Living in Northern, British Columbia – Life in Stewart

February 24, 2016 Liam Harrap

In 2005, Last Frontier Heliskiing opened another lodge in Stewart, BC. It’s a place like no-other. Stewart is located at the head of the Portland Canal, in British Columbia. Before the First World War, the town was home to over 10 000 residents, now it holds less than 500. It was once an active mining hub, and the surrounding landscape acts as a museum, with old mines nestled into the mountainsides. The Golden Years for Stewart is over as most of the mines are little more than dust. The locals say this winter is the quietest it’s been since the Grand-Duc copper mine closed in the 1980’s, due mostly to slowing economic development. Nonetheless, it’s a unique place to call home.

Mining Put Stewart On The Map. Snowfall Can Reach Epic Proportions. Here Is The &Quot;Road&Quot; To A Local Mine Almost A Hundred Years Ago | District Of Stewart
Mining put Stewart on the map and is a year-long activity.  Snowfall  levels can reach epic proportions, making winter travel difficult. Here is the “road” to a local mine almost a hundred years ago | District of Stewart

Some Ingenuity Included Putting Wooden Snowshoes On Horses | District Of Stewart
With big and regular snowfalls, being resourceful is a must. Some ingenuity included putting wooden snowshoes on horses | District of Stewart

Life in Stewart is slow. Nobody hurries and conversation in the streets can last hours. Some might say it’s the town that time forgot. The buildings are rustic and many are abandonment or no longer in use. When walking through the town, it’s hard not to notice its rich history and colourful past.

Although This Picture Was Taken Many Decades Ago, The Main Street Hasn't Changed Much. The Third Building From The Left Is Still The Same - The Bitter Creek Cafe, Where Our Heliskiing Guests Dine | Photo Liam Harrap
Although this picture was taken decades ago, the main street hasn’t changed much. The third building from the left is still the same – The Bitter Creek Cafe, where our Heliskiing guests dine | Photo District of Stewart
Hm. Might Need A Tune Up | Grant Gunderson
Hm. Might need a tune up | Photo Grant Gunderson

Like most small towns, it has it’s collection of characters.

Meet Frank And Mr. Ripley The Canadian Goose. Frank Is The Owner Of Ripley Creek Inn, Which Houses Our Heliskiing Guests. Mr Ripley Has Been With Frank For 12 Years. They Found Him As A Fledgling, Abandoned By His Momma. They Fed Him, Gave Him Some Love, And Expected Him To Fly South One Day. But He Never Did And Is A Permanent Resident Of Stewart | Photo Liam Harrap
Meet Frank and Mr. Ripley the Canadian Goose. Frank is the owner of Ripley Creek Inn, which houses our Heliskiing guests. Mr Ripley has been with Frank for 12 years. Frank found him as a fledgling, abandoned by his momma. He fed him, gave him some love, and expected him to fly south one day. But Mr Ripley never did and became a permanent resident of Stewart | Photo Liam Harrap

As with all places, Stewart has its quarks. One being, half the town dislikes the other and wants nothing to do with them. Why? Some are pro-industry, others are pro-tourism, or maybe their grand daddies just didn’t get along back in the day. The other week I phoned the local electrician to fix a problem in the kitchen. He said he couldn’t help, because he wouldn’t go into a Macmillan-owned building. And that was the end of that.

There's Two Grocery Stores In Town. Half Goes To One, The Rest To The Other. The One Store Is To The Left.
There’s two grocery stores in town. Half the town goes to one, the rest to the other. The store where the more “artsy” people shop is to the left of the biker with the striking woma-Imeanclassy tights| Photo Liam Harrap

Nevertheless, ask many of the locals and they wouldn’t live anywhere else. For them, this landscape of cragged peaks, wild rivers sweeping into the sea, and old growth forests clinging to mountains is home. They wouldn’t have it any other way.

Looking Down To The Portland Canal, Which Leads Into Stewart | Photo Aurelien Sudan
Looking down to the Portland Canal, which leads into Stewart | Photo Aurelien Sudan

Although Stewart is quiet and life is slow. The snow is deep and the powder endless.

Living In Stewart Does Have Its Perks | Photo Dave Silver
Life in Stewart does have its perks | Photo Dave Silver

Making it a perfect place to set up a Heliskiing operation.