski touring their way up.

RESORT WEBSITE

Hankin-Evelyn Backcountry Ski Area

Hankin-Evelyn, North America’s first lift-free ski area, is the crown jewel of Smithers. Here, you’ll find not only no lifts, but no crowds—just you, fresh powder, and the serenity of the mountains.

Hankin-Evelyn Warming Hut | Northern BC Tourism/Mattias Fredriksson

Earn your turns on one of the 13 marked and cut (but not groomed) runs from either Hankin or Evelyn peak, and slice through the pillowy powder-covered bowls and chutes. If you prefer to carve through trees, you’ll find plenty of gladed runs, too.

Hankin-Evelyn has just enough amenities to keep the day running smoothly, including a map of the ski area, an avalanche transceiver checker at the trailhead and warming hut, plus an outhouse and a modest parking lot.

The best part: It’s free, although consider making a small donation to this community-driven and -supported initiative through the Bulkley Backcountry Ski Society. Not only are you accessing some of the best backcountry terrain in Canada, but the solitude, beauty, and quiet that Hankin-Evelyn provides is priceless.

When enjoying the backcountry, don’t forget your beacon, probe, and shovel, and be familiar with how to use them. Check for snow conditions with Avalanche Canada, never travel alone, and always let someone know your trip plan. Avalanche safety training is highly recommended. 

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Cross-Country Skiing

Riverside Park along the Bulkley River | Northern BC Tourism

If cross-country skiing is more your speed, Smithers’ gentle rolling valley proves an excellent spot to plant your poles. The Bulkley Valley Nordic Centre offers the ultimate in social distanced winter fun, with 52 km (32 mi) of groomed trails (some lit for night skiing), plus a two-storey ski lodge. Check out the Nordic Centre’s COVID-19 policies here. Other spots include the new Tyee Trails in Telkwa, the Bulkley River Recreation Site, and Canyon Creek Trails.

Babine Mountains Provincial Park, located 15 km (9 mi) east of Smithers, has an extensive trail system open to skiers and snowshoers. The 13.5-km (8-mi) Silver King Basin Trail is a popular overnight trek, and the Joe L’Orsa cabin sleeps 12 on a first-come basis.

Need to rent gear? You can find downhill skis, snowboards, or snowshoes at Local Supply Co. For cross-country rentals, check in with the friendly folks at McBike and Sport.

If motorized recreation is your jam, Dome Mountain and the Onion areas offer incredible sledding opportunities. You can book a guided tour and rent sleds and equipment locally from Harvey Mountain Adventures.

Fat Biking, Snowshoeing, Sleigh Rides and Ice Skating

Downtown Smithers, with its flat and easy-to-navigate roadways, was made for biking, even in the winter. Rent a fat bike or cross-country skis at McBike on Main Street for the day and après-hop between pedals. Or bike the Perimeter Trail, an easy, peaceful ride circling town through snow-dampened, quiet forest. With snow crunching under your wheels, watch for birds in the aspens and stop for a picnic lunch at Riverside Park to enjoy views of the Bulkley River under the brilliant Bulkley Valley sunshine.

Pond hockey on Lake Kathlyn | @steamboatwill_e.
Shooting films in Smithers, BC

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With three nearby lakes, the area has no shortage of outdoor skating options. Seymour Lake has well-maintained, flooded and groomed skating trails, plus pond hockey pads with nets. Lake Kathlyn and Tyee Lake are popular with skaters and those looking for a game of shinny. (Recently, a few locals acquired electric, mini ice groomers, so fresh, smooth ice is a good possibility on any given weekend.) If you’re lucky, you can jump into a pick-up game with local former NHLer Dan Hamuis.

If you’re looking for a relaxing winter postcard experience, be sure to check out B&T Sleigh Rides in nearby Telkwa, and wander through snowy fields in an open horse-drawn sleigh.

Après in Smithers (And Morning Fuel)

A good mountain town is only as good as its après, and Smithers is no exception. Smithers’ tight-knit community of independent cafes, restaurants, and pubs are all within a couple of blocks, with enough character to keep even the most seasoned snow-seeker happy.

Après in Smithers | Northern BC Tourism/Andrew Strain

Smithers Brewing Co is a hotspot. The beloved brewery is the de-facto rendezvous for day’s end, when locals and visitors swap tales over a pint. Two blocks away, Bulkley Valley Brewery is a reliable standby and its no-frills tasting room perfectly suits the town’s low-key vibe. Telly’s Grill serves up hearty comfort food (insider tip: the honey hot wings are legendary, and the lasagna has a fan following), or lean into Smithers’ European mountain-village vibe at the Alpenhorn and order the wiener schnitzel. This is also the spot for sports lovers to catch a game. If fiesta is more your style, don’t miss Trackside Cantina, located in Smithers’ old train station. For weekend brunches or swanky evening cocktails, head over to the Roadhouse to admire the work of Northern BC artist Leah Pipe and travel photography from proprietor Mo Kafer.

The next morning you can start all over again at the Bugwood Coffee kiosk to fuel up for a day’s play. For on-mountain snacks and Dutch delights, visit The Sausage Factory. Breakfast calls at Two Sisters Cafe, with its cozy sheepskin throws and community atmosphere. There’s a good chance you’ll see new friends from the night before here. This bright café serves up serious hygge vibes alongside sandwiches and soups made with local ingredients from the valley.

Where to Stay

For a memorable stay, rent a cottage on-piste in Hudson Bay Mountain’s storied cabin colony. The fully stocked Hudson Bay Mountain Chalet offers plenty of space for your bubble, with incredible views to boot. And other slopeside rentals can be found here.

 

The Cabin Colony on Hudson Bay Mountain | Northern BC Tourism/Andrew Strain

For a luxury riverside experience, check out Frontier Farwest Lodge just outside of town.

The boutique-style Bulkley Suites are situated above the Alpenhorn, allowing easy access to both Smithers’ downtown and its best après spots. The Prestige Hudson Bay Lodge is a full-service modern hotel with dog-friendly rooms and an on-site restaurant and bar. Click here to explore a full range of lodging options in Smithers.

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